New Year

Whoa! Blew the deadline to complete the book. Had to reboot that.

Holiday distractions maximus.

Now it’s a new year, here we go.  To a productive and prosperous one!



Short post today. I’m working through Alyson Stanfield’s I’d rather be in the studio! The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion ISBN:9780974272580

A good companion to my dog-eared How to Survive & Prosper as an Artist by Caroll Michels ISBN:0805055045

I have Michels’ 4th edition 1997 and the Stanfield is 2008 so there is quite a bit more interweb data and ideas.

I know defining success for yourself is the only true success, but missed how important it actually is until reading Stanfield. Her first Action/assignment/task is Define Success for Yourself!


Continuing the topic of where do ideas come from – let’s look at what I call ‘extensional(derivative)’. The idea comes directly from something else, an image or idea that I’m attracted to ‘extend’. Think Warhol soup can, a re-purposed package wrapper. Or less directly as in my drawing, “Johanna”, visualizing a few lines of Dylan’s “Visions of …”:

“But she just makes it all too concise and too clear that Johanna’s not here … And these visions of Johanna they kept me up past the dawn.”

Here it wasn’t so much illustrating ‘a lover’ as it was distilling the feel of his paean to the ellusive illusional Johanna. She is not present, he does not know where she is, and he can’t keep her off of his mind; but the visions are all that remain.

I put her in a no-space, downcast eyes she does not connect with the viewer, black and white like an old photograph. But has he lost her or is she just a dream?

The most common examples of the ‘extensional’ would be any classic genre scene of a biblical passage. It is evidenced though too in something as recurrent as an Odalisque. The harem, centuries old, now becoming popularized in 18th century Orientalism and odalisque a popular subject.

All these inspirations described are not really separate, except on this level of abstraction of discussion. I’m not at the drawing table thinking ‘conceptual’, ‘associative’, … I’m just working; but it can give some insight by looking at the process.


Continuing the topic of where do ideas come from – let’s look at what I call ‘conceptual’. The idea comes from an image or perhaps a story, I may want to illustrate a news item or something out of the antique in my liberal arts education, or re-interpreting a favorite artist. I’ll sketch it out, playing with the composition, often it will go through multiple versions. In composing I’m judging the weight/balance as well the fit and overall form. I use the colour wheel for fine tuning the palette.

When I am not dis-pleased with the composition I identify the elements; if furniture is period what period, if a hat what kind, dress/slacks, sneakers/boots. Then can I just draw it up out of experience or do I need a model. A piece currently on the drawing board is this, the boots a combination of two different styles, the cityscape/skyline from a photograph.

Where ‘associative’ is very free-form and flowing without a lot of “think” I consider ‘conceptual’ to be all about analysis and decision. The piece is constructed, the parts carefully chosen, crafted, hone, and arranged so that my visualization, my conception, comes to life.


To the oft asked question “Where do you get your ideas?” I usually answer from everything. And it’s true ideas are everywhere, just pluck some. But that isn’t too helpful so I got to thinking about how do I ‘pluck’ ideas.

As I thought about my process I realized there are distinct different processes and three that I seem to use regularly. I decided to call them ‘associative’, ‘conceptual’, and ‘extensional (derivative)’. Ideas can come out of any of these, some, or all in combination.

If an idea is ‘associative’ there will be a sight, sound, smell, observation, or scene that clicks something, and images or words start cascading. “City Seens” was written from this inspiration. I’d be looking around on the street or the bus, riding the train or sitting in a coffee shop. Something catches my eye or a snatch of sound grabs my ear and it builds from there. “25-She shifts” is this exactly. The woman got on the bus; who is she, what does she do, where is she going. And so I make up answers to those questions.

This technique for me is the simplest. Writing I take the association and just make stuff up. Drawing/painting the imagery flows out I don’t stick on how does it look; it looks the way it does. Not that I just slap it out, but it’s that colour because that’s the colour I made it. I will make corrections in proportion or perspective, but only because it is distracting otherwise.

Next I’ll describe ‘conceptual’.



Sargent was born 12 January 1856 in Florence, Italy. His parents were American expatriates and he grew up summering in Switzerland, Germany, or northern France; and wintering in Rome, or Nice, or Florence.

After finishing his studies in Paris Sargent stayed on. He exhibited in the 1882 Salon, “El Jaleo”, that was purchased by a Boston patron, T. Jefferson Coolidge. In 1883 he rented a house in the boulevard Berthier, in west Paris.

Though variously described as reserved or diffident he had an inner confidence in his talents and clear view of his direction.

I’m inspired by the sheer brilliance of his execution (the light in “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose”), and deep, keen understanding of colour. A skilled portaitist he revealed in the sitter an essence of their emotion. As in the 1884 “The Misses Vickers” we see the individuality of the three sisters and the haughty almost disdain of Sargent in his 1906 “Self Portrait”.

In his quiet way he did develop many friendships and moved easily through the several strata of Parisian and later English and American society. I like his strength and productivity, and while having an opinion he never became embroiled in the drama of artists like Whistler.


Last post I mentioned Hugh MacLeod’s “” but then got sidetracked ranting about Apple creative marketing.

With Hugh’s equation:

more art=more inspiration

more inspiration=more creativity

more creativity=more innovation

more innovation=more profits

more profits=more art

he has recognized a cycle of productivity here that is self perpetuating.

Back when I was doing dance company publicity I got inspired by the dancers. There was something fluid and ethereal about them, physically and spiritually it made me want to create something different. Having had intimate contact through seeing classes and rehearsals I was able to develop a sort of pre-visualized double exposure technique; inspiration creating innovation.

Another time a film project resulted from a piece of music and the sound of an old-fashioned spinning wheel and the clack of a loom.

The “City Seens” I’ve posted (and the book I need to wrap up) spring from observations out on the streets and public transport of real cities, though the “seens” are imaginary.

Hugh’s equation is not only self perpetuating but cyclic in that you can jump into any part and move forward from there. Got some innovation push that and it becomes profit, use that profit for art and get inspired. Because business needs more art.

Here is the url again