Making Conceptual Connections in Art

Ideas must be nurtured and fed. We are custodians to our thoughts, there are ways to grow a concept into contextual creation. Making connections outward from a core idea helps drag your work from shallow waters into the depths. Not all art must be complicated and we don’t want to convolute our core concepts with diluted unimportant additions, but feeling more bonded with your work can come from thinking about how your ideas relate to other interesting topics or nuances. If we put energy into contextualizing and adding depth to our art we can better understand our work and why we make it.

First, to have an idea. For further reading on birthing those first concepts and digging deeper into ourselves and the world around us, check out Uninspired, Thinking is Rebellion, Being Inspired, and Critique of Denying Artistic Influence. Inspiration is accessible, you must first open up to the possibilities.

My autism and PTSD cause my brain to continuously compare and contrast as I take in my experiences, formulate thoughts, and remember. Data spreads out in webs of information constantly twisting and knotting up in itself. While generally a hindrance, this overthinking can be wrangled and used in moderation. When passion and excitement begin directing the tides of information rather than my engine running on anxiety, hyperfocus and fixation become my vital tools.

What are you passionate about? You may have come upon many intriguing ideas, but what calls loudest to you? For me, often it’s ideas rooted in contrast such as organic versus mechanic, or the relationship of time and nature. The union and stark differentiations fascinates me and often can easily pull me through a map of linked ideas. 

Brainstorming is a lifelong skill. I was ambivalent towards the practice as a child because I felt I had all I needed stored in my mind. As I work through my mental health recovery and art practice, I’ve developed a newfound respect for marking out organized exercises. Often the easiest form of this is a web, at the center being your core concept. Branching out, you’ll record corresponding and parallel ideas that may give a better understanding of your goals with the piece. I wasn’t entirely wrong as a child, this can all be done in your mind but for the sake of posterity and cementing change into my life, I’ve been dedicated to recording my thoughts. There is added importance to a thought in my mind that I can go back to and analyze properly later on. My mind is not a computer no matter how I try to dehumanize myself, my memory is extremely fallible despite the complexity of my streams of thought and memory retrieval. ADHD and trauma distort how I remember things, but note taking gives me accountability. I’ve written two other short articles about neurodivergency and time management you may find helpful: Disabled Motivation: Procrastination, Disability and Time Perception: Hour Gone By.

All minds drift. Even the most razor sharp of us need reminding of our unreliability as human beings under the power of time and experience. Your ideas truly are a storm even if you can’t feel it brewing yet, or have reached the eye of stagnant calm, you will need something to help weather it. Mapping out concepts will find the shining gold thread that will piece your project together. Pierce through and tie it together. 

I was drawing the moon one night recently and I heard coyotes howling in the forest nearby. My mind took me to our struggle against our environment, and it’s struggle against us. Eventually I landed on the surface of the moon. I was gazing at the sky but I was also within it, and all I knew was the coyotes were joyful. My aesthetic appreciation towards mechanics brought me to space travel, and eventually I wound up with a simple composition of an astronaut dying in space, attention focused on the pitches of black flowing through from top to bottom. Shadows of coyotes tear into flesh and wiring and bold text cries the blunt context of the artwork, “I Hear Coyotes Somewhere Happy, Jubilant, Victorious”. A bright moonlit sky of clouds and a hint of tree branches ground us in the right corner, but the scrawled writing drags us down to a reflection of a starry sky back dropping our lone human becoming the prize of an environment they weren’t supposed to have tried to dominate. The artistic style was reminiscent of a sci-fi comic book, harkening to one of my childhood interests. Yellows, blues, and an accent of burgundy create an eerie but not horror-themed atmosphere. Nothing vilifyies the coyotes or taking any stance on violence. 

As with many of my recent full pieces, there’s a childlike naivety to the tone which is reflective of where my mind’s been lately, while visiting on the farm I grew up on. 

Working through the piece, I found connections between the moon, coyotes howling to it, humanity vs nature, and space travel. It was when I sought something further than a sketch of the night sky that I found reflections and conflict. I found satisfaction in the juxtaposition of wild, organic shapes and setting against the stark shattering glass and fragile tubes, metal, and wiring of the spacesuit. While thinking about the night I longed for bold lines in the lower half to balance the delicate ink work of the sky.

I was looking for links that would better understand how I felt sitting in awe on my porch step, under a full moon and amongst such powerful and lively voices calling from an untamed forest fothomage. I let my inner child remember sitting at my bedroom window, excited to hear the coyotes call after finding their meal. I didn’t fight against the old interests that appeared as I thought, I let myself follow the paths my instincts were taking. 

You don’t have to go far or deep to find context to your art. Making connections sometimes is as simple as letting your child self take you for a walk and take you on a tour. Sometimes it’s colour, or texture that draws you to ideas. Maybe similarity in subject forms, environments, or differences. Let’s yourself explore your inner and outer world with wonder.

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