Friday, June 6, 2008


Dancing Class by Edgar Degas

I sometimes amuse myself by paging through art books to spot each artist's breeder ideas. Degas and his dancers. David Hockney and his swimming pools. Hundertwasser and his spirals. Paul Klee and his strata paintings, Joan Miro and his Constellations series. Louise Nevelson and her compartmental sculptures. Apparently an artist has about 4-5 breeder ideas in his lifetime, when one good idea leads to a whole sequence or series.
Painting by Joan Miro.
Years ago I read a book called Notes for a Young Painter by Hiram Williams. It must have struck a chord because I wrote out big chunks of it into my quote book.

"The possessor of an idea, possessed by the idea, lives a compulsive obsessed existence. He becomes derelict to all other responsibilities, he is devilish to live with, he is caught up in a kind of rapture others seldom understand and usually find difficult to tolerate. Yet the possessed artist is by and large happy - all suffering and all consumed and all-creative, perceptive, alive and selfishly entombed away from ordinary less fortunate men. But it all ends when the idea ceases to lead and has run its course. Dense black gloom shrouds the once possessed and life indeed seems little worth living. The once possessed finds he is now again an ordinary man. These periods of lost faith in art are due to loss of confidence in oneself. Several people have really given up art entirely during this gloomy period. We are difficult to live with when possessed. Unpossessed we are impossible. But the good idea, the "breeder" idea continues to breed."

Royal Tide I by Louise Nevelson.

For the past year my carvings have revolved around the idea of Secrets (Tribal Secrets in particular) so I guess this must be one of my breeder ideas. While I'm enjoying creating the series the ideas continue to flow but I do wonder what I will do when the idea has run it's course. It seems to be a typical concern amongst creative people especially those earning a living from their work, that their ideas may dry up. I've learned from experience that the muse strikes sooner or later but of course we would all rather it were sooner than later.

Highway and Byways by Paul Klee


  1. Wow!!! is that quote by Hiram Williams spot on... I see it in my husband so clearly , cause it is easier to see from a distance...and yes I see it in myself... Sometimes we are so close to things we don't see them in ourselves till we notice the pattern... so true... and when we acknowledge it and accept it, we can live with it... cause it is who we are!!

    Thanks Robyn, This is just so true..

  2. Such an interesting concept. It really gives me something to think about.

  3. I understand about being obsessed to the extent of ignoring everything else! (Like housework,shopping, friends)
    Thank you for sharing it.and for your comments.

  4. I hadn't heard about this concept of breeder ideas before, Robyn, thanks! I had just begun to recognize something of the sort in my own work but they seem to breed rather erratically, coming and going rather than in a direct line one after another...My own personal pattern!

    I think its incredibly important to recognize that there are cycles in art-making like everything else in nature. We are not machines and we cannot and will not produce endlessly without pause. It is inevitable and necessary that we have times of die-back and seed incubation. I just touched on this idea again on my blog.