Finding Inspiration

Trivia- What is the number one most frequently asked question of artists, that most artists dislike being asked?

“Where do you get your inspiration?”

It’s so common, it’s like being asked, “Where did you get that dress?”, as though we’re expected to have some store address we can direct people to to stop in and pick up their inspiration.

When I’m busy, or not in the mood for a long conversation, my answer is normally “My imagination”.  Which is true, but also rather simplified.

Sometimes I’ll waffle on about nature or books or fairytales. Sometimes I’ll mention other artists. Sometime I’ll say I have to plan out an artwork and decide on each element in it as a conscious effort. Sometimes I say I just start working and the ideas come. Sometimes I say I get inspiration from my dreams.

And in reality, all of these things are true.

The question of where I get my inspiration baffles me. I mean, do we all not have ideas? Dreams? Do we all not have preferences and dislikes that form our personalities? That is really all inspiration is. A collection of our likes, dislikes, experiencing these things, saturating our subconscious with content and letting it work on ideas and dreams based on that content, and/or, making conscious decisions based on our likes and dislikes.

Many artists and authors will say that inspiration is highly overrated, and that one must simply do the work, which is also true. Getting the work done is the most important thing because it is continuing to exercise the part of your brain that churns through your likes, dislikes, and experiences and turns it into ideas for you.

There’s a certain narrow mindedness that comes with me and my career. I love fantasy stuff. If I read a book it will be a fantasy book. If I watch a movie it will be a fantasy movie. I only really look at other fantasy art. I play fantasy role playing games with friends. I surround myself with visual and mental stimulation on themes of fantasy ALL THE TIME because I love it. It all feeds into my brain, and that’s where I get my ideas from.

My husband chides me often for the other main thing that is always on my mind- food. I love food and I love cooking. I do all the cooking for us almost every day. Sometimes this seems daunting, thinking into the future- almost every day, ever meal for the rest of my life I have to create something. Well, no wonder I think about food so much. I need to keep my “food inspiration” thriving by exercising it, thinking about food, learning new recipes, trying new foods to keep excited about the whole process of cooking and feeding ourselves. There is that same sort of single-mindedness involved. To keep excited, keep working and keep inspired on any job or pastime it’s a necessity.

So how do you exercise your inspiration?

It is important to keep a  journal of some kind.

Our minds are reflection of our experiences and surroundings. But memory isn’t perfect of course, and to help along my imagination, I keep a journal of ideas. It’s certainly not pretty, in fact, it’s a dis-used accounts book with half of the cover ripped off, but it serves it’s purpose. In it, I scribble down tiny thumbnail designs that have come to mind, or titles and words that inspire me. I write things such as “Pirate Mermaid”, “Riddle Fishing”, “Dragonflies Skimming Water”. These are simply things to spark my memory and imagination again when I have time to paint them. Even if I don’t remember the exact idea, they can spark new ideas. I also keep another part of the journal where I scribble down single word ideas for elements of an artwork, or designs for jewellery or clothing. It’s a jumble of scribbles and what appear to be irrelevant words like “Stripes, Lockets, Waterfalls, Berries, Keys, Tatters”. These are simply things I like, that I can read over and inspire me, or if I’m stuck for some element or costume design for an artwork I skim through to find something good, that I might otherwise have forgotten. Keeping a journal like this, or a journal of any kind, purely sketches only, purely writing, personal or purely art, is I think very important in developing your ideas and keeping your inspiration alive.

What sort of things do you do to keep inspired? Are you single minded like me on a certain genre?

Or do you believe that inspiration comes from somewhere else, from a divine power or being granting it to us mortals?

12 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration

  1. Lauren says:

    I agree that asking about inspiration’s a really tough question to answer. I don’t know one singular place it pops up from – it’s there!

    I’ve got a sketch book, but I’ve recently started writing in a personal journal again, and it’s hugely comforting. Both stories of my life, in addition to things that inspire me. It really keeps the creative juices flowing, hehehe.

    Great journal entry! In itself inspiring! 😀

    • selinafenech says:

      I forgot to mention dream journals as well are really fun! Writing down dreams you remember in the morning. When you go back and read it months later you’ve completely forgotten the dreams so it makes a really interesting and inspiring read.

  2. Sue-on-the-farm says:

    Day-Dreaming. Thinking. Musing. Mulling.
    Wool-Gathering. Meditating.

    There are a lot of different words for ::Sitting And Doing Nothing::

    A lot of these terms have negative connotations. But it is actively doing these activities is when inspirations hits me.

    I discovered my own process decades ago when I was writing procedural manuals for a living. I realized that I have to have a period of time devoted to collecting stuff.

    Pictures, words, concepts – and [for me] I have to surround myself with a great clutter of stuff. I review all of the collection and then I must have a time to let it percolate. Just let it all sit there in my brain and stew.

    Then, usually while doing a Moving Meditation, another term for washing dishes, doing laundry, or watering my garden or the orchard, my brain slips into Right Brain Mode and the ideas flow.

    Another time when I feel super creative and ideas seem to pop out of the ether is when I’m really tired and ready for bed. I can’t explain that one but I’ve learned to keep pen/pencil and paper on my nightstand so I can jot a note or two. This allows me to sleep and not be afraid that I’ll forget the idea.

    Web surfing is another way to gain inspiration. I keep one folder on my computer just for images I like. When I get stuck, usually browsing through this folder will trigger something. When none of my favorite sites offer up anything inspiring, I’ll just do an online search for a colour word ie. “orange” or a concept “path” and that gets me going.

  3. Kyra says:

    It seems as though people are all the same, yet different. This is why “Where does your inspiration come from?” They are hoping to get an answer that will inspire others to follow their own passions and thought processes. At the same time, I can see this being a very daunting question as you are correct that we all have some of the same inspirations….maybe its also a bit of validation of sorts?

  4. Pixie says:

    I am single minded about fantasy, too. It’s what I’m passionate about. The stories and images and games produced by that genre create feelings of magic and beauty and inspiration for me. Nothing else touches me so deeply.

  5. Ellen says:

    “Where do you get your inspiration?” is like asking “How do you remember to keep breathing?” It just goes along doing its own thing. (Unless you think about it too hard, and then it’s all awkward and pressure-y and you end up gasping and look ridiculous.)

  6. Nicole says:

    It’s one of the most intangible things about being an artist, yet it seems to be one of the things that most fascinates people (after ‘how do you do that?’). I think it’s just our way of interpreting and filtering what is around us. Maybe it says something about the people who ask that question. Maybe they just don’t experience the world in the same way we do. It’s all about wanting to understand how someone else ticks, maybe sharing a bit of the magic from a different perspective.

  7. Lynda Bell says:

    I’ve been asked the same question as well – usually I answer “Life!” as it’s fairly all encompassing. I believe that most of the people who ask this question are actually blocked themselves so are searching for what they think other’s have instad of looking at life around and above them. it’s amazing what you will see, touch, taste, hear and feel as long as you live life with your heart and mind open.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *