The Mental Bits of My Creative Process

Read how and why my creative process came to be! (Some thing about art therapy too!)

A photo of many old tools laid out. My creative process is kinda like that.

New Process vs Old

My old creative process was brutal. I was simply trying to create the greatest artwork. I had no regard for my own wellbeing.

After burning out many times. After being frustrated to the point of collapse, over and over...and after getting very sick—I began to dream up a new way.

I dreamed up a creative process that reminded me of doing artwork in kindergarten. Free, spontaneous, focused, & happy.

Process Art ...Process

My work is no longer about the drawings or paintings I create. The focus is on actions, feelings, inner-experiences, growth, and interactions that result from my art.

The term for this is roughly process art (wikipedia).

The artwork is just a bi-product. Albeit, a nice bi-product. I'm happy with it, but I do not think in terms of individual drawings or paintings.

Now I think in terms of inner experiences, actions, motions, and therapeutic processes for being healthy & happy.

Below are some thoughts and strategies I use to make the world a happier place, for me, and you!

"Deconstructed Portrait Art", 2014, by Matt Vaillette


Knowing my psychology.

I knew some things about myself that I didn't like. Behaviors relating to art, and the ego.

Most of all, I was an obsessive, anal, self-involved grumpy artist. I mean, really. The whole world could tell me that I've created the best artwork in history of art...and I would still feel crappy. I would tear myself, and my artwork down.

Now people tell me I'm the happiest person they know...and they love my artwork even more now.

My art therapy focused creative process involves some cognitive behavioral therapy. If you want to be able to influence your thoughts, and behaviors, the proven "Feeling Good Handbook" by David D. Burns is a great piece of information!

"Diplomat Leader", 2014, digital painting by Matt Vaillette.


Adding spontaneity

The first change I wanted to make was to paint and draw without a plan. Fully spontaneous creation.

No sketches. Or everything is a sketch. Point I'm getting at, is that when I was creating some art, it wasn't based on some other drawing I made.


By doing so, I was able to get around my obsessive qualities. No more "fixing" stuff. Changing is okay, but fixing is not.

No more grumpy-Matt either. I was suddenly, for the first time in 27~ years, a confident, happy artist.

It was not easy to change my creative process so drastically...but I'm pretty hard-headed about giving up.

It happened eventually, and shortly after, I recovered from bipolar disorder.

"Smiling person", 2014, spontaneous drawing by Matt Vaillette


New Focus: Art Therapy

My creative process drastically changed in other ways.

What happens when you repel bad experiences, and repeat good behaviors? Your health and happiness improves!

That is the point of all this. Even if a new tweak to my creative process yielded great art, I would abandon it if I did not thoroughly enjoy it, or feel great. That's the basic idea.

Portrait art of person with big smile. The word "Smile" is spelled out in his or her grin.

Flow, Mindfulness, and Happiness

So one of the most therapeutic aspects of art for a lot of people, is FLOW.

Flow is like a super-duper superb focus that you get when you are both challenged and interested in something. It happens to most people, here and there—and other people all the time!

One of the core aspects of it is bliss—Ecstacy! It makes you really, really, really happy. Really. It's what allows some people to be happy even when they're going through great struggle in their life.

In order to access a therapeutic experience, my creative process is all about improving flow. I ask, does this put me into a flow state? Does this keep me in one? How strong is the "flow state" when I use this new creative process?

Don't sweat the unexpected

Flow is hard to maintain when you feel like something isn't going your way. That's what I've found at least.

Around 2011-2013 I trained myself to be more realistic. I learned that it was okay to fail. It was fine to make stinkers, flops, crappers...and it didn't have to bother me.

I also taught myself to roll with it more.

This way, when I'm in a deep, blissful state of flow, it doesn't matter what I am making...I feel great!

You know what? With realistic expectations, my art was even better. It got a greater response from others than when I was that anal-obsessive-etc-etc-grumpy-Matt like before.

I stopped "fixing" things, and simply created art.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Pain & Creativity

I've heard people talk about how artists need pain, or dysfunction to power their creative processes.

While that might be true, I've found that being motivated to avoid pain works too. Knowing pain, and avoiding it.

For instance, I know that my creative process heals me. I also know what it's like to be unhealthy; Avoiding that pain is good enough reason to get super-involved in my artwork, and create something fantastic!

The art therapy focus in my creative process is motivating me to do more art...and get build more being healthy!

"Teardrops from", digital portrait art by Matt Vaillette, 2014


Long Term Planning & Organization

My creative process relies on me being "in the moment", & working spontaneously, in order to get a therapeutic benefit.

Despite a lot of it being unstructured, my process involves a great amount of planning, and strategy.

With such an unstructured process, I need even more organization to hold things together, and accomplish social things & career goals. Here are some of my strategies & concerns!


Journaling & Experimentation

I write down as much as possible. I am constantly coming up with lists of ideas, tweaking my process, and writing about how it goes.

My memory isn't very good anymore, so it's important that I keep records, where possible. This way I can move forward more quickly!

Many great things have come of journaling, including my art scavenger hunts, developing community related goals, and most of my blog posts.


Social art goals

The social aspect of my art is very important to me. My artwork involves some social causes.

Some are too involved to simple "do" without any planning. Some of the artwork I want to make for these goals won't just "happen" by accident, either.

Among my goals are creating charitable art, with positive messages meant to change people and communities.

Artistic "success"

Being more successful, and making some extra money, would actually help me stay focused—and more healthy as a result. Not to, yeah!

Running an art business is pretty impossible without planning.

"Word of mouth", digital illustration by Matt Vaillette, 2014.


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