You Need More Than A Good Concept To Make Good Art

2016 Artwork You need more than a good idea sketch

As regular readers of this site probably know, I posted a slightly failed painting on here in mid-January.

This was a painting titled “Skeletons With Sledgehammers” and, despite the fact that it both had a really cool horror movie poster-style idea behind it and that I’d edited it quite a bit after I’d made it, it still ended up being something of a disappointing failure.

Seriously, it could have been so much better! In case you haven’t seen it, here it is:

"Skeletons With Sledgehammers" By C. A. Brown

“Skeletons With Sledgehammers” By C. A. Brown

So, why am I mentioning one of my failed paintings?

Well, it’s mostly to prove the point that making good art involves a lot more than just coming up with good ideas/concepts. Although I don’t want to talk about *ugh* conceptual art too much, the idea that the concept behind a piece of art is a work of art in and of itself is – in my opinion – absolute nonsense.

Even though good concepts can be challenging to think of, a concept isn’t art. Art is art. Anyone can come up with a good concept, but it takes an artist to turn that good concept into a good piece of art.

It takes an artist to re-create that good idea either on paper, on canvas, on a computer screen or through traditional sculpture. Merely re-arranging a few pre-made objects (to illustrate an interesting idea that you’ve had) isn’t really very creative in the strictest sense of the word.

Although good art usually needs to have a good idea behind it, there’s a lot more stuff that an artist has to do in order to transform a good idea into good art. They have to come up with a good composition/ layout, they have to make the decision to use an appropriate colour scheme, they have to know the correct level of detail to include in a painting, they have to use an appropriate art style etc…

These are all things that my “skeletons” painting failed to do on one level or another (especially with regards to the composition/layout of the picture). So, although I really liked the concept behind this painting – I failed to translate that good concept into a good piece of art.

If I wanted to turn this concept into a good piece of art then, thinking about it, I should have made a few changes. For starters, I should have included fewer (and more prominent) skeletons and I should have also found a much more dramatic way to include the unwitting couple at the bottom of the painting. I should have also thought of a more interesting idea for the background of the painting too.

Likewise, I should have chosen to either use a more striking colour scheme (eg: blue/orange or possibly red/black), a much more limited colour scheme or possibly even just a black & white colour scheme. I should have also tried to fully use my cartoonish art style to my advantage (rather than setting out to make a “serious” movie poster-style picture).

Part of the process of becoming an artist involves learning how to turn your good ideas into good art. One of the main ways that you learn how to do this is by failing often and, more importantly working out why you failed.

Just having good ideas isn’t enough. Knowing how to use those good ideas is far more important.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

4 comments on “You Need More Than A Good Concept To Make Good Art

  1. babbitman says:

    Nice reflective piece – hope to see a re-worked Skeletons With Sledgehammers (a great name for a band). As for conceptual art, I don’t think that it’s nonsense – it does actually serve a purpose in making people think about art in a way they probably didn’t before.
    But just because it is a valid art form, it still has to be good – and most of it is terrible.
    It’s a bit like that John Cage ‘musical piece’ – 4’33” of silence, or the artist that canned his own poo (Piero Manzoni). I understand the concept, and the fact that someone needs to go there and do that, but I personally don’t want to listen to it or look at it. On one level it’s great lateral artistic thinking, but for most it’s pretentious bollocks.

    • pekoeblaze says:

      Thanks 🙂 I don’t know, I usually wait quite a while before deciding whether to remake or rework any of my paintings. As for conceptual art, whilst I’d agree that there are some interesting ideas behind some of it, I’d argue that the role of an artist is to express a good idea in a creative way [eg: involving actually creating things].
      For example, whilst Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” might have a story behind it, the bed itself isn’t really a work of art. It’s a significant item from Emin’s past, but it’s still just a bed. To turn it into art, I’d argue, an artist has to use skill in order to represent or re-create it in a more expressive way. I mean, even if Emin had just taken a interestingly-lit photo of the bed (eg: with melancholy blue lighting or something like that), that would probably still be far more artistic than just putting the bed itself in the middle of a gallery.
      I don’t know, I’d agree that some things (like the 4’33 and the canned poo) are amusing/random things that are done for novelty value, but it’s when these jokes end up selling for ridiculous amounts of money that I start to get cynical. Not to mention that, as you said, it’s ridiculously pretentious too.

      • babbitman says:

        Hmm, I quite like the fact that it’s the whole bed and stuff, rather than just a photo, which is kind of predictable and doesn’t have the same impact. But it has no commercial value, nor is it something I’d want to go and physically see for myself.

      • pekoeblaze says:

        I don’t know, I can sort of see why the bed itself might be more interesting in some ways – even if there was very little actual creativity put into it. Although, yeah, the fact that it has sold for a ridiculous amount of money is absolutely bizarre.

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