1st Edition

Creative States of Mind Psychoanalysis and the Artist’s Process

By Patricia Townsend Copyright 2019
    146 Pages
    by Routledge

    146 Pages
    by Routledge

    What is it like to be an artist? Drawing on interviews with professional artists, this book takes the reader inside the creative process. The author, an artist and a psychotherapist, uses psychoanalytic theory to shed light on fundamental questions such as the origin of new ideas and the artist’s state of mind while working.

    Based on interviews with 33 professional artists, who reflect on their experiences of creating new works of art, as well as her own artistic practice, Patricia Townsend traces the trajectory of the creative process from the artist’s first inkling or ‘pre-sense’, through to the completion of a work, and its release to the public. Drawing on psychoanalytic theory, particularly the work of Donald Winnicott, Marion Milner and Christopher Bollas, the book presents the artist’s process as a series of interconnected and overlapping stages, in which there is a movement between the artist’s inner world, the outer world of shared ‘reality’, and the spaces in-between.

    Creative States of Mind: Psychoanalysis and the Artist’s Process fills an important gap in the psychoanalytic theory of art by offering an account of the full trajectory of the artist’s process based on the evidence of artists themselves. It will be useful to artists who want to understand more about their own processes, to psychoanalysts and psychotherapists in their clinical work, and to anyone who studies the creative process.

    Foreword by Ken Wright



    Chapter 1: The Pre-sense

    Chapter 2: Preparation, Research and Gestation

    Chapter 3: Illumination and the Idea

    Chapter 4: Working with the Medium

    Chapter 5: The Artist’s State of Mind

    Chapter 6: Play and Playing

    Chapter 7: Creativity, Aggression and Destructiveness

    Chapter 8: Spaces and Frames

    Chapter 9: The Artist’s Internal Frame

    Chapter 10: Out into the World

    Chapter 11: Recurring Themes


    Appendix: Archiving of Interviews



    Patricia Townsend is an artist, working with video, photography and installation, and a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. Her artworks have been exhibited widely and her writing on psychoanalysis and the artist’s process has appeared in a variety of publications. She recently completed a PhD at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London.

    "This is a highly original and extremely rich study of the artistic process as one of creative processing, or working through. Valuably based on interviews with other artists as well as on Townsend’s self-reflection on her own artwork, this book compellingly argues that artistic forms grow out of our inner worlds but are not simply a representation of these. This study is the most resonant and detailed psychoanalytic account of creative processes that I have read since the work of Marion Milner. Like Milner’s contributions to our understanding of art, it should be an essential read for artists as well as for those who study them, or seek to understand artworks." --Catherine Grant, Professor of Digital Media and Screen Studies, Birkbeck, University of London

    "Psychoanalysis has struggled to understand the process of artistic creativity from the inside, but Patricia Townsend’s outstanding book draws on interviews with professional artists as well as her own experience to investigate the process, from the artist’s first awareness of a creative work through to its emergence into the world.   Taking cues from Donald Winnicott, Marion Milner and Christopher Bollas in particular she builds a convincing and subtle account of the unfolding creative act, which will engage anyone interested in how it is that we relate creatively to our worlds." --Ken Robinson, Psychoanalyst, Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis, Northumbria University

    "It is full of insight and makes the essential point "that the artwork both provides a form for a previously unformed inner experience and presents some aspect of the outside world in a new way"." --Piers Plowright, The Tablet, 20th April 2019

    "This book offers a window on enhancing understanding not only of ourselves as artists, but our clients, too." --Helen JuryNewsbriefing, Summer 2019 (The British Association of Art Therapists)

    "Ultimately, wherever one stands with respect to the suggested theoretical framework or psychoanalysis more generally, this book provides valuable insight into the process of art-making, especially as regards its core experiential features. As such, it is a fine contribution to creativity research and should be of great interest to both artists and academics." -- Jussi A. SaarinenCreativity Research Journal, Spring 2020

    "A key underlying question posed by Townsend’s book is: can psychoanalysis throw light on art without reducing it? It is an original contribution to questions such as this, filling a gap in theorising about art and doing so with conscientious attention to detail and respect for the interviewees and their individual process and achievement. Townsend has the advantage of being both clinician and artist, and her use of her own work is both generous and illuminating. She offers us a compelling account of the artistic process, employing interviews with 33 artists, from the point of view of the Independent Tradition where an interest in creativity is a hallmark." -- Emma LetleyBritish Journal of Psychotherapy, November 2019