Everyone has their own way of finding inspiration. The most natural way is when the ideas just flow and come to you, when you’re not forcing yourself to find the perfect idea. Because the more you force it, the more you end up getting stuck.
There is no right or wrong way to being an artist just as there is no right or wrong way to finding inspiration; however I do think there are positive patterns to follow to reach an enlightening stage. I also think one of the biggest misinterpretations of being an artist (of any kind), is that you must aim to be ‘original’. Originality just doesn’t exist today because our libraries of knowledge have increased so vastly that everything we do and make is an amalgamation of something that we have seen and learnt from someone or something else. Furthermore, we are usually copying from something. (Please do note that this is different to plagiarism). Copying is not bad – it’s how we learn, improve and carve our craft.
I’m currently reading a book by Julia Cameron, titled ‘The Artist’s Way’, which basically talks about how creativity is in all of us and how a spiritual pathway is unlocked if we allow ourselves to unblock certain elements.
This post isn’t so much about that but I thought I’d just mention it since I’ve been thinking since last month how this art journey I’m leading has been a spiritual awakening. I’ve been thinking a lot about my life purpose. My thoughts are lucid. It’s like every time I paint, I untangle my thoughts and then come to understand a concept better. I don’t know if I’ve ever come close to understanding myself like I do right now.
When you’re an artist, finding inspiration usually comes visually. For me, it’s the Pinterest board. Don’t be fooled though – it has to be more than that. Finding inspiration is a whole thought process as much as making the work itself. Even if you are painting* an image and copying its entirety, you are making conscious decisions throughout on why you have painted it the way you have. After all, you have chosen to paint the image for a reason, right?
*Feel free to adapt active word to your own creative craft
For me, a good painting isn’t one that’s been copied and crafted well. Again, it has to be more than that. A good painting (to me) is one that can make you feel something. If it doesn’t make you feel anything then it’s no more than a dead painting and so the artist has failed at their job. But each to their own since art is so open to interpretation anyway. Actually, maybe part of this influence is from the art teachers that I had.
I learnt two important lessons from art class. One, you should always play like you’re a child. Two, you should paint** with emotion.
**Actually the phrasing was you should ‘drape’ with emotion as this was in fashion class. But still, the same can be applied to painting.
Finding inspiration doesn’t have to begin from an image. It can be a word, an object, a concept/idea but most importantly, you have to relate to it. That is perhaps the most original part of being an artist (of any kind). Your thought is the realist. You can’t fake a thought, a point made in recent Netflix film I’m Thinking About Ending Things. Your thought is your point of view and whilst you might be copying an image that’s been copied a thousand times over, no one will harbour the same thought process that you have from start to finish. No one.
Even if your thought is just one part of your ‘self’, it is still authentic.
So what does this conclude to?
Well, the most original part of our work is the making behind it and not necessarily the work itself. In some ways, that may be disconcerting but if our aim is to be original then most likely, it will not work out that way. Why? Because we end up trying too hard which goes against trying to let things ‘flow’.
Flowing is not a bad thing. When I think of flowing, I think of the water current. Energy. This should relate to both motion and emotion. We shouldn’t do things for the sake of doing and this applies to making art, including the process of finding inspiration for it.
Other than a painting making you feel, often I love the storytelling behind it. When I was studying A-level art especially, I loved reading the stories behind iconic paintings – my favourite ones were derived from Greek tales. If anything, reading the inspirations and stories behind the artwork made me love it more because it became full circle. Nowadays I ‘read’ images like I read books – it’s amazing how much information and detail you start picking up if you do this often. And so, the flow begins.
When you start flowing, the ideas start swimming. It’s only when you stay still that you might start to sink. Making work, any work, a masterpiece…starts from an idea that becomes many steps in the process. So next time you find inspiration, make sure it means something to you.
Does it make you feel? Can you tell a story?
Happy Holidays! I hope you’re all enjoying the festive season so far. Things are very different this year but I still hope you managed to indulge in one way or another. With the year it’s been, just think how far you’ve come to reach here – that’s beautiful.
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