20x24 oil on stretched linen
I've been thinking a lot about conceptual painting lately and just what the word conceptual means to me and my art. I think of concept or theme, as the artist's idea, the vision, the birth of the painting. As painters, we work very hard for years in the beginning of our study at trying to master the tools and elements of building a painting. It's our goal and hope to learn and know these tools so well, that it is no longer conscious but subconscious for the most part when we're working. We have all these incredible epiphanies from bursts of growth that keep us engaged and coming back for more. In this process we soon find that the more we know the more we know we don't know and so the growth continues.
We learn in the beginning, that concept is the start of a painting, and is an essential part of a painting, but we work so hard at just learning and practicing the elements that concept often times, and sometimes necessarily gets pushed under the rug in these building years. Until one day, when we realize that there was a reason we started this in the first place, and it's because we have vision and a voice, and painting is our means of communication and expression. This is when advancing in our work comes right back to the beginning, to concept!
Often times in my work, my 'initial' concept develops during the process of my painting, as if the painting is leading the way. But it all started with an idea, which in my mind is the concept.
The painting posted here is one that I feel was very conceptual for me. I thought a lot about this piece before painting it. The 'things' in this piece are meaningful pieces of my life which made me care enough to spend as much time as I did painting them. I went into this painting with the mind frame that I was going to slow down and take as long as it would take to get what I wanted in the work. Most subjects I paint are very fleeting moments and subjects, so I typically paint pretty quickly, often times Alla Prima. So with this piece my goal was to really study and observe all the little subtleties that make up the whole of this piece. The challenge and danger of taking so long to work on a piece is not destroying the integrity of the whole, the harmony.
At first it was a symbolic painting for me, almost a portrait of my life this far, and the pieces in the painting are symbols of things and people I love. The trigger point for this painting was the treble clef that I had found, and the rest developed from there. Artistically, painting these 'things' was a nice challenge which I always thrive on.