Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Coming up with Ideas

 So how d’you get good ideas?
When you’re faced with an empty design wall and a neatly ironed and folded stash of fabric and you’ve feel like your last series of works has come to an end….

Don’t just stand and stare!  Approach the Hunt  For The Idea by exploring the following:
 the senses: Look  (art, nature, everyday surroundings,  books…), listen (music, nature, people), taste etc, the mind and heart:  (feelings, causes, ideas, situations, …), and activity (walking, drawing, doodling, dancing, sailing, shopping….).

And, it  also helps to set up  parameters.  This is why the “guild challenge” (the guild I was in decided on one some years ago with two words: round, metallic which lead both to a great show and a vow on everyone’s part never to work with metallic fabric again!) or a teacher’s challenge (as Nancy Crow set up a year or more ago which led to the wonderful quilt show in Germany) are both effective starting points.
 If you set up your own “rules”, of course, then you have more power to change them!

 Decide what you want to achieve – whether it is something you want to communicate or a certain visual effect.  Do I want to communicate something about what I’ve seen? Or about something I’ve thought about?  Or about something I’ve done. What size do I like to work with? What colours or kinds of fabric ?  Am I drawn to representational, impressionistic or abstract work? What about the content and the form of the piece? Content: the subject matter, what the artist wants to communicate, what is the piece about, the Main Idea.  Form: How the basic elements (shape,line,value,color, texture) are arranged in the 2d space of the design wall.

Most people start a piece  with either content or form uppermost.  You can begin with either one.and you certainly can decide to not consider the other at all.  Content presented without good form, however, is unlikely to hold the viewer’s attention for long.  It probably won’t look like art! Some pieces we see are so undecorative one can’t imagine anyone wanting to live with them on a daily basis!

Form without content works better, I think. You can opt for a visually pleasing/exciting form and not have any specific content: having a goal of making a piece that is purely decorative is fine.  However, I think this currently is less common in today’s art world; most artists want to communicate a mood or an idea etc. 
Content, of course, does not have to be conveyed in a representational way.  Different lines, shapes, colours etc can convey very different things.  In fact a rather indirect elucidation of content will be more interesting, making the viewer work to figure out what the piece is about.

 Can content be just about the fabric? Or the paint? Or the activity of painting or stitching?  This so-called post-modern approach to content has definitely been a part of the art world for a few years – we’ll have to see if such works hold up over time!  I suspect that what usually happens with this kind of work is that the viewer reads their own message into it..which could definitely lead to their enjoyment – although sometimes to the annoyance of the artist! However if a piece does not have specific content then I feel (and please contradict if you disagree!  This is merely opinion) attention definitely has to be paid to the form – or the design, (the planned arrangement) of the elements.  I don’t think you can expect the viewer to read their own meaning into a piece, and somehow mentally rearrange the elements into a pleasing/exciting/invigorating design!  So thinking has to go on.  As I’m realizing as I try to work more with surface design!

The above cogitations on where and how ideas are generated resulting from my reading a fascinating article in AinA (June/July ’10) about R.H.Quaytman and the sources of her ideas for her paintings.  She talked about observing people in a gallery walking past paintings and looking at them sideways as they walked.  So she made models of rooms with a painting hanging on one wall, and a mirror on another…and then photographed this: the painting in a room with a mirror and seen sideways.   She then made paintings based on her photographs.  Thus her paintings are about the viewer looking at paintings!  The painting shows the painting, the gallery, the viewer (as seen in the mirror); a neat step back in the gallery experience.  She began by doing something: going to a gallery, looking at something: how others look at paintings, and then thinking about how one could actually capture all of this.

Well now to make a cup of tea, appreciate it with my senses, and think about how I could put this content into an art work!  If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth


Nina Marie said...

Its funny but every time I'm stuck for new ideas - I go back to visual sources - photos, classic paintings, other art quilters's work. Then I ask myself - what is it in that piece that sparks my interest - keeps drawing me back to it? I start sketching ideas on how I could communicate the same thing but different. If its a cool composition - how can I abstract it. If its theme - how can I express it etc etc. I'm not deep enough that its hard to see the inspiration in my piece, but my pieces are always uniquely mine.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thanks for your comment, Nina-Marie! Visual sources are great!
I myself start with many different things..often an abstract idea like the hard/soft contrast series I'm exploring at the moment...rarely a taste like a cuppa tea, but you never know!

Sandra Wyman said...

I have a horrible confession to make: the ONLY time I get stuck for ideas is when I have to work within someone else's parameters as in a challenge or whatever! I think this dates from when I started keeping sketchbooks which are now full of starting-points of various kinds: not just drawings or photographs but all sorts of notes, jottings and unconsidered trifles - not the beautiful sort people produce for City and Guilds or as works of art in themselves but working sketchbooks with lots of scribbles in! My problem is the opposite one: sometimes there's so much it is hard to select: which brings its own problems...

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Sandra! thanks for your comment.
sound like you should use parameters to limit all the possibilities!!
I like the sound of your "working" rather than "decorative" sketchbook!!

Lori LaBerge said...

New ideas usually come from taking photos during a walk around town or a drive in the country. Sometimes its the simple things. A photo of a broken barbed wire fence inspired an idea for a great piece I'll be working on soon. Also finding a real sense of community through my new series of pieces which is a bonus.

Heather Lair said...

Design ideas are every where. I once made a series of quilts based on the patterns left by tire tracks in the dirt. Very fun!