Finding inspiration

Finding inspiration

Inspiration can take many forms and pops up unexpectedly. It could come in an observation, a scene, a feeling, a smell that reminds you of something, a sound, perhaps a piece of music. It is a very personal thing. For me, itís that crisp winter walk in the forest, observing the silver trunks of the birch trees against the dark browns and oranges of the dead foliage. Autumn leaves in a rain puddle, all different shapes and colours. A walk on the seashore, observing the energy of the crashing waves against the rocks, with spumes of water, the smell of the seaweed, seagulls soaring on the thermals, the wind on your face. Are you there yet?

It could be a breath takingly beautiful landscape, or an old gate coming off its hinges that invites you into the landscape beyond. Recently, whilst walking our two dogs, we pass by a hedge that is in its winter attire. About fifty house sparrows occupy this hedge and we often observe them fluffed up, gossiping, living out their lives. I need to paint this! Not quite sure how I am going to approach it. On the same walk this morning there was a group of beautiful yellow winter aconites nestling under an oak tree. Inspiration can also come from the work of other artists, their approach, subject matter and their approach. YouTube videos are a great source of inspiration as they also show you how to recreate the artwork.

Trying to capture that inspiration can be a challenging step, especially if you are time poor. I keep a notebook which details colour combinations, sketches, notes of how it made me feel, why did it inspire me. Also, with mobile technology, you can capture images easily, but they are very one dimensional and often donít convey the feeling/sensations that provided the inspiration. However, they do provide good reference materials.

Next, how to interpret and recreate that inspiration into an artwork. What approach will you use? Will you go abstract? What about colour combos? What materials, media, will you use? Canvas, board, paper, watercolour, acrylic, pastel? So many decisions. Often the inspirational idea may suggest the optimal format. I recently painted a golden eagle on a very large canvas to depict its sheer magnificence and size. Use an abstract acrylic technique for the background to capture the landscape colours
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Could this be a chicken or egg situation? Does the inspiration come first? Recently I acquired four brand new, long and narrow canvases from a charity show. I know, just couldnít leave them there. Itís for a good cause! I keep looking at them in the corner of my ďstudioĒ and considering what to paint. Perhaps a line of baby ducks following an adult, or a group of giraffes? Have picked through Pinterest, mobile phone pics, notebook, including my archive picture folder. Nope, no inspiration. There isnít that spark, idea or energy to carry the painting through to completion and waste materials.

Sometimes, inspiration or the muse isnít with us. These days we call it mojo. To overcome this, I tend to have several projects on the go, all at different stages. Often three different paintings, or creating journals from my abstract acrylic art, to making clocks from mdf blanks. Also have a development project on the go to learn new techniques or use new materials. Currently its landscape and flowers in soft pastels. Very challenging!

So, where do you get your inspiration? How do you capture it? Does the idea suggest how you will interpret it? What do you do when you donít have any mojo? I think those four canvases will be in the corner for a while, until I get inspired by something.

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Michael Riley

Michael Riley

Lovely. Thank you for giving your inspiration!

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