* Chapter 8 – Conceptual Worlds

Audio Version of the Chapters is Here.

Conceptual Worlds

I like the ideas behind this chapter. One of the first things that caught my eyes when I read it was Henry James’ questions about an artist’s works: What was the artist trying to achieve? Did he / she succeed? Was it worth it? These are also the questions I am hoping, through the use of the goals we have been working with all year, that you have been able to ask and answer for yourself.

Ideas and Technique

Provocative art challenges not only the viewer, but the also its maker. The work that you have been making… think about it… has it challenged you? Has it challenged you only in the making of it or also in the ideas behind it? Some of the work is impressive in the technique, but it has fallen on its face when it comes to idea. Where are you in that mix?

Remember… art that deals with ideas is far more interesting than art that deals with technique. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that more often than not, much of the audience you are dealing with at the high school level is more interested in the technique, or rather the finished product, than the meaning… although… I could be wrong… and I may very well be.


Art lies embedded in the conceptual leap between pieces, not in the pieces themselves. Simply put, there is a greater conceptual jump from one work of art to the next than from one work of craft to the next. You know I love these ideas… I have used them in conversation. I can see my hands bridging the gap between work to work. Have you felt that happen in your own work yet? I sure have in my drawings  and paintings. I also love the way this section ends in that if you do not leave some strand of idea dangling for the next work, there is  no reason for your next work to be any different than your last.

New Work

Think about the work you did last summer… embarrassing? Maybe not all of it, some of it, maybe. I look back and see embarrassment in some of the works I have done in the past. Remember though that new work is suppose to be better, more mature, more advanced than old work. Sketchbooks – oh the dreaded sketchbook… it is a license to explore. It is acceptable to stand there and examine a tree stump, with sketchpad in hand. Notice the objects you notice and respond to those objects. Style comes not out of the cartoons and images that you see and can “relate” to as being a teenager / young adult. It comes out of practice and making a lot of art. Make making art become the habit you need, like breathing or eating or sleeping… or texting.

Art and Science

“…while the stone tool fashioned by cave dwellers an Ice Age ago are hopelessly primitive by current technological standards, their wall paintings remain as elegant and expressive as any modern art. And while a hundred civilizations have prospered (sometimes for centuries) without computers or windmills or even the wheel, none (NONE) have survived even a few generations without art.” And you can take that one to the bank.

Making art depends upon noticing things – things about yourself, your methods your subject matter. What does your art say about you?


40 Replies to “* Chapter 8 – Conceptual Worlds”

  1. The first works I made were harder than the ones I’m currently trying to make. It was hard for me to focus on one idea for my concentration which caused me to hate the work I was making. Throwing pottery is easier but at the same time I still face challenges. I need to make more original vessels and faster.

  2. I feel that true artists will make art to change people’s opinions, like propaganda would. I also think art and propaganda are the same thing. We make art to express our emotion. Sadly I have never made a piece that had a deep meaning, I just make art because I either have to or because I have nothing else to do.

  3. I think the comparison between artists and racers is interesting because it points out how society is more concerned with who is the ‘best’ over who grew the most. I agree with what they say about habits. I think habits are a large part of what creates our voice. If we didn’t have habits of doing lines a certain way or using a certain technique to fill space, the work wouldn’t be distinctly ours.

  4. This chapter I remember that he talked a lot about how to continue being an artist you have to ignore negative comments. You have to have faith that in time you will be able to grow new skills. People have to be able to understand that it takes time to get better at art. Just because others may not understand or appreciate your art now doesn’t mean they never will. Constructive criticism is really the only thing you should be listening too. Compliments are nice as well. They let you know what you should continue doing in future projects..

  5. “Provocative art challenges not only the viewer, but also its maker” (94).
    Through my own artistic struggles, I recently reached a point where I believe my envision of a piece is incomplete. Therefore, I have been striving in many ways to push my comfort zones and boundaries in order to resolve the simplicity behind some of my works. I have many ideas for my pieces, but never know where to head. If I learn to abandon my comfort-seeking nature of staying in the known, I believe I can then create provocative art that will not disappoint me.

  6. I haven’t decided yet where exactly I think this chapter should go yet, however I believe it should go either before or after “Finding your work” (preferrably before). Because in my opinion, (all my responses are based on my own opinion) finding your work is basically searching through all of these mental files (concepts) that you have learned, seen, or somehow retained to the point where they are successful or important enough to remember, and actually putting them together into a way that you are happy with and you view as successful. It’s hard.

  7. I’m really good at the conceptual stuff. I have lots of big ideas, bug translating them to actual art can be really rough. I think if I had tons of time to sit down and do everything with extreme care (like my boy Seurat), those great concepts would have the execution to match. Right now, the Seurat approach isn’t quite realistic, but when I finally decide to sell all my possessions and travel on foot to the countryside of Argentina accompanied only by my cow, quien se llama Pablito and who I will have purchased in the Mexican state of Chiapas–then I will be able to spend the painstaking hours it takes to make a Really Good Painting. No one will ever see it, though, because I’ll be completely cut off from society on my self-sustaining farm. Once I die some gaucho will be venturing across the plains and find my empty cabin, discover the painting, and sell it for the Argentine equivalent of $5. Now there’s a Concept.

  8. I deeply apologize for not posting this yesterday. I have been very busy and stressed out lately, and it completely slipped out of my mind.

    The first thing the chapter talks about are three questions. The question that got me the most was, “Was it worth it?” I hate this question, because you also open the question is anything worth it. Is it worth doing this or that? I have to remind myself that it is. Doing something you love is worth it even if it is a total failure, and you will secretly throw it away later. You can’t grow as a person unless you do many things and have experiences as well as experiment. Yes, it is worth it, and it shouldn’t be a question, but a statement to those who question art. He also discusses technique versus ideas. Yes, the ideas behind an artwork is far more interesting than if you can perfectly draw a horse. However, the art loses that interesting appeal if the technique is not there. I feel technique helps illuminate the ideas. It is not one or the other as much as it is both of them combined. In addition, the chapter discusses art and craft. It might just be me, but I found this part confusing. I really don’t know what to say about it. Moving on, I loved the part about new work, because I relate to it a lot. All the time I will find old artwork, and I will think, “Oh my goodness!” I then will put it back where it came from and tell others, “I made that when I was [insert age here], but look at what I made now.” Artists usually make art to improve. Therefore, this occurrence is going to happen at one point in an artist’s life. If we just made art the same way over and over again, we aren’t making art. We are a broken record on repeat. I also enjoyed the Art and Science part when it said that if a scientist was asked if the experiment would produce the same results when repeated, the scientist would have to say yes. If an artist had the same question about their artwork, they would have to say no. I love this, because it defines art in a beautiful way. You can use similar techniques and ideas of other artists, but in the end, what you make is your own and can’t be replicated or repeated. It is your art. I feel that my art says that I am an experimenter who struggles to burst out of their comfort zone. However, my art also says a lot about who I am as a person.

  9. My artwork has for sure challenged me in many ways. I continue to push myself and try different things with my art like the composition layout, the type of materials, and even the subject matter. I feel that a lot of times when I really feel like drawing and I know what I want to make, it doesn’t have a strong idea behind it, I just want to make it because I want to. Another issue I have is coming up with a really strong idea, making a work or two on it when I want to make more, but then thinking of something else and starting that process over again. So, it goes from having no meaning, to too many meanings, and it can get kind of frustrating at times.

  10. Im gonna keep this one short cause I dont really want to do alot of hw rn cause wisdom teeth (I usually use talk-to-text on my phone but cant today).

    Anyways, I doesn’t matter too much if I put intentional meaning behind my work. When I do put some physcological meaning behind it, thats pretty cool. If I make art just for fun, I always have the unintentional meaning of knowing im growing as an artist, in skills and other developmental art stuff. Overall, I dont like to put alot of pressure on “meaning” becuase that just makes a whole unneeded stuggle in art. Art should be fun, at least thats my goal rn. Okie dokie, thats all folks👋

  11. I haven’t had many specific goals when it comes to making any of my artworks other than to complete the artwork on time. I would have liked to base my works on complex original ideas, but I haven’t thought of any good ones yet. I have made works that look nice, but that is about all I can say about them because there is nothing below the surface (figuratively speaking).

  12. when I create more artworks I think the growth of myself has happen. For me, I start with acrylic paints and I picked up watercolors this year and flow with the application that I apply for myself. process behind the art that I made has let it goes and get in a new direction. as I learning day by day, it takes very long to make an impact on my works but I find it very fulfilling to know it was all me an my artworks

  13. Though I have struggled before with making art worth doing, I now know the importance of challenging myself and challenging my art. The quote “There’s little reward in an easy perfection quickly reached by many” (94) stuck with me throughout this chapter. I agree with the idea that mastering techniques is difficult and will take time, but it is easier than coming up with/forming a new idea. Technically excellent art looks amazing to the viewer, but it means nothing to the artist if there is no reasoning or innovative thinking behind the piece. Craft, on the other hand, has to be pushed through each artwork. The only trap an artist can fall in is the trap of perfection. As soon as you get in the mindset of producing a work of art that has to be completed an exact way or as how you first pictured it, the art will fall short. One thing that I have learned this year, and continue to remind myself of, is that no single piece of art will ever be perfect. Each artwork will turn out differently than imagined, but you have to have the persistence and perseverance to finish out the art strong.

  14. The origin of a piece of work begins somewhere in the mind of the artists. This chapter speaks about how the idea of the concept can be more so important than the final work. The process and the ideals of a piece strengthen the finished work, and give the artist motivation. Bayles and Orland talk about how art concepts with ideas can be more interesting than an identical idea based around technique. Likewise the chapter talks about habits that are healthy for productive art creation. Habits, style and technique all contribute to a work, but are nothing without inspiration of some form. This chapter helps explain why meaning and origin of thought to a piece is a crucial beginning to a piece. Self-expression is produced and shown through art. This makes our pieces personal, interesting, and intriguing. Without art, we would not observe objects as close or reach new perspectives of common day sights. Overall, I learned that artists should push themselves into challenges and deeper meanings in order to continue making successful art that surpasses the previous works.

  15. I agree with a lot of the points made in this passage. I like the way that it is almost “elastic” in the idea that it is worded so one con interpret it in many different ways (like any book about art should be because that is what art is about). Perfect work to me is going to be considered something different than perfect work to you. Art that I used to make but have grown from is different than the art that you have grown from. We all have different starting points, different ending points, and we all acquire different opinions, perspectives, and interpretations along our own individual journeys.

  16. This chapter really resonated with my artistic philosophy. Good art doesn’t have to be technically excellent, because art doesn’t serve the same purpose for every person out there. I think art with no meaning simply as an exercise is boring, but some people find that to be the height of the craft because they value technique foremost. That interpretation is just as valid as mine, which is that emotion and that “deeper meaning” should take center stage in art. But I also admit that that level of emotion isn’t appropriate for every kind of piece.
    In this class, I’ve enjoyed seeing the differences in not only people’s artwork, but also their philosophies behind art-making. I find it interesting that art theory can be just as disparate as the art itself and how a person’s artistic philosophy can say a lot about them as an artist.

  17. When I am making art I want the composition to look good and I don’t really get an idea about what the art means until after the piece is done. I’m not one to make art to express my emotion; I make art to show skill and growth. This is not what art now-a-days is which means I don’t fit in very well and have struggled to progress in much of anything.

  18. The work in my concentration honestly doesnt have a meaning behind it because I want to focus more texture and color and technique. A lot of my favorite art that I have made in the past year, has a lot of meaning behind it. From what ive gone through last year, it inspires me with the message, meaning, and feelings. I feel like in a way, thats how my pieces are stringed together. My concentration is related by color and texture but all my other main pieces seem to be put together by related meanings and feelings. My art doesn’t say anything about me.

  19. When I look back on my past work, some of it is very embarrassing. My mom has a painting I did freshman year hanging in our bathroom and I am so annoyed by it. It is so childish and boring to me now. In a way that is a very good thing. I have grown in skill ,preference, and style. The work I do now all has this “look” to it. I can’t explain it but my pieces stand out from other works. When my friends and family visit our school gallery they can pick out what work is mine right away. All of my pieces have that Maraea look to it and I enjoy that because it didn’t before. Which means that I have a technique and style down now. I don’t think I have a problem with coming up with ideas. My problem is deciding which ideas I want to commit to and execute. The only time I struggle with ideas is when I’m making a series. I want all the pieces to be similar without looking like the same thing with little altercations.

  20. For most of my work the idea behind the piece is the toughest part. I wish there was more meaning behind my work. Some piece there are but for others there isn’t. I always try to find a meaning behind my work but somethings I can’t because (1.) I don’t enjoy the piece and wish I could just throw it out or (2.) I make something because it was the first idea that popped in my head. This year I have been trying to put more thought into my pieces so they have more of a personal connect than just something drawn on a piece of paper.

  21. This chapter is the one I used to base my Art & Fear artwork off of. The part of this chapter that I focused on was the idea of New Work. That theory is when an artist produces one work their next piece should become better and reflect the techniques learned in the previous work. Each artwork should build upon what we learn so in my piece I showed the seasons because that to me really showed progression. I did one piece at a time for this and then attached them all together to show separation in the composition. That shows the struggle artists have between works with not knowing what to do with their next artwork. This chapter also touches on Self- Reference which is that artists just start out making art but by their end it is a complete autobiographical version of themselves. This is neat to think about because where I started was just learning the basics. I did not know how to make art my own because I did not even know how to make art correctly. But like any artist knows you have to learn the rules so that you can break them. I have now learned a lot in my high school years, not all that I need to learn but I really have noticed this year that I have found my groove in art and I love it.
    The last quarky thing I would like to share from this chapter is artists habits. It says that artists notice things and look at something longer than other people. I do this all the time! I see myself in a place like our school art gallery going up close then backing up then looking to the side of an artwork and spending as much time on one piece as I please and really figuring out what that artist was thinking. Then I take one of my less artistically involved friends in there and it takes them less than 10 minutes to get bored and stare at me intently looking at every piece.
    -Mary Heebsh

  22. Right now I am solely focusing on technique in my concentration and I want to put an idea behind it. I think if I had more meaning behind my work they would be more successful. I need to start thinking deeper to bring out meaning or ideas behind my concentration pieces. In my first two concentration pieces you can see a huge bridge. The first one is realistic and then I suddenly go into abstraction. I need to make bigger leaps with my other pieces because now I am just doing the same things over and over again. I need to bring in something new. I think my art works say that I am up for anything, I like to experiment, and I like to try new things.

  23. Since the beginning of the school year last year, i have made huge strides and big gains. I used to only use pencil. Then i started to use charcoal. Recently i have started to use paints. I like what these new mediums have to offer and I am getting better quickly. I’m happy with where i have come, but i know i can do so much better. I think i am on the verge of doing something better. at least i hope so. Lately i have been putting a lot of time into my artwork. I am dedicated and i want to test myself to see if i am good enough to maybe make a career out of it.

  24. As we create more artworks I think the growth happens without our knowledge. For me, I rarely touched paints and I picked up watercolors this year and a constant eb and flow with the application and thought process behind the art I have been making has let it evolve and stray in new directions. This type of learning can take very long to make an impact on your works but I find it very fulfilling to know it was all me (Sometimes)

  25. Sometimes when I finish a piece of artwork, the first question that comes to my mind is, was it worth it? Many times I say no because many times it’s just for a grade. However, as days pass I am finally starting to find my style and feel the movement of art slide out of my body and onto the paper. I am beginning to care less about what people think and finally I am starting to let go and be the artist I wanted to be at the start of the year. The techniques I have been using are getting better and my ideas are becoming clearer. As an artist, I feel I am finally living up to my potential that I had stored away for so long.

    1. This is good. Making art SOLELY for yourself and not others. The market (whether it be money or other reward) can often drive people in a particular direction. This is a good direction for you to travel in. Keep the work yours, but on occasion – one may have to make a work to please a parent or someone else – that is a life lesson.

  26. I think that this chapter really hits it on the head. Art isnt all about the givin, already established techniques, its about making new discoveries. I put more value in that part of art I guess. I value the techniques because they have pushed art as a whole a lot further, but I think that the added creativity and self exploration are the most valuable parts of art. I really liked the quote at the into to the chapter that says something about asking the right questions. That right there nails it. You could ask “How do I blend blue and green for a good water scene? ” but you could ask “If I blended blue and green, then scratched it off and put pink and orange in the water, how would that look?” I put stock in asking the right questions but I seldom find myself doing it to the extent I wish I would.

  27. Well, I think I have some pretty solid ideas, I can definitely develop better ones as I practice and get better at it. The real issue I have is executing those ideas the way I want them to be seen. I struggle with this due to having a strong imagination and ability to see things through my mind’s eye very well but actually putting that stuff on paper or board or canvas are my biggest struggles for me in art making. I really, really liked the three questions at the beginning of the chapter that ask two questions that are pretty normal for us to ask; but the third question “Was it worth doing?” definitely made an impact on me. I experiment in my art a lot, even when its a bad idea. I’ve done this on projects and taken risks. Some worth taking and other definitely not worth doing. A risk, and it’s worth are very important things to consider.

  28. I feel like I need to challenge myself all the time, I make art practically through out the whole day. There is usually no time to reflect, except for goals I guess. But art itself is a challenge, especially when its your life and lively hood and when it is literally all you’re good at and all that you do. So basically art is the challenge, finding the time to balance it all is stressful. SO maybe time is more of the challenge..

  29. This chapter has a lot of information that sticks out to me. I don’t know how to comment on this chapter to be completely honest, yea it doesn’t help that I’m commenting really late, but this chapter points out a lot of good examples and phrases. One of my favorites is “You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of there own nature.”
    My art to me is very difficult because I’m still scared to take a big chance, a big leap in faith and actually allow myself to put everything into my work because I’m scared of the outcome. I make mistakes all the time and I will make to many and restart over. Like I did in my last pieces of art, both the demon eyes and the boat. I didn’t like what I was doing so I made my work ten times harder. My art shows the struggles I am having but also shows my full fourth effort into them. I try my hardest to make a point with each piece. Every color I use and every mark I make has to be what I want it to be and has to make my point come across. That’s why my concentration is all magical fantasy, its a challenge but its what I know how to do and the ideas I want to make not what I get from others work.

  30. In my art I am trying to figure out how I want to be known I guess. Im trying to find my style. I used to want everything to look perfect and focus on a lot of detail. I worked small and still am for the most part. But I am trying to make my art bigger. I have pushed myself away from being so detailed to being more abstract. I am focusing on form and line of the figure. I like it so far, but am still trying to solve visual challenges.

  31. I think I’m very challenged by my art-making. This year, trying to portray words through visual medium has adjusted the way I think about art and it’s capabilities. I also have to be really open to ideas on how to portray things, because if I’m too analytic or technical, I get stuck. As for my art, I think it says a lot about me, although I don’t know exactly what. It’s hard for me to look at stuff I’ve made because so often I’m disappointed in the outcome, but when other people talk to me about my art, it sounds like they see me differently because of it. When I look at other people’s art, I feel like it helps me better understand them, so I’d guess it works the same in reverse. I think that the complexities of artwork reveal a little bit about how someone sees the world, and I’d hope that my work conveys my perception to other people.

  32. My work this year has challenged me a lot. Not neccessarilly in the creation, but in making a thought process. Before this year, I always just made art to make art, I never had a thought process, or thought about the colors I’m using. I never thought of the message of the work. Now I see myself thinking about the creation of the images. I really have started to think out the entire piece more, and not just dive right in. The technique, has a really far leap to make, however I’m really trying to refine the ideas portion. Before this year, I really hated abstraction, but as the years go, I enjoy the freedom given to abstraction. I would like to grow more in that direction.

  33. My ideas have to get stronger. Before I was only concentrating on the technique, but now that I am getting better and better at the techniques I need to expand on the subject matter. I will never forget something that my middle school art teacher told us about her work. She said that she didn’t want her work to be like the paintings in the doctor’s office or the dentist because you never remember them, you don’t think into them. And I think that’s because those artists just focused on technique and not the ideas behind them. I want people to try to understand my art and remember it as something that stood out from the rest because of the ideas put into it.

    1. Rylee, I like the thoughts of your middle school teacher. While the art of the past is essential to what we do now, it is of the past. We must move forward. I also understand / hear what you are saying about making the visual stronger in your work. The ideas are there, but are they ideas that really capture the audience. I am interested in seeing what your thoughts are as you move forward.

  34. The work that I’m doing this year definitely challenges me. I’ve never before tried to convey such abstract ideas in concrete ways. It’s really fun, though, and it’s stretching my understanding of the relationship between words and images.

    While making art this year, I’ve been noticing a stylistic coherence that draws all of my creations together. I thought that all of the stuff I’ve made in my life looks distinct, and oftentimes completely unrelated to everything else I’ve ever made. Perhaps every artist feels this way, as even if we go in totally opposite directions with our work, they all must be within our means as creators. On closer inspection, I’ve noticed that the way I compose images, and the additional swirls or creases that I see carry over throughout many of my pieces. Even though I can see these similarities throughout some of my works, I don’t want them to define how I make art in the future. If I only work a certain way, it could obstruct me from additional artistic possibilities. Conversely, if I focus on one type of art, I could become exceptionally good at it, and develop my capabilities with it further.

  35. My art says that I am just finding out who I am as an artist. I feel that I always take the safe route when making my art because I am afraid of failure. That is my one weakness: not pushing my ideas to the max and not being confident with my techniques. I really want to start a new direction with my artwork and I am ready to take chances. This chapter I realized I have a habit of making the same safe type of artwork. Overall the most valuable sections I read were Habits, New Work, and Ideas and Techniques. And I don’t know what else to say than it inspired me and pushed me to start on a new kind of work. To embrace the growth.

    1. Phelan, Keep embracing that growth. Do not thro away the inbetween works though, allow them to stand and demonstrate the process and steps you took.

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