Art starts with a concept. The concept might be a feeling that you want to express or an ideal that needs to take physical form or simply a color that you want to explore. To have a successful work of art, you have to have your concept first. Your concept may be very clear to you or you may have to clarify your concept as you work through the various stages of your piece.
You have to ask yourself, “Is this a concept that is worth expressing?” All too often, I will begin a piece with a clear concept, but will get bogged down at some phase of execution with technical concerns. I know what I want to express, but my draftmanship or color blending come up short and I lose the concept in an effort to “get it right.”
That’s usually when a painting gets stockpiled and collects dust in the corner of my studio. This last week, I have been waging a Battle Royale with a painting that never should have been painted in the first place. The subject was beautiful Roan Mountain in North Carolina and Tennessee. First of all, Roan Mountain is not a mountain, but a grouping of 5 peaks. The tops of these peaks are part of the Appalachian Trail known as the balds. There is plant life there that grows nowhere else in the world. The weather is treacherous.
I tried to paint the balds when the winter’s back is broken on the balds and the fragile ground starts to melt. That was the concept. The sky has a glow that day that is warmer than the reading on the thermometer. The air smells of cold and bears. “The bear goes over the mountain,” is not just a child’s song. What I wound up with was a painting about slush. And mud. The delicate colors I used are not muddy. The concept was flawed. Slush and mud are not concepts worthy of art. What was I thinking?
Sandpaper will help faulty execution in a painting. I’ve got stacks of it. It will not help a concept that is not worthy of expression. Fire is the only solution. Onward.
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