Today, if you are a photographer, you can on the used market buy a great camera and lens (much better than anything many of the “masters” used in the film days) for less than $500. Today for $10 a month (no I don’t work for Adobe) you can have an incredibly powerful artistic work station on any computer sold in the last five years. My point is that even those with very modest budgets can have “professional tools”. It is now a time of where skills count more than equipment – once again. Don’t fall into the trap that you see on the gear focused forums, it is your skill, knowledge, and desire that will take your art to the next level. I urge you to focus on the act of creating and not dreaming about the “next best thing”. Improve your skills and your knowledge and you will succeed as an artist, chase the next best thing and you will forever be caught in an unproductive cycle of upgrading equipment.
Conceptualization of an artistic idea is perhaps the most difficult artistic process. A while ago I read something in a photography magazine that made a great impact on me and how I go about conceptualizing an artistic idea. That advice was to know your subject matter well. Just what is it your art is trying to say. When I image an animal I try and convey something about either that specific animal or the whole species. When I shoot a city scape I am aiming to say something about the human condition. For me to articulate a concept I rely on my education, my life experience, and what I can see and sense about the subject.
The age of the Internet brings great rewards and great dangers. It is easy to do an internet search and find an enormous amount of information on a subject/concept. But one must evaluate that information for accuracy and peer review something that is often missing. Art has a history that defines how society sees it. Arts are often viewed as the soul of a society and even its social conscience. But in order for that view, in my opinion, to be of value the creators of art must know something about world it was created for.
If you are creating art then in my opinion an education and/or research on your concept is not only important but mandatory for the art to be relative to the concept your creating. So all of this “talk” is interesting but the question is how do you go about knowing your concept? See if you can define what it is that a specific piece of art says in 1 sentence. Why let critics define what it is that you want your art to say. Critics have the right to express where they feel your art should be in art world space (that is the job of a critic) but not to interpret what your art said to you. The more you know about your art concept the more clearly you can articulate it in your art.