I'm currently exploring mixed media abstract work inspired by the Sonoran Desert. I have a particular interest in expressionist or intuitive painting where I can meld the impressions of my surroundings with the expressions of my inner world.

receive my studio notes:

Fleshing out the Theme


In "The Creative Habit", Twila Tharp describes developing a creative idea as "scratching" and I find that to be such an apt description, like scratching the surface off of a lottery ticket. She writes that "everything we need to make something out of nothing - tell a story, design a building, hum a melody - already resides within us in our experience, memories, taste, judgment, critical demeanor, humanity, purpose and humor." So developing the idea is simply research - into yourself! 

When I'm fleshing out a theme, I put it on auto-play in the back of my mind and I seek out descriptive material that leads me to think new ways about my subject. I collect:

* Books about my subject, fiction and non-fiction
* Items from nature
* Color Studies
* Sketches, marks, blind contour drawings
* Quotes
* Song Lyrics and Poetry
* Street Signs
* Memories
* Idioms and Metaphors
* Fact Based Publications such as Articles, Journals

and I free write everything I can think of on the subject. This is only one page from my sketchbook that contains some of the ideas rolling around in my mind. One source might trigger dozens of ideas/ memories/ free associations that I jot down at the time. Not everything will make its way into my art, but just collecting the ideas deepens my dive into the subject and gives me more to work from.

I especially love certain memories that give attitude to my subject. For instance, I used to go to a alternative bookstore in the desert near my Tucson home that had protected an active leafcutter ant trail that went right across the entrance to the store with a sign: "Caution: Ant Crossing" It always made me smile that the ants were acknowledged and the customers cautioned. It has a sense of whimsy, but also conservation and respect for the sonoran desert ecosystem that I want to convey.

I've thought it would be helpful to create a vision board for the concept in my studio. What do you do to keep yourself on track and immerse yourself in a body of work?

Next week I'll share some of my desert color studies.

Happy Painting!

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