Post from 1543, November 2015

A Matter of Inspiration

Sunday, 15. November 2015 23:57

Inspiration, artistic or otherwise, is a gift from the universe. Dictionary.com says that to inspire is “to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence.” I have written a couple of times about the necessity of discipline and the futility of waiting for inspiration (here and here). I have also written about dealing with serendipity or inspiration when the universe presents it (here and here).

But then recently I ran across an article in the October issue of Rangefinder Magazine by Amanda Jane Jones. In the article Jones says that she has been inspired by Carissa Gallo’s “ongoing study in color.” Although Jones briefly discusses what it is about Gallo’s work that is inspiring, she does not say how Gallo’s work inspires her or in what way this inspiration manifests itself.

As implied earlier, I am a believer in not waiting for inspiration, but rather in doing the work in a disciplined fashion that invites both serendipity and inspiration. But Jones’ short article caused me to consider the nature of inspiration and consider how it works and how to handle it when it pops up. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Sometimes a visual, verbal, and/or aural experience will set off the idea for a similar project, probably in a different medium or from a different viewpoint from the inspiring piece. This, of course, is considered stealing by some. (That has been discussed here and here.) The similarities in this case can range from subject matter to treatment.
  2. Another possibility is to develop a project that essentially contradicts the original inspiring piece. This certainly is not stealing and may or may not make reference to the original. Certainly if the piece is solid, it can stand on its own without obvious reference to its counter-example.
  3. Of course, the artist can always go meta and make a piece about the original piece. Such a piece can either acknowledge the original or not.
  4. One of the better choices, at least in my opinion, is to use the inspiring piece as a jumping off place, creating a completely new project that bears little resemblance to the original. It just happens that the artist would not have thought of it had he/she not experienced the original. This choice can encompass everything from thinking that the subject of the original needs further development to developing an extension of the techniques used in the original.
  5. Yet another situation might be that the original piece simply triggers an original idea. This is usually a result of a quirk in thinking—an association of thoughts unique to the artist. Again the circumstances are that the artist would not have made the mental connections had he/she not experienced the original.

This list is certainly not exhaustive; there are many more possibilities, but these represent what I consider to be the primary ones. Along the way from inspiration to finished artifact, there can be many twists and turns resulting in work that is far removed from that which inspired it.

What inspires us is simply that which resonates with us in a way that connections can be made with our own process of creativity. And while we cannot wait on inspiration to create, we can, through discipline or ritual or habit, attempt to maximize our openness so that when the universe presents us with a gift, we are able to take full advantage of it.

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