Back to the Concept

While it’s easy to be swept away by all of the mainstream design software, one artist said she believes stepping away from the computer and first focusing on the concept is key.

Deborah Withey of Cheese + Pickles Studio in Pembrokeshire, U.K. talked about how to start a brilliant design in her session “Power Up: Speed Conceptual Thinking.”

Withey has a career in news design, notably at Knight Ridder Newspapers and the “Virginian-Pilot.” She served as president of SND in 1995 and won the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

She established herself as a community artist, illustrator and printmaker when she founded her studio in 2009.  Her signature design is monoprints.

“The most important thing of a concept, of a great idea, is not the platform,” Withey explained.

When designing, Withey said it is important to:

Look. See. Record. Connect.

Withey  said for the participants look to French painter Henri Matisse, known for his fluid style and use of color, as inspiration for the session.

The audience participated in a classic art exercise, “a haptic experience,” where artists drew their neighbor twice: once while diverting their eyes from the paper, perhaps engaging in conversation, and once looking directly at the page.

Withey said the exercise was not about being good but the artists’ eyes.

“Shut off your brain and let your eyes do the work,” Withey said.

Several participants posted their art on social media with the hashtag #SNDDCart.

Withey shared her top 8 components to look at while creating:

1. Style

2. Medium

3. Composition

4. Scale

5. Movement

6. Emotive

7. Period in time

8. Color palette

The session attendees delved into an entirely new realm when Withey instructed them to draw a picture of two animals in one. She told the artists to ask themselves, “What story does this tell?”

After the session, Withey also shared a few top 3 lists of her inspirations:

Books for budding artists

1.  “Making Art a Practice:  How to Be the Artist You Are” by Cat Bennett

2. “The Confident Creative” by Cat Bennett

3. “Show Your Work!”  by Austin Kleon

Inspiring artists

1. Henri Matisse

2. Man Ray

3. Mark Rothco

Advice for new artists and designers

1. “Don’t let technology rule or limit you.”

2. “Be free and constantly experiment.”

3. “Believe in yourself.”

Withey does not currently sell her designs on her website, but anyone interested in her work can purchase via email at [email protected]