Where is Inspiration?
One question an artist often gets asked is: “where do you find your inspiration?” I usually say “nature” instead of the real answer which is much longer and harder to pinpoint.
Inspiration may come from any and all aspects of life – books, trips, dreams, conversations, movies, drawing, life events, a walk around the neighborhood or nature. Sometimes I will shake out my subconscious for ideas. Lately I’ve been making random india ink marks and then adding colour or collage. With these mixed media drawings I try not to create any image in particular but see if something comes out of it – sometimes they may spark something to explore further.
The process of engaging with your creativity is a lot like play. When I think back to being a kid, there was never any objective to pretending you were shipwrecked on an island, or in the pilot’s seat of an aircraft (our swing set). There was no way things had to turn out, you just totally had fun getting lost in this other world. Pure play becomes more challenging as an adult, but when I let go of judgment or the need to be productive, my ideas feel more authentic.
Sometimes inspiration is elusive. One of the risks you take as an artist is that you waste large portions of your time on things that don’t work out. If no idea comes or I really don’t feel like working on something I’ve started, I try not to worry or pay it too much attention. Every day is different. This may be a good chance to do the laundry, or enjoy a long bike ride. I will just try again later.
As long as you are a human on this planet, inspiration will always come eventually, since life continuously unfolds around us whether we want it to or not, giving us plenty of material to work from. There is no such thing as a scarcity of ideas in the world. The question actually may be whether you are willing to take the risk with an idea and there are many; risk of failing, risk of succeeding, risk of no one understanding, risk of (you name it). Sometimes if we face inner resistance, it might help instead to look at inspiration as a collaborator and to realize it’s not all up to us.
Elizabeth Gilbert in my favourite book on creativity, Big Magic, says: “you can believe that you are neither a slave to inspiration nor its master, but something far more interesting – its partner – and that the two of you are working together toward something intriguing and worthwhile.”.
Over time I have learned that finding inspiration actually means leaving myself open for inspiration to find me. Once I put in the consistent effort of practising and showing up, inspiration arrives out of the blue with a pile of ideas to work on together or something I am already working on may start to finally look interesting. Inspiration is the reward for having faith in creativity.
Image above: Playing with India ink and acrylic paint