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The Push and Pull of Concept - The Meaning Behind The Art

Elizabeth Schowachert

Over the last year I have expanded my art practice to include working on paper with ink and other media. This has been a gradual process integrating in new materials/media and the ideas/inspiration that comes with that. 

At first I felt a bit like a cheating spouse. Encaustic has been my sole working medium for a number of years, and one that I feel extremely close to. That may sound a bit strange, but I really do feel a kind of bond with the wax, the heat, the process and the end results. Encaustic gave me the ability to visually express ideas that were floating around in my head in a way that no other medium ever has. 

So when I started to integrate paper and fabric into my work, as much as it opened up entirely new visions and ideas, I felt like It also might be closing another chapter and this was/is an uncomfortable feeling.

I struggled for some time, trying to "fit" these new materials and processes into my work, figure out what it meant and why I was drawn to it. This understanding did not come quickly or easily because I feel there is an inate tension between the known and the unknown. It is been my experience that this tension, the uneasy feeling of change is what draws out the best in me, it is what drives my personal development and growth. Staying safe, although it can feel good/easier does not tend to result in "breakthroughs", at least this has been my experience. Don't get me wrong, I admire consistency and the ability to stay focused on one idea, exploring it through and through. Deep exploration of ideas and concepts within an artists practice is important, especially if one intends to become a master of their craft.

In fact, I feel this is an area where I need to improve, my ability to stay focused and really develop an idea. I intend to work on this over the coming year, to ensure that I develop my work, stay with a body of work longer, pushing through the barriers that tend to pop up and move me in a different direction. 

I think this is where the concepts and ideas behind the work come into play in a big way. If you have a clear understading of the meaning/ideas behind the work, then you can explore it more deeply and find ways to stay engaged/interested.

Making this connection is hard, and every artist approaches this differently. Some are structured, disciplined and precise. Some take a more intuitive approach with their work, but still have a clear direction and they generally know where they are going.

(These are very general statements, and I understand that there are many variations, I am speaking here from my own perspective more than anything else).

For me finding this inner voice, concept, meaning has not been easy. It has taken me a long time to wrap my head around where I want to take my work and why I want to take it there. 

It is like a seed that was planted a very long time ago and it has taken time to germinate, pop up to the surface and grow. I keep asking myself, what kind of plant is it? Why is it there? How can I help it grow, why must it grow? 

 The answers are there, and as they become more clear it becomes easier for me to accept what I am doing, and to develop the my art in new directions. To take it places that I have never been, knowing that while they may feel new, there are part of something deeper, a connection to myself that can be expressed on paper, or with wax, or with whatever media I choose. The media is just the vehicle, the idea, the meaning behind the work, that is what is important and that is what will ultimately allow me to develop into a better artist, an artist that creates more than just beautiful paintings.

Happy Creating!



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  • Elizabeth on

    Thank you for your comments Nancy. I am glad that you could relate to my post and thank you for sharing your experience with me. It was hard to write…and share…so knowing that it resonated with you means a lot.

  • Nancy on

    Thank you for this incredibly thoughtful post! I’ve transitioned from a 20 year journey with making glass into a world of encaustic painting. It’s so hard for me when I hear people say ‘oh but I loved your glass…’. That work defined me for some time, and truly helped me to grow into my new work. And because I also have an issue ‘staying focused’ I’ve branched out to working with paper and acrylics. I truly don’t think there are enough years ahead to do all I want to do!


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