Bringing an idea to life

Something I’ve often wondered when looking at other artists’ works, is how did they actually come up with the concept? It’s all well and good to be a skilled technical artist, but without that creative spark that manifests interesting ideas, you can find yourself a bit stuck.

When I was a kid, I would constantly be asking my family for ideas on what to draw. ‘A dog’ they might reply, and so I would go off and draw a dog. Without a doubt I’d be back again later, asking for another idea. While I think some of my childhood art isn’t complete trash, I think most of it lacked that spark that only shows when you really care about what you’re creating.

Fast forward to now, and while some (most) of my art does still come out less than technically perfect, I think it now has that spark. Now when I’m thinking about what I want to draw or paint, I think of a story first. If the story excites me, then I can’t wait to start illustrating it. It doesn’t have to be an amazing idea, or one that would become a bestseller, but for me, having a story in my head is the only way that I can create beautiful things.

A homeless woman sits on the curb while a mother drags her young ballerina daughter onwards.

This piece has been rolling around in my mind for a couple of weeks. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, this year I’m starting ballet classes. I’d been thinking about ballet and how it’s typically young people who invest their time in it. That got me thinking about what happens to those young people when they grow up. Being a professional ballerina is a notoriously short career, it takes a huge toll on the body and most retire from the stage well before middle age.

I was thinking about this, wondering what one might do after a career as a prima ballerina. A lot of ex-dancers go on to teach, but what if you didn’t want to do that? As the ideas swirled around in my mind I created this character of an old woman who had once been the prima ballerina of a big company. After being kicked out after a fall at the age of thirty four, she was depressed and unable to find work. Now she is an old woman who lives on the streets, but still her love for ballet is strong. She may be cuddled up in a blanket but underneath she still wears her leotard and point shoes.

I wanted to place this character I’d created into a situation, and I thought it would be interesting juxtaposition to place her in the same time as a very young ballerina, just starting out. The young girl is naïve and full of hope, she smiles at the old woman, but her mother is bitter at the thought of her own career coming to an end and she drags the little girl onward.

Now you see, this is all just nonsense swimming around in my brain, but it gave me a picture. I could see it so clearly and I needed to get it out of my head and onto something tangible. Is it the best thing I’ve ever created? No. But when I look at it I can see a story behind it, and for me that’s what really makes beautiful things.