This is big
It is complicated, personal, [it] usually has some aspect of an intellectual construct, and has to be something that makes you curious and seems harder than what is possible, at least some of the time. There are no rules for this kind of development.
It can’t be forced or faked, that never works. Sometimes we get a great idea and that doesn’t work either. It has to be something you care about or are curious about investigating. A real desire is a big part of finding the subject: studies, doodles, photographs, stream of consciousness writing sometimes helps. Finding the subject or sense of a possible subject, even, takes time.
Do Not be Afraid to Fail
You will have to mess up a lot before you actually find it; trial and error is the only way to go about it. And then it just turns up. My failures in this department should be good examples that give you heart for the search. I don’t want to scare you… this is a confusing struggle because there are no rules… no one can guide you… but you will know when it happens. How can one explain love? You just know. You have to be willing to try and fail… that is the bottom line. All of us whose life is this work fail more than we ever tell… it is a terrible secret.
When you find your subject, you will know, and…
- It probably won’t quite be right at first
- You will be very happy
- There will be a lot of work figuring out scale and how to go about getting the sources for imagery… or maybe NOT
For Painters the most fun is getting to work hard and be excited about the work. Really investing in a body of work can take years — two out of three ain’t bad — sometimes it is one out of three.
You can’t always tell in the beginning what is really working. You learn how to see and think at the same time, and then it changes. Otherwise where is the point?