Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Where do Ideas Come?

Terrence in the Snow. Mixed media on wood. Private collection.

During a show, artists are often asked from where their ideas come. 
Methinks I'm a fairly articulate person, but when those types of questions hit, I draw a blank. It's not for a lack of thinking about it, or that the answer is terribly deep, but this brain just stops. 

Some possible reasons:
1. Artwork comes from the unconscious mind, from such a right-brain source that talking about it is like reaching blind into some shadowy, web-festooned, Place-under-the-stairs.  It's obscured by time and conscious thought, and very hard to retrieve.

 A goofy, untitled watercolor from my younger days.

2. Making art is a right-brain activity, talking is a left brain activity. When teaching I'd find it very difficult to draw/demonstrate and talk at the same time. Could that be it?

3. I simply don't know, hence the difficulty of an answer. Each artwork comes from a multitude of things seen and stored in a vast "cavern of curiosities" that sits inside me. It's not just in my brain, but it's in my gut as well. It's full of items I've seen/heard/felt and unconsciously labeled as "art-important".  
 Each artwork must come from this place, but from which item does it spring? Without examining each work carefully, and doing some exploration of the cavern, there's no way to know.  And even with a careful search, the sources don't always reveal themselves.

The Gruagach, by John D. Batten. From Celtic Fairy Tales.

The reasons are probably a combination of all of the above, plus more. I randomly chose Terrence in the Snow, and searched my head and some old artwork to see if I could come up with possible sources. In a few words, some possibilities:
 1. Round art has always intrigued. That comes from a love of the illustrators of the 19th century (like John D. Batten), who used the motif quite often.

2. Goofy creatures have always intrigued. The cavern is stuffed with creatures from 19th century illustrators, creatures of children's illustrators and comic artists of the 50's and 60's, and creatures drawn by artists working now.

3. Ummm. I'm drawing a blank.


  1. I've tried to describe how I get ideas & it is HARD!! The closest I can come is that I am always, always gathering/looking/listening/reading... then I have to sort of unfocus my brain... & ideas emerge. I wish I knew what was going on neurologically to explain the process, but so long as it still works, I'm happy!

    Love the Terrence rondel!

    1. I hear you--I'm happy enough with that, too. "unfocusing" the brain--that cracks me up! It's one I haven't heard, but it hits the mark :)

      Happy you like Terrence--a great compliment, as I am intrigued by your talent!

  2. I make weird little critters out of polymer clay. My dad said it's what the voices in my head look like...


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