All artists have a unique process that they are comfortable with. When they write their kid a letter or create their life defining masterpiece they begin by realizing that they have something to say. How they get to the finished letter or final version of their masterpiece is what we can call the creative process.

Painting by Judy Bowman



I have observed that poets, writers, musicians, actors, painters and all other artists are seldom conscious of a deliberate creative process. I do think there are stages that most artists follow.  Over the next few weeks I will once again try to explore them.

CREATIVE STAGES (my version)

I feel the creative process can be broken down into the following four stages. We are constantly exploring, observing, editing our observations and putting our observations into our own words. All of these actions are equally important and affect each other.


This is where the subject is found. We have to make an effort to get out and experience the things around us.


It is important to clearly see those things that we have found. Soak them in.


This is the process when we eliminate and include pieces of information.


This is where we put our personal stamp on our creation.


This is an optional step in the creative process. Sharing the product of the creative process isn’t necessary but can be rewarding in many ways.


Continuing a conversation on the creative process. Last week I described what my version of the creative process looks like. It started with the idea of getting away from your comfort zone and entering the first stage of EXPLORING.



Everyone has an artist’s ability to see the beautiful and meaningful things around them. We don’t always see the same things when we look closely. Some things are better off being seen at a distance. It is important to see what is in front of you and not what you hoped to see. An artist gets a chance to create what he wants to say later in the creative process.  A keen sense of observation is handy but staring is not necessary. At times an artist just sees things that are overlooked in a busy life.  That is the reason that being in a place like Provence, France, where it is a part of the culture to take the time to look, has helped me be more observant.  Artists get in the habit of seeing, listening and discovering. Sometime it will all be used in some way. It is cumulative .


The South of France is a great place to find inspiration….  and good food …and good wine .

Through the years we have been lucky to spend time in the South of France and in other artists homes. I have found plenty of inspiration.

A walk in Provence or a glance at flowers in shadows will often lead to my starting to paint large canvases filled with movement and color. The motion of the trees, fields and vines as the strong clear winds of the mistral sweeps through them has added to my vision. The wind turns the leaves over and over as the sunlight comes through them. This is a  place where our lives slow down. and we give more of our time to seeing, smelling and hearing nature all around us. This is a wonderful place to create.

I wasn’t sure I was ready to explore after finding out how comfortable it is sitting in warm weather surrounded by vines, under blue skies, in the company of good friends, good food and good wine.  At moments like this it seemed like the right kind of exploring to me. I still wanted to see the wind in the fields and the trees . . so off we went.

Sometimes obstacles are put in your way. There is a lot of lamb and goat cheese dished out in this lush agricultural area. It seemed every time we got into the car we ran into the source. All traffic stops as the dogs and their masters use the narrow roads to bring the sheep to higher ground each spring. No one minds as the world slows down at times like this. No one creates a new law to prevent this from ever happening again. Smiling people ran out of their shops to observe this springtime tradition. This is the way that life is here.

CASSIS                                                                                                           OIL/CANVAS


A few years ago on a Sunday morning in the village of Cassis, France there was almost no one out and about. The reason probably is that Cassis is a small fishing village on the Mediterranean. It has great seafood with restaurants that encourage boisterous conversations at all hours. Saturday night is a night to sample some of the fresh catch cooked by great chefs. A meal like this leads to having long conversations with plenty to drink, which can lead to rocky Sunday mornings. I was flying out of Marseille that day and got up early. I had time to go down onto the the beach and take one last look at the sea and the magical hazy light. One lone walker came slowly down the beach. I didn’t greet him or disturb him I just observed him. I don’t know whether he was reliving some happy moments or was still  in the fog of a rough Saturday night. All I know for sure is that he was deep in his thoughts.

When I painted that moment I included the color of the region rather than the gray and rather drab colorless morning just before I would have to leave this radiant place.

This week I am at an Island in Canada. The one thing that I observe is that this ancient place is constantly changing.


Sometimes I am surprised by my ability to hear more clearly sitting alone on a rock that is billions of years old. 

I will be in surroundings that are quiet / tranquil but can also be intense. Gentle warm breezes  move the tops of the pine trees pointing you to the shadows where the chirping of red squirrels and insects remind you that you are surrounded by frantic activity. 

Nature has thrown violent thunderstorms, forest fires and wind shearing fronts at the island’s trees. Most bend and those that crack become soil for future trees and a home for an abundance of insects. After all the time that I have spent on this island, I still have daily discoveries of small things that I never noticed before. Nature has had billions of years preparing this place for me. Things in nature make the necessary changes to survive. I can’t help but make the comparison that nature has the freedom to improvise much as jazz musicians have been given this freedom. All musicians need to have stored up sounds that they can bring to the fore as they create on the fly.

I spend a fraction of my time really listening, watching and observing. It is my best time.

John Osler


July 31, August 2 & 3


Zen is a Canadian pianist and saxophonist who  composes and arranges his very original ideas.

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