Where do the Ideas Come from?
A popular question from collectors is where do I get the ideas for paintings. This may relate to the subject or the colours used or any other aspect of a painting. I often laugh off these questions simply because there is not a ready answer. Mostly the immediate answer sounds too trite. The truth is that stimulating ideas are part of each artist's process and it is helpful to know what fuels your idea engine.
I am attracted to subjects that have elements of strong lights and darks, a good design that will draw in the eye and keep the viewer interested. The third leg is that emotional connection that is much more difficult to define. Without it however the painting has little chance of survival. This makes commissions so tricky. There must be a spark for me to give it any justice.
Having accepted that I cannot paint a scene that does not move me there are others ways to get the ideas flowing. I need a positive frame of mind for starters. Some artists want to show the grim side of life, but that does not work for me. There is no radio news, TV or newspapers in my studio. They kill my creativity. I need positive energy and usually nature provides that for me. I guess that explains my love of landscapes. All I need is to take a drive out of town. It is a case of wanting to stop every kilometre to capture a scene. It has become a joke for my family. I am considering mounting a camera on my dashboard!
Waiting for inspiration? This does not work for me. Inspiration shows up when I get working. Preparing painting boards, stretching a canvas or just cleaning up the studio can get the ideas ticking over. If I get a good idea I will go out and look for the scene. For example I have just been working on a seascape. The idea was simple enough, but went a lot deeper into my personal nature. It was the idea of staring out at the sea, which I can easily do for a hour, and letting the shapes, shadows and light form images in the mind. Free thought similar to what you get from staring at clouds. In any case I then headed off to the beach on a cloudy day and watched the sea. That was all I needed with a few notes and I could work on a larger studio painting.
Other times I will set up an easel outdoors in an area that appeals to me then using a viewfinder I will look for a composition that has all the strong visual elements that I like. Whatever approach I follow is part of a working process. It is not a case of watching tv, for example, and an idea pops into my head. Creative processes lead to more creativity.
I am never worried about running out of ideas. I do not believe in creative block and so on. It comes down to a choice and then getting to work. If I do not do the work then there will be little in the ideas department.
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa