Anytime we admire somebody’s work of art, we wonder how the artwork came into being. There’s the layers of paint and the arrangement and composition of the motive, which by themselves are already fascinating enough. But then there’s also the aspect of why the artist chose the subject, and if the artwork in question has more layers than the things depicted (or the ones left out). Do they relay yet another message? And where did the idea come from? What inspired the artist?
As I’m writing this, I’m enjoying the sublime spectacle of a gorgeous spring morning in the Arizona mountains: sunlight filtering through pine needles, humming birds chasing each other from the feeders, birds and squirrels hopping around the deck, gleaming cat eyes watching their outside ‘tv show’. I would call this inspiration. As I’m meditating over Romans, enjoying my quiet time and the sounds of nature, I cannot believe what a blessed first world brat I am, to have the leisure to slurp a coffee and admire dew drops on pine needles in front of my mountain house window (and then go to my studio room and do my favorite thing, painting!!).
But even though I enjoy and admire nature every day, and I do believe it’s a vital ingredient for art, I don’t necessarily feel inclined to paint pine needles and birds every day. Why is that?
Often I have more pressing things on my mind that I want to share and express. While nature is one part of life, the everyday hustle and bustle is what keeps everyone wrapped up in tasks and errands. There’s the imminent requirements and reactions, fears, anxiety, and clutter. Too much of this will provide a background hum that can drown out any inspiring thought. If you’re good enough to shoo any negative stress off your mind, you might have space for the type of thoughts that surpass the everyday bustle. And open yourself to the bigger thoughts that keep humanity on their toes – the how’s and whys and whatfors, down to the meaning and purpose of life.
All these musings are of course tinged by your personal experiences. How has your life been going? What experiences have shaped you?
In my case, life has been a good measure of wildly chaotic mess and reckless exploring. I successfully avoided a straight line for my career endeavors, spent my youth diving head first into many a dumb idea, travelled and lived on several continents. Based on that, regurgitating past experiences and lessons, my thoughts might be saturated with many emotions, from mirth and joy to sadness and regret. Some lessons might still be painful to consider.
This is where nature comes in again! I can admire the beauty around me as the most original piece of art. It exists apart from me, and I have no influence on its existence. It points to the biggest artist (in my Christian world view), and being infinitely bigger than me, it shows me my limits (and thereby the limits of my problems and subjective view of them). Not only is the sound of constant daily clutter silenced, but I can also look at the things going through my head from a more detached angle. I can spin ideas around and connect them with elements that can be translated into paint.
I might be putting together images in my head trying to express a lofty concept that I would really like to share. Or I might have an inner dialogue resulting in cartoony hippos for a children’s story.
Either way, it is amazing what some dew drops on a pine needle might inspire – not to mention a hike through the woods or a trip to the nearby Grand Canyon! ;D
Later this week I want to introduce a painting of a series called ‘passion prey’. As you might imagine, it has a very personal background, and it prompted me to think of this whole topic of inspiration this morning.
Share what is the well of your inspiration. Do you also use the shower as second most important place to think? ;)