Early on in my painting life, my dad made an observation about our creative differences. “You are, for the most part, an idea-driven artist,” he said. “I am, for the most part, subject-driven.” At the time, I’d been building a written list of titles for work not yet made, drawing from literary reference, word play and free associations with colour and forms pulled from nature. Meanwhile, my dad was cruising sketches he had made during a recent material-gathering trip, his ideas emanating from the memory and visual record of a specific place, time and experience.
Knowing the source of our images is insightful, but we are not bound by these courts of inspiration. By acknowledging the origin of our artwork, a radicalization of personal processes may occur. Being subject-driven means you have physical specificity on offer: Think of the playwright who draws from history to tell a universal truth about the human condition. Mountain X is rendered accurately with recognizable features and uniqueness, while its spiritual, universal mountain-ness is interpreted into the representation. The process is advanced further with a title: name of mountain, date of observation, seasonal and weather conditions, revealed symbolism or reference to a piqued mystery.
Idea-driven art can get sucked into the vortex of “conceptualism,” which, at its most extreme, eschews the material altogether. Before boarding that runaway train, consider remaining a painter. Begin with an idea before conceiving of size or medium. This can include tackling a still-earthly technical challenge or a visual goal. “The idea,” wrote Sol LeWitt, “becomes a machine that makes the art.”
PS: “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” (Aristotle)
Esoterica: “Since art is a vehicle for the transmission of ideas through form, the reproduction of the form only reinforces the concept,” wrote LeWitt. “It is the idea that is being reproduced. Anyone who understands the work of art owns it. We all own the Mona Lisa.”
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
“The head governs, the heart assists, the body acts.” (Robert Genn)
This personalized two-day course instructed by renowned abstract painter Steve Baylis will give students the confidence and understanding to pursue abstract painting.
Using a combination of demonstrations, discussions and hands-on painting, students will complete an abstract painting using a variety of techniques and processes.
This will be an opportunity to overcome your fears of abstract art.