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


Here’s another artist that inspires me, he’s on the blogroll. Hugh MacLeod is a major marketing maven and cartooning monster who truly knows what creative is and what creativity is for. This cartoon for “” just nails what art does for the culture. More art = more inspiration, every every time I experience good art I’m inspired, inspired to create. Good art doesn’t just inspire “artists” it inspires everyone, inspires innovation. Hugh has recognized a cycle of productivity here that is self perpetuating, feed art in one end and more art comes out of the other. And having some profit in the middle isn’t bad either.

<tangental rant>The canonical example of creative, innovational, profit of course is Apple (full disclosure: I do not own any Apple stock or products). As overhyped as it sounds to deny it is simply not seeing reality. Like, dislike, agree, disagree Apple has revolutionized both music and telephone, period. Where did that come from? Good art! Jobs was an appreciator of artistic expression who savored elegance and nearly worshipped craftsmanship. As mentioned, though I’ve never personally owned an Apple product I have used them and been struck by their simple beauty. Try this; go to Fry’s and ask them to pop the hood on one of the computers and note the mess inside, the inside you don’t see. Now go to an Apple store and do the same, big difference.<end rant>

Now get your head out of the box and go make/do something.


Went to my sporadic network meeting last night. Just a loose group of different business people, maybe 25 – 30 of us. All kinds too, some realtors, insurance brokers, a house cleaning service, a painting contractor, some writers, a publisher of children’s books etc. This night there were 14 of us and I was the only “creative”, I thought.

Discussion was aimed at aligning your actions so your business flows. You don’t want the receptionist to greet people with ‘Whadaya want?’ as this may not entice them to venture any farther through the door. I’m listening to a financial broker describe how he structured an acquisition deal from beginning to end, the flows he had to develop and the stops to overcome. Later a bookkeeper remarked that you may not need a full-time bookkeeper if you have a ‘housekeeper’ to corral your financials so the bookkeeper can sort it, say every quarter.

Then I was realizing as our business is growing and we still only have that expanding file as our ‘housekeeper’ and we’re stuffing more stuff in it all the time. We were out of town last weekend location scouting for the new novel and mileage, and the meals, and the purchase of the town map, and the local newspaper and it’s all business expenses to track.

What I really got from this meeting is how any business doesn’t run itself by itself. It’s all these different parts accountants, finance, cleaning, bookkeeping, and fresh green plants running together and areas of expertise that can make a ‘creative’ solution. Not everyone’s job title is Artist, but a true professional is creative.