The Laws of Nature

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Formulating an Original Concept

Weidemann-Franz Law
watercolor on paper, 26" x 20"
Katharine A. Cartwright, NWS
One thing that I didn't learn at any of the three universities I attended was how to formulate an original concept for my work. No professor ever taught it. So, I spent decades perfecting technique and doing lots of imitative work without being truly original.

It wasn't until I studied watercolor with Susan Webb Tregay nearly fifteen years ago that I learned the value of original content. And, it's been the focus of my work and teaching ever since.

Every year I work with both professional and amateur artists who want to make a an original statement but don't know how to find one. It's hard work and we spend several days in deep discussion and employing my process that eventually leads to a break-through.

The one thing I can't emphasize enough is the importance of thinking. Most of us are anxious to pick up the brush too soon. We think that if we don't stand at our easels we're not making art. In fact, making art begins with thinking.

I spend far less time painting than I do thinking about it. The key to formulating an original concept is our ability to look inward toward self recognition.

Your thoughts?

6 comments:

Casey Klahn said...

I couldn't agree with you more. The artist's ideas (also the artist's ethos) are the basis for my work.

No wonder I love your work so much!

Dan Kent said...

Given the complexity of your work, you must spend and awfully lot of time thinking!

Katharine A. Cartwright said...

Hi Casey and Dan, Thanks so much for your comments. Yes - I spend a lot of time thinking!

Margaret Ryall said...

I agree that you spend much more time thinking than you do actually executing work in the studio. Sometimes I have large gaps in my studio work while I am putting together new ideas. Sorting and resorting photos play a large part in my creative process. I rarely use a photo in its entirety but they serve as memory prompts and extensions For example putting things together that you would not usually put together. This process is a wonderful way to get your mind moving in different directions. I would love to take one of your workshops.

Katharine A. Cartwright said...

Hi Margaret - I can see in your work a great deal of thoughtfulness. There's purpose and content. Thanks so much for your comment, and it would be great to have you in one of my workshops!

-Don said...

As a professional artist (Art Director in TV) the hardest thing for me to get across to those I worked for and with was exactly what you're saying. Thinking and formulating are a major part of what we do. I would have to ask the question at times, "Do you want quality, or do you want quantity?". Regrettably, that answer was not the one I usually wanted to hear. :)

Now I'm my own boss and I can finally focus on the answer I always wanted to hear... Quality. It's taken me a couple years to get used to that idea, that I can finally take the time to look inward, think things through, affirm my desires and only then go to the final process - whether it be painting or design.

-Don