work to the idea


I had a student once tell me she didn’t consider herself a real artist because she found it too difficult to come up with ideas to paint. She thought herself a technician, an illustrator with good skills, but not someone able to come up with an original idea every time. She eventually stopped painting.

This is something I’ve heard other artists articulate and it got me thinking about what I want from my own art. First off, I want the work to have impact, to have an immediate eye appeal that draws the viewer in. I want it to have an original approach that distinguishes my point of view from all other work. So how does this happen with consistency over a long career?

One thing I’ve learned, working to an idea has an inhibiting effect. I find preset concepts tend to make the art rigid and predictable. A series of work based on one idea repeats itself and has a contrived feel to it. Working to an idea is not the same as letting the idea happen. This is something I try to remember as I push to develop new concepts. When I find myself falling into a pattern, it’s time to change directions. By sticking to one way of thinking, I’m more likely to create a set of rules which becomes an obstacle where nothing new can evolve.

So, in order to allow an idea to find its true potential, it’s up to me not to censor its possibilities away. Good art holds the wonder of discovery with the power to absorb the viewer into its soul.