Are You Overthinking?

Episode 202 · January 3rd, 2022 · 37 mins 55 secs

About this Episode

We talk a lot on the podcast about the importance of thinking about your work—of identifying intentions, strategies for developing your ideas, describing your work, researching other artists, and practicing self-critique. All of these are important, but we never want to neglect the more intuitive side of an art practice. So much of what we do is the result of hunches, impulses, and flashes of insight. And the bottom line is that as visual artists, whatever we do needs more than intellectual underpinnings. Today we will talk about the balance of thinking and overthinking when it comes to making art.

Our intellectual function is very different from intuitive response. It's necessary to a point, and there is much to understand about art theory and practice that can enhance your work. But we need to remember that if we are visual artists the primary impact of what we do is visual, despite current trends in conceptual art. After all, we aren’t writing essays, arguing political points, or presenting purely intellectual ideas. The visual impact on our senses, emotions, or thoughts has a very long history in art as its most important function and is basically nonverbal.

Overthinking also can become a problem when we are actually making our work. To be open to intutive responses is especially important during the process of creating, when our productive flow is vulnerable to being interrupted by overthinking. How do we find some kind of balance of trusting our vision and impulses without second guessing and becoming stalled by too much thinking and analyzing?

Finding a rhythm of thinking and doing that works for you is key. Many artists work in a basically intuitive manner for the majority of a studio session, but pause periodically to step back and consider what is working and being expressed. Deeper thinking and intellectualizing may work best in those moments when find a natural point of separation—that is, before a session, afterward, or completely away from the studio. Taking time to play and experiment is also important and as much a component your work as anything more planned or time consuming.

As with many topics about art that we present on the podcast, overthinking is not as easy to avoid as it might seem. We do need a degree of thought and analysis sand finding a balance is a very individualized process. And we also need to accept and celebrate that much visual art is purely or predominantly visual in its impact. If your own work is not based in conceptual concerns, there is no need to make it seem so in how you describe it.

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