Some time ago I was asked, “Who inspires your art?” A thought-provoking question.
Did I provide an enlightening answer?
Consistent with other occasions I’ve been put on the spot, I blurted out tongue-tied sounds comparable to a dribbling b-b-b-b-basketball. I don’t know precisely what bounced out, but I’m pretty sure it sounded something like, “N-n-no one”.
Well, don’t I sound full of myself!
Have you ever been asked who inspires YOUR work? With today’s aspirations for mediocrity, I assume the question of inspiration and creativity rarely comes up. When was the last time you heard someone say:
- “Wow Jane, who inspired your creative choice of fonts for this executive report?” or,
- “Fabio, who inspired you to replace the printer paper when no one else in the office would?”
I think if someone were to ask, you might do as I did and shove food in your mouth to buy yourself more thinking time.
Whether I like it or not, an artist’s creative inspiration is constantly examined. We must be ever at the ready, equipped to tell the world about the things that move us. To avoid a b-b-bouncy ball response in future, I needed to consider the matter further.
“Motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion, and inspiration is when an idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go.” Dr Wayne Dyer
What fills me with these windswept urges to be creative?
This is where I wax lyrical about the inspirational gestural strokes of a 17th century artist, who was no doubt high as a kite on toxic paint fumes.
One such inspirational fume inhaler was Rembrandt. At times I feel vulnerable about my constantly changing subject matter. I feel less alone when I look at a Rembrandt. His diverse body of work meant one minute he was painting the sour-lemon facial expressions of an 83 year old woman, the next, he was painting groups of smug men fondling drapes.
Despite the variety, all his works are unmistakably his. The enviable master of realism.
I was fortunate enough to visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, a museum boasting the world’s largest Rembrandt collection. One of his most famous pieces, the ‘Night watch’ is truly breathtaking to see in person. Standing at a mammoth 3.6 x 4.3 metres, the figures are almost life size.
Creating the selfie long before Instagram, he hides himself amongst the characters. With clever use of light, he draws your eye around the piece.
Bizarrely, this artwork required restoration on two different occasions because of slashing incidents by knife wielding madmen. I’m not sure why it is so knife-worthy, but I can see that cutting it into smaller pieces might make for easier transportation.
British contemporary artist Damien Hirst explains the work of Rembrandt well:
“I gave up painting by 16. I secretly thought I would have been Rembrandt by then. I don’t believe in genius. I believe in freedom. I think anyone can do it. Anyone can be like Rembrandt… Picasso, Michelangelo, possibly, might be verging on genius, but I don’t think a painter like Rembrandt is a genius. It’s about freedom and guts. It’s about looking. It can be learned. That’s the great thing about art. Anybody can do it if you just believe. With practice, you can make great paintings.”
Is it cliche to mention one of the most famous artists of all time? Van Gogh. I enjoy his personal and artistic story…but may I say, not so much his use of perspective and proportion.
I came to this rather unorthodox opinion in a high school art assignment. Like a dizzy Alice in Wonderland swigging on a vial of shrinking potion whilst being sucked into another dimension, I redrew Vincent’s poorly constructed IKEA furniture, otherwise known as, ‘The bedroom’.
I then had the pleasure of writing an accompanying essay full of flowery words to convince the teacher, Vincent’s distorted perspective, odd angles and wall hangings that looked like they would crush you in your sleep, were somehow enlightened and meaningful.
Clearly Vincent was too preoccupied abseiling in and out of bed to bother about the welfare of students who needed to pass their exams.
What I DO appreciate about Vincent though, is his endeavours to constantly work at developing his skill, and his tenacity in following his dreams when no one believed in him. If you don’t know much about Van Gogh’s story, I encourage you to check it out.
He showed us that a touch of psychosis is all one needs to achieve the heights of inspiration.
Of course, I can’t overlook the long list of modern artists who pepper us with their breathtaking works and inspiring social media #followyourdreams. The calibre of work we see today and the fact it is so accessible is mind blowing. Here are just two worth checking out:
Paco Martin Art: https://www.pacomartin.art
Tanja Gant: https://www.tanjagant.com
I had an amazingly progressive art teacher when I was in Primary School. She would bring out musty old art books and explain to us mere 8 year old’s very grown up things like the pointillism (dot paintings) of artists like Georges Seurat. I remember being mesmerised. How could someone create a realistic scene with just dots?!
She would explain colour theory and painting techniques used by the old Masters.
She let us handle dangerous art supplies and chemicals. (A rather momentous point when you consider, as an adult, I worked in places where anything that looked remotely like a chemical was locked away for fear the staff might drink it and start an uprising.)
What on earth this overqualified art teacher was doing at our school I’ll never know. But I fell in love with colour, art history and the smell of art supplies because of her. She inspired me to see art as infinitely broader than neon coloured pipe cleaners, clag and painted macaroni jewellery.
A brief consideration of just a few sources of inspiration made me realise that the people that inspire me are those that teach me something new, or that give me confidence to just be me. I’m inspired to continue drawing when people let me know they enjoy my work.
I’m inspired by the thought of creating something that didn’t exist before, and in having the ability to put my observations and quirky reflections onto paper.
With my inspirational b-basketball fully inflated, I now realise the person who originally asked the question got bored and went home.
So, I’ll pass the ball to you…Who, or what, inspires you?