My Creative Process

My creative process with Ralph Thompson

From the arts to the sciences, Bath Spa University has a culture of professional creativity, continuing to engage in the pursuit of new narratives and ideas. BSU celebrates the creativity of our staff, students, partners and the wider South-West region.  

In this series, we’ll be speaking to professionals from a range of specialisms, gaining valuable insights into their career journeys and creative processes. We’ll find out what a day in their life looks like, where they find their creative inspiration, what advice they would give someone hoping to follow in their footsteps, and much more.  

Ralph Thompson  

Ralph Thompson is the University’s Programme Leader for the BSc in Wildlife Conservation and a Senior Lecturer in Zoology. He holds a candle for the sciences and the creative arts, seeking to promote creative learning and research that combines a scientific understanding and creative visual art.

Ralph joined BSU in 2020, after teaching at several universities at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, including University of Bristol, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Limerick.

With a BA in Natural Science (Zoology) from the University of Cambridge and an MSc in Biology (Integrative Bioscience) from the University of Oxford, he went on to doctoral study at the University of Bristol before landing at BSU.

Integrating traditional scientific approaches to study, such as behaviour, ecology and physiology, with strong creative themes, his Wildlife Conservation module, The Wild Muse, brings together a wide range of creative responses to nature and environmental issues.

His design of the Wildlife Conservation degree incorporates strong creative themes to differentiate it from other conservation degrees, utilising the University’s strengths in creativity to provide students with a way to nurture their creative thinking and an opportunity to explore both their scientific and creative interests at university. 

A day in my life...

Each day tends to be a little different. There are various mixes of lectures, practicals, dissertation meetings and planning during the semester, together with some public outreach, marketing and recruitment.

After work, if there is enough time and energy remaining, I get to thinking about some more personal creative projects, with a simple restorative and celebratory aim, reflecting on beauty and just seeing what happens when I try something new. 

My creative process... 

Creativity is a process of exploration. Much like science, it’s empirical and iterative and takes us to places we didn’t know we could get to.

I don’t have just one form of creation and therefore I don’t have one fixed process. But I always start with an idea that sparks the imagination and go through a period of experimentation. When I’m finished, I analyse the result and consider whether it should be kept and used, worked on more, or abandoned in favour of another idea.  

I get my inspiration from...

Nature! From the wild. From people and their creations.

Outside work, I practice and occasionally teach life drawing, meditating on the experience of being a human different from myself. I’ve tried to expand this beyond humans to wildlife, reflecting on the lives of others accompanying image creation.

I am drawn to open questions and unknown causes, as well as to traditions of exploration and inquiry. Curiosity drives creativity and I love trying new things in new ways. 

I get my motivation from...

Inspiration and the desire to share what inspires me. In my professional work as a lecturer, I try to make the students think in a way that develops their independent, critical and analytical, as well as creative thinking abilities. Creativity is fun, so it provides its own motivation.

Collaboration is also very motivating. It’s easier to work towards a goal when it’s shared, when there are varied ideas from different perspectives and someone to push things forward in moments of motivational dearth. 

My creative space...  

Creativity requires freedom, so a space that gives freedom will enable creativity. Peaceful, free from distraction, and free from constraints. Having a dedicated space is a luxury, but it helps to get in the right mindset. New places also help me to think in different ways and bring new ideas. 

The most creative project I’ve worked on... 

The design of the Wildlife Conservation degree was creative in itself but also allowed me to build creativity into the programme, my teaching, the student’s work, and how we present the degree to people.   

The creative project I want to work on...   

There are countless creative projects that I would have liked to be a part of, but I would rather think of what I can do in the future, and how I can work towards enjoying various forms of creativity. I’m keen to return to painting and try more photography and ceramics soon, as unconstrained creative outlets, alongside my professional creativity. 

My creative idol is...  

Growing up I was inspired by the fin de siècle artists and their exploration of human experience in an age of exploration and discovery. 

Three things that enhance my creativity...   

Energy, confidence, peace. 

What creativity brings to my life...

It brings variety, meaning, enjoyment and opportunity. It allows things to develop that were not there before and brings a sense of satisfaction and purpose.  

What do I do when I have a creativity block... 

Go for a walk, preferably in the woods.  

One piece of advice I would give to someone wanting to follow in my footsteps...

Tread your own path, don’t follow anyone’s footsteps too closely.

It’s important for those thinking of becoming scientists or teachers to recognise the importance of creativity. Creativity and curiosity need to be exercised. Try new things and don’t be afraid to start things that might not work.

What is your professional creative journey? Let us know at comms@bathspa.ac.uk.

If you have a passion for Wildlife Conservation you can explore our Conservation course on our dedicated webpage

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.



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