Post from June, 2019

Consider Developing an Inspirational Environment

Sunday, 23. June 2019 21:43

Several years ago, I was thinking about modifying one’s environment in order to live an artistic life. Some recent events have me thinking about that again. Some people in the arts have a need to surround themselves completely with an environment that feeds their artistic sensibilities. This causes them to move to places where they consider the arts energy to be very high: New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Paris, London. They feel that in addition to there being a higher likelihood of employment, there is in these places an artistic energy upon which they can feed.

This is the same impulse that encourages some artists to seek the isolation of a retreat, often establishing residence (at least part-time) in less populated areas because they draw their inspiration from an isolated environment with or without other like-minded artists and far fewer “big-city” distractions. This is the urge, for example, that led James Jones to end up in in the small, somewhat isolated town of Marshall, IL.

Some who work in the arts feel they cannot move, either to one of the arts centers of the world or into the wilderness, for any number of reasons. They may love where they live or dislike it intensely but still feel bound to the place. Those people can work to make their residences or work spaces into an environment that supports their art. A man I know loves where he lives, but when Hurricane Harvey put the ground floor of his house underwater, he did not build the house back as it was. Instead, he spent the insurance money and then some on redesigning the entire house to reflect his artistic interests, even down to changing all the of the (undamaged) wall art to pieces that he found more inspirational.

Another person I know really dislikes the town that she lives in, but feels she needs to stay there. So she has made her home into an artistic sanctuary full of artifacts from which she gets inspiration on a daily basis. She even has certain spots in the house designated for wall art which she changes at irregular intervals in order to keep things fresh. She is currently spending money on the landscaping of her back yard, which she has come to consider an extension of her sanctuary, into a garden that encourages meditation and reflection.

Artists who are place-bound but do not have the funds or inclination to turn their homes into complete artistic environments, might work on a smaller scale. Many artists have an office or studio in which they work. This space can be turned into an artistic environment so that when they are working they can absorb inspiration from the space. It is likely that this will make the work space radically different from the rest of the house or apartment, but that’s really the idea—to modify the environment so that it supports the artist’s work.

Some artists, particularly those living in small rental spaces do not have an entire room in which they work. Rather, they have a small area, a nook, perhaps, which is where they create. Even in tiny spaces, adjustments can be made to provide an inspirational environment, even if it is simply the use of a wall or a board upon which to tape, tack, pin inspirational images and quotes, such as Wendy MacNaughton’s studio wall of inspiration.

We all may not be able to lead a completely artistic lives; some of us may not even want to. We can, however, create environments, no matter how small, that provide creative inspiration.  While we may not immediately embrace such an idea, it is certainly worthy of consideration.

Category:Creativity | Comment (0) | Author:

You Have to Be Ready for Inspiration

Sunday, 9. June 2019 23:57

Several weeks ago, I was talking with a friend about it being time to write the next blog post. He asked, “Where do you get your inspiration?” I don’t recall my answer, but it was lame, I’m sure. The real answer is that it comes from all sorts of places. Sometimes it’s something I see, or something I hear or something I read. Or it could be any one of those that sets off a chain reaction of thoughts that ends in what might be called inspiration.

Then as I was thinking about inspiration, this week serendipitously brought Austin Kleon’s blog post “It’s not inside you trying to get out, it’s outside you trying to get in,” which posits that inspiration comes from outside. We do not have books, or songs or photographs or paintings or poems inside us. Rather they exist in the universe and come to us for expression. He quotes artists as divers as Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Michael Jackson, and Henry David Thoreau to make his point. Not only do inspirations come from outside, but if we are not receptive, they go elsewhere to find acceptance.

There are at least two implications contained in this idea. The first is that we creatives are not really creators. We don’t originate the ideas, the inspirations. Rather, we in some way prepare ourselves so that we are ready to receive the idea when it comes. Then we snatch it out of the air or ether or wherever it is and write it or paint it or sculpt it or do whatever we do. Cave as much as says this in his advice to a “blocked” songwriter.

The second implication is contained in the first. It is that we as artists must make ourselves ready to seize inspiration when it does arrive. As I have written before, inspiration is not something that we can always count on. Sometimes it comes; sometimes it doesn’t. What is important is that we are ready, which means that we show up, we exercise discipline, we do the work—every day. And that showing up and doing the work readies us for inspiration. As Kleon puts it in one of his blackout poems:

the Muse

is ready to

surprise me

if

i

show   up every day

and

say,

“Wanna hang out?”

Art is, at least in part, about making connections and seeing patterns. The inspiration triggers a set of ideas which ends in our making those connections and seeing those patterns. And if we don’t figure out a way to ready ourselves, then the inspirations fly by unnoticed. Connections don’t get made; patterns don’t get recognized.  We call that “being blocked.” Then we often bear down, which closes us off even more from the universe, and then we really are creatively blocked.

It’s not really magical, although it may look and sound that way. It may not even be mystical, although some would argue with that. It is simply doing the work that is required to be creative and doing it regularly, putting ourselves in a mental and physical place to be receptive to our own flow of ideas and not thinking so hard in a single direction that we close out other possibilities. Only when we are open can a new idea develop. Then all we have to do is recognize it and do something with it.

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