Making Art: So Many Ideas, So Little Time

by | Jun 6, 2008 | Blog | 3 comments

I think for most artists, scarcity of ideas is not as big a problem as too many ideas. Here is how I came to this conclusion. The other day I was browsing through my “idea book”, a purchased blank book that I vowed to keep updated with all my painting ideas, allocating one page per idea. Once I started, I found ideas popping up during car rides, outings with friends, reading books and in restaurants. I planted mini-notebooks in my purse and car so I could record them on the spot, then transplanted them into my official idea book after so many got accumulated.

I felt confident that this system of idea recording would keep me happy, knowing I would never run dry of good original ideas. After awhile, and since I decided to number each idea page, I discovered that I had recorded well over two hundred ideas. Now the feeling of confidence turned into dismay. How the heck was I going to find the time to do all these? I began to notice, though, that not all these ideas still held an interest for me. The feeling of dismay now turned to guilt. What kind of artist was I that I couldn’t keep up the excitement, and bring each into fruition? Where was my artistic integrity? Isn’t it important to keep up the pace of production with the fountain of inspirational ideas?

I grabbed a brush and began to paint in a successful attempt to keep myself from over-thinking. I got back to a happy place by painting, and put my mind to it again. Soon I came up with an idea about ideas. I realized that not all ideas are meant to be born into the physical world, even if they really excite us in the moment of discovery. Some ideas, by staying in the non-physical (just writing them down, or allowing them to simmer in our thoughts) became stepping stones to the BIG ones. I figured that if I tried to keep up with them all, and paint each and every one of them, I might miss the BIG picture. I noticed that for every 20 or 30 ideas I would write down, I would get inspired to actually paint and bring to fruition the next idea in the chain. And that one would in a way reflect or contain all the others.

After writing this, I am now finding an uncanny correlation to my to-do list for today. All these errands, phone calls, food shopping…how the heck can I find the time to do everything? Well, I had better grab my painting brush before I start over-thinking again.

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  1. Peg in South Carolina

    I am a weaver who just wrote a very similar post on my blog, but much shorter and definitely not brilliant like your post. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Paula

    Oh how I relate to this post, Nancy.

    A couple of years ago I stopped at that roadside stand on the way to Taos and bought some of those dried gourds. They hung in my garage for two years while I thought about making them into bird houses. Well, finally having used up all my canvas I was too stingy to use the gas to run out and buy some more so I turned the the over-thought-about gourds. All painted and on the posts (actually skinned dead tree trunks) but now I’m in a huge quandry (well actually discussion with my husband) about how I’m going to get those posts into the ground and where in the garden they should be placed. Maybe the birdhouse idea wasn’t so great after all, but I’m planning to stick with it a while longer to see what happens.

    I attended your demo last Saturday in Albuquerque ~ now thanks to you have have another 500 ideas for paintings and not enough hours in the day to execute them all.

    My idea book runneth over.

    BTW, great blog. I’ll be a regular

  3. Hans

    The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. –Linus Pauling


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Professional fine artist Nancy Reyner’s blog about art, painting and creativity. Her career spans over 30 years. She lives in Santa Fe in the US. Subscribe below for free tips on art and painting.

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