As long as I can remember myself, I have been an artist. Born in a now-vanished state, the Soviet Union, I consider my Russian cultural inheritance a vital aspect of my intellectual biography.
I believe Duchamp once said that there may be an artistic genius in darkest Africa producing masterpiece after masterpiece... but his obscurity permits us to assert that there is no such artist. This is usually taken as a paean to the mass media, but I believe he meant that an artist is becomes important through his context. The artist is not a voice from the chorus, but a soloist accompanied by the orchestra.
An artist who understands the artist's place in this context chooses images from the (hierarchical) cultural inventory, combining their meanings to create his own meaning. It is neither vague nor merely instinctive, although touch does play a critical part in the actual creation of the work. Moreover, my attraction to the most classical and established of works and themes is no accident - they shift attention from themselves (after all, they are all familiar almost to tears!) to the artistry itself.
Art begins in my mind. The greater part of the artistic process is complete by the time the artwork commences its appearance in the outside world.