Making Art

Bringing Art Making Into Your Life

Artquest 5 – Putting time into your storehouse of ideas.

Many beginner artists say to me, ‘I’ve done my drawing [or whatever] course but now that I’ve finished I don’t know what to draw.’ And even more experienced artists can run a little dry on ideas. Especially when you’ve been super busy. This is where you need to invest a bit of time purely in your ideas and put aside a few for the lean times. So Artquest 5 is about restocking your ideas fishpond.

I think this is an Artquest that is great for the holidays. Maybe you have a house full of relatives and you aren’t comfortable sculpting in front of them? Or you’ll be trekking through the Andes, with a pack so small  you won’t be packing your paints? Ideas weigh very little and can’t be seen by others so its the perfect time for some arty introspection. [If you want some suggestions to help you make some art in the holidays see my post here.]

Artists like me who make things pretty often can need a little re-jig too, a bit of energy put into thinking about what they want to make and why. Occasionally I just get into a make first think later mode and then wonder why I am spending my limited time on that, when I could be working toward  something greater.

There are so many ways to trigger off ideas: something you see, or hear can trigger off a world of ideas. These ideas that get triggered off don’t need to be in any way, fully formed, you don’t need to know what you will do with them in order for them to be worth noting. [Jotting them down in a notebook or on your tablet or wherever]. These are triggers, sparks, little moments. ‘ooh theres something about that, that’s nice.’ They are something to work with later on, to build upon when you have time to sit down and think.

I like to carry a camera [ my phone with favourite photo app actually] with me wherever I go, to help me save ideas to use later. Walking along I will see a little something that catches my eye. Something pretty, or odd, or startling. A while ago I was walking up to the coffee shop,  and I saw a little plastic Monopoly house sitting there on the concrete. Now  I live in quite an industrial inner city place, so this was a bit odd. I mean it’s not like there are lots of people loafing around the pavement playing monopoly or little kids playing with toys so it did look odd. I stopped and took a photo, didn’t move it. Kept on walking then.. I notice … another one. Stopped took a photo. So.. had someone put them there for me [not me specifically] to find? For fun? For art? There is a lot of street art round where I live, graffiti and stencils, so it’s quite possible. In any case I loved the little moment of the unexpected house. It has also led to me looking at the ground more as I walk along looking for more miniature homes. The interesting part is that I have been thinking about these houses as  part of a miniature world. Like there’s a parallel universe going on in tiny form that we step over everyday. So what ideas can I get from this?  Just using it as a spark  I can think of several notions it triggers off:

  • I could make some type of miniature world, maybe inserting it into the urban world like in a crevice of a building.
  • a piece about someone who leaves things for others to find
  • parallel worlds with things going on that I don’t know about

So I have no specific idea of what I would make [ or if I will make anything from this] but I keep the photo and jot down my thoughts about the little houses. I don’t worry at the moment about medium or the final result. I just let the idea be a seed in my head that might grow.



Above: the little Monopoly houses I found. I love the way in the top photo, the groove in the pavement concrete is like a little valley or a creek bed running in front of the house.

A while ago I went on a camping trip with my husband and child. It was to a beautiful beach with amazing fine white sand. As I walked along the beach I took photos of little arrangements of seaweed and other sea paraphernalia lying on the sand. Again I don’t know what I will do with them but I like how pretty they are, like floral arrangements, and almost like scenes someone has set up  like little treasures and left. Maybe I will  hand colour them? Or make a drawing with them? I could print them out and embroider on them. The point is, I don’t know their final outcome. But I have recorded them for later use.



sandtreasure_fishAbove: my sand treasures.

Things you hear can also trigger off ideas. My sister is a choreographer [modern dance], and we were talking about the fact that it has its own language.  She was talking about how you create phrases [series of movement] and one way to do this is by ‘mapping movements’ or ‘mapping journeys’. This notion of mapping a journey stuck in my head.  Dancers may map a journey with a series of movements and I could map a journey with a series of images or sculptures.  I don’t mean in the obvious way of taking a photo of each actual part of a journey but maybe  series of images mapping an emotional or intellectual journey?

For artists who are currently making, sometimes we need to stop for a moment and think about what we are making and why. Sometimes its about balance. Maybe at the moment I am thinking a lot about what I write post about and I’m not putting enough time into thinking about what I will make? And I also feel that my work has lost its direction a bit. So for me in these holdays I will be planning ahead what I am going to put my limited energies into. What am I trying to say. Something more worldly, less glib. I will be reading through all the ideas I jot down and searching for that thread. Perhaps I have been choosing to do work that I can do quickly or easily? Rather than getting stuck into something I might find more meaningful. This will be my own holiday artquest.

So what specifically is this holiday Artquest?   It’s simply restocking your ideas fishpond. So you are raring to go in the new year. You need only a camera, pen and notebook.

  1. Spend time everyday, every journey out of the house,[or even in your house] looking around you, noticing the little things, the odd and the spectacluar.Take a photo! 
  2. Pay attention to what you find interesting. Was it a sentence you heard on tv?  The way someone was walking? Or broader notions? Write them down!
  3. Collect up all the little bits of paper you wrote ideas on. Stick them in a notebook. Spend time reading through them and thinking about what you might make from them.
  4. More experienced artists can have think about what they have been making lately and ask themselves why. Are you avoiding trickier pieces in favour of easier work? Like avoiding going deep into your own psyche  to avoid difficulties? Or maybe you are doing the reverse: always working at the deepest level and you need to recharge your energies with something different.

If you want to read a whole bundle more about having and using ideas please go to the full Making Art website and read the ideas section.

I hope you get some art into your break this year and that Santa gives you that easel/camera/paints you asked for, instead of a stinking pile of socks.

May your food be tasty, your family in a good mood and your stocking full of gouache.  Merry Christmas

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This entry was posted on December 20, 2012 by in creativity, Ideas and tagged , .
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