Using your own original ideas.
Ideas can occur anytime. Just walking along the road looking at people. In the middle of a super boring meeting. Watching a movie. Looking at the rain. I talk a lot about acknowledging your ideas, and catching them in a notebook to turn to later on in the dark times. I also talk about choosing the right medium for your ideas.
But what if you want to work in a different way? By letting your medium drive your ideas for making art.
The medium we choose affects our work at its very essence. You can often tell an artist has used a particular computer program for their work, not only because of the output method, but because of the very way the art looks. Take work made in Adobe Illustrator for example. Sure some of it looks the way it does because the artist is looking at work made by other artists using Illustrator, but it’s also because of the way that program works. What you can do using that program, the way you draw. Yes some people manage to divert or subvert the way Illustrator works and make work that looks totally different. And no I am not saying its bad that we can tell its made in Illustrator, [or with watercolour, or oil paint or stone]. And it’s not just in visual art. If a musical artist writes a song using their voice and a guitar it will genuinely create a different outcome than if they had used a piano or their computer. The medium you use affects the way the mind makes art.
It’s very interesting when an artist manages to use a medium and achieve an unreconizable or unusual result.
It’s also interesting when an artist uses a completely wacky medium to make art. A medium not usually associated with making art at all. Like the artists who use rubbish to make art. The shadow of the rubbish creates the image.
Above: Real Life Is Rubbish (2002) by artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster.
Or tying together old books. Or filling cupboards with concrete. Using steam. Or time. Neon lights. Art can be made from almost anything [or maybe actually from anything.]
Often we aren’t having an idea and trying to find a medium to make it in. We know we are going to use watercolour or wood. And sometimes we come across some mad item and want to make it into something. Reverse Garbage [the upcycling centre in Sydney I’ve been raving about] often has the waste from objects made on production lines. The bits of plastic leftover from cutting out a certain shape. Or 2000 lids without the jars they go with. Sometimes they have pressed plastic shapes which never got used to make whatever it was going to be. Oftentimes the things they have are fantastic and you want to make something out of them but you just don’t know what.
Above: perspex leftover from the process of cutting out, I don’t know what. It’s decorative qualities are obvious, but what else can you do with it? Can it be cut or joined? Is it reminding you of anything? Let the medium speak to you and suggest ideas.
The key is to look at the qualities inherent in the medium you are considering. But also to try to move beyond the decorative only qualities of what you are looking at. Think about what is it made of? Is it transparent or opaque? Heavy? Light? How would you join pieces of it? How would you cut or shape it?
The medium you are considering may not be wacky. Take paper for example. I have big rolls of it which I use for drawing and painting. But I also have been thinking how good it would be for something large. So what are its inherent qualities? Its light and strong. But easy to cut, tear and manipulate. I can sew and glue it. Layer it. It’s light enough to suspend. It falls apart in water. It folds and will hold its shape. It’s translucent.
Above: Paper is so versatile, it can be used 2d or made into 3d forms like these little boxes. It’s light, strong and easy to cut.
Above: using paper to make an image with only small cuts.
Sometimes the best thing to do is just start playing with your medium. Playing in your head with both ideas, and with the actual medium. When I say consider the medium’s inherent properties, I also am referring to the properties of its personality.
Above: my drawer full of rope.
I collect bits of rope because it’s a really terrific medium. I just pick up a bit whenever I see it. You’d be surprised how much people just chuck things out on the footpath, once you start looking. A while ago, I used rope to make a teapot [for a project set by someone else]. As I started to stitch it together, it’s seafaring nature kept tickling my mind and the next thing I knew I was incorporating all sorts of fishing paraphernalia and ocean detritus. Just little bits I’d picked up over the years.
Above: A seafaring teaset.
Above: coral and fishing weights sewn into the rope.
Just let your medium lead you where it will. After a while you might find your self using it more as inspiration than medium.
Above: a version of the coral and rope but this time made from clay.
Above: This beautiful piece of rope is the muse for the piece below.
Above: one of my clay pieces [for a series of detective story inspired works]. Unfired [top] and fired [bottom].
Sometimes I am bewitched by the beauty of a form. I may have no idea what I will do with this fixation, but I jot it down in my notebook or take a photo to use later on.
Above: last weekend at dinner the soft folds of the melting candle were inspiring me.
I don’t know if I will end up making something with wax, or more be inspired by the shapes. The translucency of the wax was also a drawcard. So I may have to bring together light and translucency.
It doesn’t matter where your idea comes from. Only that you have ideas that keep you making. The point here is to let yourself play with mediums and go to weird places in your head with them. Consider odd objects. Use a traditional medium in a weird way. Play. Just play. And keep making art of course.