When we think of the creative process, what typically comes to mind is an entirely subjective, nebulous series of erroneous steps only understood by gifted creatives. As if it were some sort of secret code that only the Van Goghs, Banksys, Picassos, Warhols, and Rodins of the world knew.

Though romantic, the notion that the creative process is only endowed upon the “innately creative” among us is rather suffocating. The truth is that everyone is creative, including you, and it really comes down to understanding the stages of the creative mechanism and tapping into those creative juices.

Here are the stages of the creative art process from Leslie Kavanaugh:


While this may sound like you’re cramming for a grueling exam in the morning, the first phase of the creative process is where your best plans emerge. Consider it an exciting journey into the creative space that interests you most. It could also take the form of reading autobiographies of artists who inspire you, browsing artist websites and virtual galleries, watching documentaries on the subject, listening to music, or reading poetry.


Now is the time to let all of the information and inspiration that you have just inhaled soak into your very core. At this point in the creative process, you may not even feel like you’re doing anything because your subconscious is doing all of the work. In that sense, this stage of the creative process is analogous to marinating a piece of steak overnight in a juicy bath of flavors. To the naked eye, the meat appears to be sitting still, but a delicious transformation is taking place.


We alluded to a lightbulb flickering on in the previous stage, sending a person into a complete creative frenzy they couldn’t possibly suppress. It is known as the “insight” stage of the creative process, or what a few have jokingly dubbed the “Eureka!” moment. (It’s also known as the illumination stage of the creative process.)


To be the bearer of bad news, the creative development process would be incomplete if it did not acknowledge that not every creative idea is a great (or even a good) idea worth pursuing. It is the stage where you really dig deep—as difficult and painful as it may be for your ego—and ask yourself if it is an idea worth working on in the long run.

Instead of viewing it as a threat to your hopes and dreams, consider it an opportunity to put your creative process art thought to the ultimate test. Does it withstand a flood of critical thinking, genuine questions, and, in some cases, peer scrutiny?


On to the final stage of creativity: It’s finally time to “elaborate” on your project idea after it’s passed the scrutiny test. Or, to put it another way, it’s officially time to put ink to canvas, pen to paper, and clay to the wheel. This is the stage at which you are actively creating something and bringing your concept to life.

The Takeaway

We hope that now that you have a better understanding of the five stages of the creative art process (as described by Leslie Kavanaugh), you will feel less pressure to create something extraordinarily transformative out of thin air. Art, regardless of medium, rarely happens in this manner. When you’re feeling frustrated, remind yourself that the creative process is slow and steady and requires far more preparation, marination, and self-reflection than many people realize.