Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Identifying and Understanding Your Creative Intentions

During our Advanced Portrait Workshop Teaching Fellows Lea Wight and Stephen Early gave a wonderful evening presentation about their work. They used their artwork and personal experiences as professional artists to address issues vital to every artist, including transitioning from student work to personal work, identifying and understanding your creative intentions, and recognizing when a painting concept is revealing itself and when an idea is transforming. This post shows work that Lea presented and some of her ideas.
Lea presented her work in categories, beginning with "People". She included the following pieces, and included an excerpt from a song by Susan Vega:

"Bound up in wire and fate
watching her walk him up to the gate
in front of the ironbound school yard.

Kids will grow like weeds on a fence
She says they look for the light they try to make sense.
They come up through the cracks
Like grass on the tracks
She touches him goodbye."

"Waiting" 42 x 32

Lea talked about her inspiration for the painting "Waiting", as that time in a young adult's life when they begin to really be independent, and are doing adult things such as going to appointments and making adult decisions and yet, the model in this painting is wearing gloves that are attached by a string, which is something a child would wear. She is able to wear something childish because she has, in fact, become an adult and is not feeling vulnerable to being thought of as a child. Lea said she was inspired by her own children's lives and their transition into adulthood. To me this painting brings together personal significance for the artist with universal significance by describing the passage that all children go through as they transition into adulthood.

"The Muse" 30 x 30

"Au Pair" 26 x 42

The next category she presented was "Home". Included was an excerpt of the following poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

THE ROOM is full of you!—As I came in

And closed the door behind me, all at once

A something in the air, intangible,

Yet stiff with meaning, struck my senses sick!—

"Running Out" 18 x 24

Lea talked about her feelings about her still life paintings, and the idea that a still life is about the people who are not there. This feeling is described in Millay's poem.

"Guest Room" 24 x 18

"On the Porch" 18 x 18

"The Bed" 14 x 18

"Last Summer" 18 x 18

"The Arrival" 32 x 24

She included her painting "The Wedding", a painting of fellow instructor Robin Frey's wedding dress. Lea talked about the symbolism of the rack the dress is hanging on, and how this reflects aspects of the attachment of marriage, and the shadow behind the dress, and how its shape reminded her of a dress that a young woman might wear, in a stage of life before she is married.

"The Wedding" 50 x 30

"Duckboat Shed" was the last category. Lea talked about the personal nature of inspiration for this painting; her family's involvement with boats since her childhood, her personal experiences going to this boat shed near her grandmother's house when she was growing up, and her brother's boats which were kept here. This painting is layered with personal meaning for her. I found that although I did not know all of this, I could feel the depth of feeling that the artist experienced with this painting, this comes across to me. Maybe this is an expression of the universal in the personal.

"Duckboat Shed" 20 x 22

To see more of Lea's work to


  1. The colors in these are incredible! This post is so inspirational!

  2. Another wonderfully informative yet personal post. Thank you, Natalie! And Lea, for sharing the skillfully vibrant paintings.

  3. Thanks. I forgot to mention several books that Lea brought to the presentation, that are inspirational for artists. The Complete Artist's Way (3 volumes) by Julia Cameron, the Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp, and Bird By Bird by Annie Lamott. If any one has any other suggestions of books that will inspire the creative process, let us know. I loved Twyla Tharp's book, she had so much insight into living a disciplined, creative life. Julia Cameron's is great too (I've only read the first one), she focuses on how to not be blocked, and how to get in sinc with the creative flow of life.