Then comes the time when you are in your own studio with a blank canvas , and you realize that it's not about the techniques you worked so hard to learn, but that the work you create should be about something. Art is a form of communication and all the decisions from topic onward are yours to make. In my own situation, I had taken dozens of classes and workshops, read numerous art books, seen thousands of art works in my travels, been to local art galleries and had friends who were successful artists. I wanted to be an artist who created thoughtful work. About what? Panic!
It's a scary time, a time when you realize that if you are going to be successful, you have to bring something unique to the work you do. If you don't have something that is unique to add, why bother? Around the time of this epiphany I was reading a book called Design and Composition Secrets of Professional Artists.
This was an important book in my career that taught me that there are many roads to follow, and that they all begin with a personal view of the world. It was also at that time that I accepted that my past experiences in another profession were an advantage rather than something that was setting me back. I'm sure Donna Baspaly has no idea that several points on one of her composition checklists changed how I began to think about subject matter. Donna relies heavily on a series of checklists to keep her in tune with her work through the whole process of creation.
While I've made some minor additions these are Donna's questions about subject:
- why are you attracted to the subject? why does it appeal to you?
- what emotion grabs you when you look at it? how can you express this emotion?
- what part of the subject should be emphasized to maximize that emotion/impression?
- what colours/key suits the mood you want to impart?
- what will identify this painting as yours (showing yourself in the painting) ?
Tom Huntley in this same book agrees that all starts with subject and advises "do not record what you see, interpret what you feel."