As an artist, I am asked questions about inspiration all the time. What inspires you? Are you inspired all the time? What happens if you are not inspired? I will use this post to talk about two different kinds of inspiration.
Inspiration can come like a bolt of lightning. Its those moments when an idea is crystal clear and so fantastic that it can easily be transferred to canvas – or whatever your medium is. These moments are genius and can feel especially great. We all love these moments because everything flows. It all comes together perfectly.
Waiting in Vain, 2016
But inspiration does not work that way all the time. Inspiration can also be found within the grind. In the lightning bolt scenario, inspiration comes, then you create. With the grind, you must do the work for inspiration to appear.
If you do not have that bolt every time you want to create a work of art, what will you do? I cannot sit and wait for the next bolt to come or I would have significantly fewer pieces in my portfolio. What I do in times when lightning does not strike, is approach the canvas, my paints, my brushes, my thoughts. I stand face to face with my creative nemesis, I sketch, I design, I begin painting to see what comes, struggling through. In the process of creating, I am also chasing inspiration and I know that I will find it. The evidence will be in the finished product.
Finding inspiration in the grind is not just about artists or creative people, its for anyone who wants to accomplish anything. I am a creative so I use creative references. If you are a writer, you will have to sit down in front of a computer even if you have no clue what you will write. You will have to hit those keys. Write a line. Delete it. Write another. Starting your process is an invitation to inspiration to come in. It wants to come in. Sometimes it is reluctant but if you stick with the process long enough it will come.
Today I wish for you all the lightning bolts of inspiration you can get. However, when those fade, I wish for you the patience and tenacity to sit down and start working so that inspiration may come.
To Leave the Beaten Path. Art allows me to leave the usual path. I could paint what everybody else is painting, I can do the popular thing. But how will I make my mark as an imitator? How will I be different? Leaving the beaten path allows me to discover new ways to create, allows me to take risks and to learn new things about myself. When I am on the road not travelled, I am alone and have only my own creative thoughts to depend on.
To have an open mind. To leave the well travelled road, forces me to have an open mind. I carve out my own style. I paint the subjects I want to paint. I experiment with different paints and use various found objects in my work. Opening my mind leaves me available and open to new things which will enrich my mind, my art and my life.
To let go. If I am going to have an open mind, I have to let go. It’s much easier to do this in art than in life. But as I said, I am using one to inform the other. We all have perceptions that we hold dear; we are slaves to our culture, our family, our friends, our ancestors and we could go on. We are all colouring within the line but what if we coloured outside of it? What would we discover within ourselves and within our world?
All I need to do is start. I don’t need to be intimidated by a blank canvas. The empty space is waiting on me to make my mark. The canvas is yearning for me to use it to bring a story to life. I don’t always know what I will paint but I stand before the canvas and I think about what I can create that will be impactful. As soon as I start, the path starts to reveal itself. The reveal is not always quick but if I persist it becomes sure.
There is always another way. If I start and I realize that my creation is not going the way I envisioned it, I can change midstream. I have created works that I did not like. I gesso them over and create something new. These paintings are always the better ones because they have been through the fire of failure and came out popping. There are many ways to fill an empty canvas – different colours, different textures, more pop. This is the reason we should not be afraid to start. We have the ability to adjust.
To surround myself with people who understand my dreams and encourage it. This is the final one and it is a big one. The business of art is already challenging so I do not surround myself with naysayers who sap my energy and diminish my creativity with negative thoughts. I sever any cord that would tie me to discord, to anything that will let me lose focus, to anyone that feed self doubt. Self doubt can mean death to a creative. I surround myself with light; with people who encourage and help me to find my path. This is a very important life lesson – hold fast to dream builders; let go of dream killers. Light in; darkness out.