Hello, City of Blackbird readers, and many thanks to my dear friend Éadaoin, an artist and creative soul I greatly admire, for inviting me to be a part of this fun but also important series. I’m Georgianna, a photographer and writer, and I blog at Georgianna Lane.
Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating subject of inspiration. It is discussed and referenced a multitude of times each day on blogs and websites. But what exactly is inspiration?
When approaching a topic, I like to have a full grasp of it and the best way to do that is by first understanding what the word itself means:
- To affect, guide or arouse by diving influence
- To fill with enlivening emotion
- To stimulate to action, motivate
- To draw forth, elicit or arouse
- To be the cause or source of, bring about
- To draw in air by inhaling
- To stimulate ideas
a. To breathe on.
b. To breath life into.
It comes from the Middle English enspiren, from Old French enspirer, from Latin –in, into, and spirare, to breath
Doesn’t that concept – “to breathe into” – give an expanded facet of meaning to the word “inspire”?
It goes far beyond merely looking at something pretty that you’d like to copy. It is the stimulation, the uplifting, the idea-generating qualities of an inspiration source that we should be most interested in.
What is it about a given work that fills one with inspiration? The casual observer or art-appreciator does not need to investigate this too much. But a creative person should be very aware of the aspects of the piece that appeal to them, makes them wonder how it was done, sparks an emotion and engenders in them a desire to create something themselves. Is it the color, composition, lighting, mood? What elements speak to your own aesthetic sensibilities?
INSPIRATION IS JUST THE BEGINNING
Often, a huge chasm exists between what we envision we want to create and our abilities to do so. I imagine that some artists or aspiring artists believe that inspiration will strike them suddenly and envelop them in a golden light that fills them with a Great Idea. But that idea still needs work to come to fruition.
One of my favorite quotes is by Thomas Edison:
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
So true, so true. Ideas are easy, bringing them into reality requires skill and persistence.
And this requires study. And practice, practice, practice. And experimentation. And the willingness to do something a hundred times if needed to get it right. Until the result matches your inspired vision.
SOURCES OF INSPIRATION – WHAT INFLUENCES YOU?
With the miracle of the web, we can find endless beauty and creativity, enjoy gorgeous eye candy and see places we’ll never get the chance to visit. But don’t fall into the trap of relying on the same sources of inspiration as everyone else. Develop your own avenues based on your own life and influences so your work is distinct.
My influences run a gamut from classical literature, theatre, art, mythology, poetry, the places I have lived and the countries I have visited, to my garden and family heirlooms and history. What are yours? What gives you a shiver of excitement and fills you with joy and wonder?
However tempting, don’t copy a successful artist’s work. I do see this copycat activity in online shops and it saddens me. Copying to practice a technique is an accepted learning exercise but just don’t pass the copies off as original work or ideas. In all the universe no one else has lived the life you have lived or views the world as you do, so have the courage to embrace that and share it.
A FEW TRICKS
I have to admit that I am rarely stuck for inspiration. I have hard copy binders and digital files full of projects that I want to create and my only frustration is knowing I will probably not ever complete all of them!
But if I do find myself casting about, I might do the following:
1. Ask myself what emotion I want to communicate. In other words, what mood or atmosphere do I want to portray and how do I want the viewer/reader to react? This is probably the paramount consideration when I create something – what do I want the viewer to feel? Tranquility? Joy? Wonder? Nostalgia? An appreciation of nature?
2. Find an object that intrigues me. This is an old creative writing trick and a very useful one. A whole universe can be explored in a simple item. Pick it up, examine it. What is it about this object that is appealing? What is its story? How can I communicate that?
For example, I have a small collection of ornate crowns. Without having a particular scene in mind, my husband’s niece, Winnie, and I took one of them out and were playing around in the garden one summer day with some other props. Out of this emerged a series of images that I’m actually quite fond of and that, I think, tell an intriguing story. In fact, I could, and may, explore it further and write it down. All from somewhat randomly grabbing an object from my living room
3. Review my idea files and notes. Of course, this requires one to have files and notes! As mentioned, I have many binders of such and creating them on an ongoing basis is a most valuable activity. Scraps of paper, magazine and newspaper clippings, photos. These are not pretty “inspiration boards” but I do use sturdy binders and clear sleeves to organize them. And, as often as I can remember to, I carry a small digital voice recorder with me to capture those snippets of ideas, words and images which come and go so quickly. Digital files are useful, and places such as tumblr, but again, don’t use the same ones you see all over the web!
4. Know your tools. Really know them, understand them. Read the manuals, practice. Some special feature of a camera or software program itself can inspire an idea for a new piece. Never stop learning, and asking yourself “what do I need to know to effectively communicate my ideas?”.
Well, I think this topic of inspiration could be delved into deeply and often, don’t you? I appreciate your time and hope this has been of some interest and use in your own creative journey. I would love to see what you are creating!