Working on Concept

You may have noticed that three of my classes for May and June 2014 relate to art concepts.  These classes are: Art With a Curveball, The Art of Dreams and The Art of Icons.  This focus on concept follows my own increased awareness of the conceptual side of my work, and my development of my concepts in the form of series.

Dean Art With a CurveballArt With a Curveball

Tonight at ChiPRC was the first of these classes, Art With a Curveball: Working With Series and Revisions.  We engaged in a deep exploration of the function of repetition in art.  The truth is that there is more than one type of series, and each one has its own special purpose.  I invented a few categories in order to facilitate our analysis:

  1. Preparatory Series – Preliminary work in the form of sketches, studies or practice pieces, which will inform a final piece or series of pieces.
  2. Intentional Series – A series of finished pieces intended by the artist to “go together,” because they present similar imagery over and over. These are conceived by the artist as a coherent whole.
  3. Unintentional Series – A set of pieces that “go together,” but were not conceived by the artist as a coherent whole. The artist simply returned to similar imagery multiple times.
  4. Open-ended Series – An exploratory quest invoked in the artistic process. This might begin with a specific question or area of investigation, but the end-goal is unknown. The artist hopes that the art will “answer” the question. The individual pieces that emerge might not “go together” in an obvious way.
  5. Ironic Series – A series of finished pieces that not only “go together,” but are conceived by the artist as a direct commentary on repetition and/or mass production. Often, the individual pieces are so similar as to be indistinguishable. 

It is easy to think of examples from famous works to associate with each of these categories.  I can recognize a few of them in my own work.  I have slowly been embracing the usefulness of preparatory series, as sketching has become an important part of my process.  Much of my oeuvre consists of unintentional series, with similar themes and imagery popping up over and over (such as minotaurs, nutcrackers, etc.).  Recently, I have begun to produce intentional series (with the Sacred Heart series, and more to come).  And to an extent, my entire artistic process is an open-ended series, as I use the interface of symbolism to search for deep truths.

The conversation at Art With a Curveball went beyond these basic observations.  We challenged ourselves to use repetition and revision to improve our ideas, and we discussed new strategies that will break us out of dead-end patterns.  We looked at our old and abandoned projects with fresh eyes, and we saw new life in those initial ideas.  As I put it in the class description, “This is art that doesn’t go straight to its target. This is art with a curveball. Art as exploration, art as a process of discovery, art that expands and evolves….”

If you haven’t already seen it, watch my video on working in series here.

The Art of Dreams  ¦  The Art of Icons

There are two more workshops coming up that focus on concept-development.  The specific topics are near and dear to me — I explore both of them in my ongoing series.  I’m talking about The Art of Dreams (May 27) and The Art of Icons (June 10).  Dreams and spirituality have served as inspiration for artists since the dawn of humanity.  From the role of dreams in indigenous Australian art to William Blake’s elaborate mythology….  From Tibetan Buddhist mandalas to Byzantine mosaics….  Learn about these rich traditions, and how you can harness the twins streams of dream and spirit!

Register here: