The Art of First Ideas

Every person who creates, including the world of art, achieves something of great satisfaction by trying, testing, rethinking, recomposing, and stretching ourselves beyond the first glance. Both artists and writers face the dreaded blank page, canvas, sketch pad.

Any artistic subject matter that wants to be released from our brushes, a landscape for instance, carries with it a first impression or idea.  A landscape conveys material elements and that’s typically the first idea.  With that first idea the expected, the known, and the stereotypical thoughts appear.  When the artist recognizes this he usually steps back to reconsider the composition, then perhaps the style and the texture, color and so on.  Often we become bogged down in this process and undervalue or overlook the purpose of the painting in the first place.

Van Gogh had much to say about his Starry Night painting; in a letter to his brother he referred to “exaggerations in terms of composition.” Another comment, “I should not be surprised if you liked the Starry Night and the Ploughed Fields, there is a greater quiet about them than in the other canvases.”

When I was attending the Paier College of Art, I had several unique professors. One of them would make us draw a particular object dozens and dozens of times until we broke out of seeing the object and finally seeing what we wanted to convey by drawing it. He did the same with painting. He would take out brushes and hand out sticks and combs and sponges (and make right-handed students paint with their left hand and vise-versa, which forced the tightness and expected out of us.

What this did, in my opinion, was to shift us from the insecurity of painting to a confidence in our ideas. The great work rarely arrived in the first ideas. Keep in mind this is a blog post not a lesson. Nor do I wish to tutor artists and creative people. I’m simply sharing something I experienced that has continued to serve me well in my career.

Think about it, using caution with that first idea may keep you from striking the golden concept waiting to be discovered. Oh, I should mention, I not referring here to art and artists alone. This theme of first impressions applies to your work, relationships, your church, your everything. Make the comparisons yourself. It’s very much like creating a work of art, but not necessarily on canvas. In most cases, not all, the first idea is the starting line to push off against. The better the footing, the faster the take off. Most races as in life, are won with a strong starting line push.