Ah, Inspiration. Some days it's solid and beautiful, like a sturdy block of granite, right from the quary. On other days, it's as ellusive as the 1" Butterwort Hummingbird of Louisianna, painted by Audubon, and seen only twice more by explorer W. Weldon Smythe, Jr, in 1762... Inspiration is found in pattern and light and color as well as subject. Inspiration is everywhere, if you will only open your eyes and your mind.
Without the power of Inspiration, none of us would ever paint or write at all. Today I'll share some secrets to the magic of inspiration, and various ways artists go about acquiring such a creative necessity. Hopefully, you will be able to apply some of these suggestions on those days when your brain feels like it's housed in a 2 ton case of steel...impenetrable and impervious to all coaxations from the world beyond your skull.
I used to write children's stories when my kids were small and still taking long afternoon naps. I'm sure you'll agree that kids are a constant wealth of inspiration for a writer, and for artists, as well. Not only for their innocent beauty, but also for their effervescent imaginations which spur us to want to eternalize them in whatever way we can.
In those days of old, I had a Brother Word Processor. What a magical piece of equipment it was for me. It lived on a table in an office with a chime on the door, which would softly ring as I closed the door behind me. The whole effect was hypnotic. I was instantly transported into my imaginary world, and I would start writing exactly where the story had left off the day before. By the time my oldest daughter came home from school, she could tell by the look in my eyes that I was in the world of my imagination. She would say, "So, Mom. What has Penelopy done today?"
It was marvelous! To have such a secret place where my creativity could be immediately turned on by the closing of a door and the tinkling of a cheap $8.50 dime store chime.
Of course, such an environment isn't always possible. We have to resort to more primal means in order to stir up the stuff that paintings and stories are made of. In an effort to produce abundant artwork again, I have been wracking my little brain to remember those things that once came naturally for me -
The things of Inspiration.
I think you will find that at least one of these will ignite some highly flammable sparks of creativity for you.
1. Peruse through a few art books of famous artists. There is nothing like jealousy over another artist's creativity to stir up a challenge in your own mind. This is my favorite "quickie" method for whipping my brain into a creative frenzy. I'll think, "Ach! That Monet. What'd he have that I don't have? If I try, I'll bet I can top that." So what if I don't surpass my favorite mentor and rival, Claude. What I attempt during the race will accomplish something, and it will likely be pleasing and fresh and uniquely my own.
2. Visit some art galleries or a museum. Notice the types of art, whether modern or traditional. Look at the color, the lighting. Take note of what elements draw you to that piece. Then go home and apply those appealing tricks to your own work.
3. Attend a meeting with artists. Being in a critique group was one of the greatest sources of inspiration I've ever had. There's nothing like a glass of wine, the smell of canvas splashed with wet oils, and conversation about making art, to drive an artist to paint. Think about it this way: If you stick a bottle of booze in front of an alcoholic, he's going to want to guzzle it down. Artists are addicts, too. We're addicted to art supplies and creativity. Slap those things in front of us for a few hours a month, and we go home ready to go on a binge. An artistic binge, of course.
4. Look over your old paintings. Look at them with fresh eyes. Think about how you would do this painting differently. How could you approach the subject in a different way? What if you did the same thing in a new medium this time?
5. Find a painting in the people and things around you. Go to the grocery store, or an antique shop. I don't care where you are, you will be able to find something worth painting. If you're in a junkyard, there will be something interesting to paint. If you're in a winter garden, again, you will see things worthy of your time. But if you have a china cabinet, or a pot of flowers, or sunlight casting shadows on your studio floor, you will be able to make a magical vision, indeed.
6. Let the process of using materials be your inspiration. Like putting one foot in front of the other, you may find that by simply going through the motions of painting - taking out your paints or a drawing pen, sitting at a table with some good quality paper, placing some mundane object in bright light before you - these things will begin a bubbling inside you, like warm yeast in flour, and the creator in you will begin to cook something up in the oven of your mind. (Yes, I know what you're thinking...Proceed to the next paragraph.)
7. Go for a ride in the country side or a stroll through a city. You can take your paints, if you'd like. But don't ever forget your camera! Even a dreary day will find something worth painting. But a sunny day. Ahhh. Everywhere you look, there is something wonderful. When you see something that intreagues you, stop and paint. Or stop and take a picture. (But do stop. Driving or even walking while photographing is illegal...or at least it should be.)
8. Go through photos, both old and new. Actually, this may be the best thing for you. After all, don't you take pictures just for painting? They may already be cropped and composed. However, this tends to overwhelm me these days. I have so many pictures that by the time I have chosen a picture to paint, it's time to go to bed. When I awake the next day, I don't want to paint that picture after all. If that is what happens to you, then only allow yourself a small amount of photos to consider. From those, narrow the selection to two or three pictures. Don't forget to look for smaller paintings within the photos. A face, an old toy, a cat lounging on an old TV.
9. Call up an artist friend. Ask him what he's doing. Hopefully, he's painting. Now your jealous again. (Shish! You have a problem with jealousy, don't you?) That's okay. Now go make something.
10. Alas, I haven't a 10th idea today. I said there would be 10. There should always be ten, or twelve...or a baker's dozen. Hmmm. You know what? The important thing is to Make Something. To keep busy. To keep painting and never give up. The more you paint, the better you'll get. The better you get, the more you'll paint.
Just do it.
In the meantime, may your inspiration be poetic, and may your poetry be profound. And may your paintings all be masterpieces, of course.
May God bless you profusely, dear reader.
PS. Oy! I almost forgot. Don't bother to google that 1" Butterwort Hummingbird from wherever it was...It was just a figment of my inspiration.