It’s not really that helpful to have ideas about a painting.
No matter what idea you bring with you, painting is always a conversation between yourself and the actual act of painting. You start off at one point, and you and the painting sit and talk for a very long time, then when you both get quiet, you realize you are in a different place then where you started.
I have spent a lot of time as a painter when I have only wanted to paint from within myself. I wanted to focus narrowly into my own psyche and work my thoughts out on canvas. Exploring within myself, and neglecting the world around me. I brought ideas about my emotions, my thoughts, and my place in the world. I dug into forms and colors, and worked towards abstractions of my moods and internal focus. Letting my mind be the light for the brushes and drawings.
Painting, was mostly unimpressed.
As I worked and worked within myself, The painting kept speaking to me of other things. It kept having ideas of its own, and it kept, looking out the window to things not me. Painting never bought into the idea of the walls I had imagined for myself and my being. To painting, self and the outside, the imagined borders, are dissolved, and my work traveled outside of what I thought was me.
The problem with bringing an idea to a painting is that ideas and paintings are two very different things. They are like dogs of the same breed, which you might think by looking at them are two very similar things. But when you put them in the room together, you notice all their differences and all of the things that make them separate.
Paintings, it often seems, can’t stand your ideas. They just want to work with you and take you where things can go.
Even when I have the most clear of intentions in what I want to paint and why, the painting itself will always introduce new ideas and new possibilities. Clarity is something you find while painting, ideas are something that only aid or detract from the process.
The good part is, painting can talk and talk for hours until you figure it out.