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Inspiration as a noun?

Good Tuesday!

I am writing this on Monday, but I am acutely aware that it is now 11:30 pm and soon it will be Tuesday. I feel like I should be starting these emails off with "dear diary..."

Today I have for you my thoughts on a very common, very often misunderstood concept: Creative Inspiration. So here goes!

I absolutely LOVE the question every artist is asked at least once: "What was your inspiration for this painting?"

And by LOVE I mean loathe.

I don't loathe the question because I think I can't answer it, but rather I can almost always guarantee it's not the answer they're looking for.

There is nothing better than looking at a weird piece of abstract art, saying quietly to yourself what the heck am I looking at? The artist then appears and you overhear (and I say this as an introverted anti-social) someone ask "What WAS your inspiration?!?!?!" You stand there, listening, ready to breathe a sigh of relief when the artists reveals they were inspired by their trip to Paris where they watched the sun set each evening, carefully recording colours and how the last rays of the day made them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You look back to the paintings and you see those sunshine-y colours and lines that look kind of like rays and you also feel the warm fuzzies so you nod your head, confirming you, too, understand great art. Don't you just love that?

Me neither.

As an outsider, creative inspiration can look many ways, but it is most often received best when it is easily digested; when it makes sense to pretty much everyone. The unfortunate truth is creative inspiration is hardly a thing at all. I wouldn't even say it's a feeling. Sure, you can feel inspired to create, but it kind of means nothing when what you create is neither what you like or what you wanted to create.

Artists often wait for inspiration to hit. Like it's some kind of out-of-control jeep zooming down the highway ready to bless us with its imposition at a moment's notice. It doesn't hit. It doesn't even arrive. Inspiration is, in my opinion, a cop-out, at best. At its worst? It is a lie we tell ourselves about how we come up with our ideas, and it's an excuse for why we don't have any new ones.

Why do we care?

As a creative, you should care because you can learn to cultivate that feeling. You can make it happen when you want it and toss it out the window when you're done. How? Do the stuff. Picasso once said (I think. I know people say he said this but people tell themselves a lot of lies to cope with the steady decline of joy) "Inspiration does exist. But it must find you working."

As an art appreciator or whatever you call yourselves, you should care because it means there are so many other amazing reasons to fall in love with the art an artist creates. Open your mind to their weird and wonderful explanations of their work, and try to see the work through their eyes. And remember to look at the process just as much as the final result.

I feel like visual artists get the short end of the stick here. Writers obviously have immense amounts of ideas they are dealing with, and probably a ton of writer's block too, but they use words to tell you what they're talking about, and they get to be specific and descriptive. And yes, maybe there are some who spend a bit too much time in the realm of the cliché, but the good ones don't!

Visual artists are called out for making paintings that spell it out, so we dive into a hole of symbolism, vague imagery, and cryptic visuals that rarely tell the story we want them to. Then we are told that art is subjective and the viewer will take something else entirely from your piece. So we throw up our hands and say "ok, do what you will with it. It's yours now."

I really have dear-diary'd this, haven't I?

My point is, and I do have one, that artists aren't always inspired to create their works. Some pieces come from pain, heartache, depression, and angst. Some pieces really do come from sunsets and rainbows, which is just as valid. But often there is a lot more going on than even the artist knows, so do yourself a favour and spend time with the work, and don't reach for inspiration as your easily digested explanation.

Understanding great art is about connecting to it and seeing its reasons for existing.

I don't have any great art to share with you today, but I am still working on my website and I am hoping to have it mostly up and running soon, minus a few more intricate parts of it. I also finished a few new pieces this week that I am not ready to reveal yet, but as always, you'll be the first to know when they hit my shop!

Thank you for your continued patience.


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