The Concept of Content

The Concept of Content


There seems to be confusion about the ideas of content.  It is really very simple the question is where are you trying to go? Generally Form does follows Content.  That means that first you decide on an idea and then you make a plan as to how to get there.  Writers begin with a story line, architects with vision, musicians with a mood, and artist with a feeling or function.

The builders of the great pyramids did not begin by laying stone in hopes it would turn out to be a tomb, Shakespeare did not arrange words in hopes of making a tragedy, and Picasso did not make geometric shapes and invent cubism.

Each of these builders of art began with an idea, sometimes a vague idea, but non-the-less an idea.  In the case of these artists their ideas took to very special form. It is a mistake to burden we mortals with the quest for greatness and profoundness. We do not need great ideas we simply need an idea.

A group of artists look down a set of railroad tracks: one sees a road to fascinating places yet to be explored, another sees lines converging in space and explores mathematics in art, some hear the sounds of metal against metal and writes music, another recalls the great depression and the men who road the rails in search of work and survival and wrote a book, a person recalls the pride our country once felt for the railroads and now how we feel no pride but fear and frustrations.

I feel sorry for all those artists who believe that technique and design are art and for those who learn the tricks of other misguided technicians and who are robbed of the joy of the creative process.  The process is first have and idea, give it form, and rejoice when your creation feels good not because of technique and design but because it was your idea.



  • Sue Martin

    Jun 1, 2015 at 8:08 pm Reply

    Thank you, Skip. This is really important, especially if you are an artist applying for an exhibition. The gallery will want to know your “idea.” It’s more than “I paint flowers.” Or, “I try to capture the beauty of nature.” Learning to think more deeply about your idea and to articulate it is part of being an artist.

  • Priscilla

    Jul 4, 2015 at 11:08 am Reply

    This blog entry seemed a little too touchy-feely for me. Shortly after I read it, I was trying to paint a still life (fruit). My results were…eh. Then I scrapped the painting and tried again, this time focusing on the IDEA of fruit. For me an orange is weighty, glowing in color, and has that bumpy feel when you hold it. I tried to convey those ideas the second time I tried the still life. I was tickled pink with the result. This was a big learning experience for me–thank you, Skip.

  • Charlotte

    Jul 29, 2015 at 2:34 am Reply

    This post and your article in the Palette on this subject is extremely thought provoking. I often start with a design and realize now that the times that works is when I then get an idea and proceed with that in mind. Sometimes the idea is just exploration of the qualities of a particular color… or juxtaposition of different textures. I’m still thinking about this and know it will guide me as I continue painting. Thank you!

  • Beverly Howard

    Aug 12, 2015 at 5:34 pm Reply

    Hello. Good to know your still alive and kicking.

    • Skip Lawrence

      Aug 12, 2015 at 8:00 pm Reply

      Also good to hear of your presence. How is John? Are you still making art? Where are you living these days? All is well here!


  • Lee Fink

    Nov 3, 2015 at 10:53 am Reply

    Hi Skip, I hope you and Diane are well…return to your site to refresh myself with your thoughts on painting, etc.You probably don’t know that I was somewhat ill during the first half of 2015….but now am doing well,,not having treatments since April. I did some occasional painting earlier but am back to my normal routine and have moved into a senior retirement place…traveled to Alaska and hope for more to come.. Enough of that…I enjoy your site and esp. the landscapes, never having the knack for abstraction….keep it up and say hello to all in Maine…Lee

  • Mary Franchini

    Nov 22, 2015 at 3:36 pm Reply

    I have not been to your blog for a while and am glad to see you still there. I hope at some point soon that you get back out to our coast for a workshop?? Don’t know if I can get to your coast for a workshop. I still use the Palette Mag for me and my students. Thanks for continuing with that.
    Hope all is well with you and Diane

  • Pat

    Jan 15, 2016 at 3:46 pm Reply

    Skip your comments about making art are very insightful, I enjoy them and learn from them. and responses from the fellow artists the same. The diologue is important because painting is so inside our head/heart. Sometimes hard to articulate.

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