Production of any art work not only involves the actual physical work done on a canvas or paper, but also the mental effort put into conceiving the image. Most people assume that art involves only a play of colors. But it is not so. The mental effort put is as important if not more than the physical effort.
Traditionally in India, the production of art was divided into two stages- 1. The mental conception of the Image and 2. The Physical expression by way of painting or sculpting of the mental image.
1. Mental conception: This is the most important stage in the creation of an art. An artist may spend weeks meditating or simply day dreaming about the theme he desires to put in colors. In many cases, the time spent to conceive the imagary may be much more than the time taken to paint on a canvas. Especially, when a person desires to paint on a mythological or religious themes, like portraying a picture of God or a deity, one must first understand the essential nature of the deity. He must first understand the aspect and spiritual truth that mythological figure represents. Some may represent peace, some destruction and some again knowledge. An artist must gain firm understanding of this. Then, he should contemplate on this understanding of the deity using the Lakshanas (symbols) given by the mythlogies for such deities. Only when in his mind, he perceives a proper imagery, he should attempt at painting them on canvas.
2. The actual production of art- An artist having thus conceived the image in his mind, will then proceed to physically created them on canvas or stoneor wood etc. Many a times, the outcome of the real painting/sculpture will not be as good or as beautiful as one's mental imagery. But, the Physical image will always serve as a medium for that person and the others to mentally construct the image which was originally in the artist's mind.
Hence, Anand k Coomaraswami says- "The picture is not in the colours but is in the heart(Hrdaya) of the artist(Karaka) before the work is done and of the spectator(Bhogin) who when the work is done has grapsed it's meaning."