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Inspiration is Irrelevant

Piet Mondrian - Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Grey and Blue - 1921

Piet Mondrian - Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Grey and Blue - 1921

A very charming student from a local college visited me in my studio a few weeks ago, as they had to choose a living artist whose work they liked on whom to write a paper. She had literally twenty questions to ask me. One of the questions, the last one, stopped me in my tracks because of the response it engendered from me.

The most ordinary little question took me stumbling down a new path of understanding about myself, my art, and how it felt to be an artist.

She asked me, “Where do you get your inspiration?”.

I answered immediately with the first words that materialized, and as I said them I knew they were, for me, completely true: “Inspiration is irrelevant”.

She looked somewhat surprised, so I went on to explain my assertion to her. Each painting I create is a distillation of my experiences of perceiving and existing, they are my answer and reaction to simply being. My creative process requires me to cull and sculpt my possible artworks down to the chosen few that I can achieve in a day/week/month/year/lifetime. Being an artist fulfills every aspect of who I am and I am an artist every second.

Matisse, Joy of Life, 1905-6

Matisse, Joy of Life, 1905-6

There is a section in the book Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark where the author describes Nature as writing questions and answers continually in the skies, and stones, and trees and grasses for those who can decode the language.
My ‘inspirational’ or creative process feels like a dialogue between the collection of experiences that comprise myself as well as my immutable core, and the lines, form, colors and light in the natural world.

She speaks, and I answer. I question, she replies.

I have no idea what she has told me or what I have replied on any conscious level, but each painting is a record of our conversation.

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>> Artist Deborah T. Colter has written her response to this post. Please visit her site to read it!<<

>>Artist Roslyn Dames has written about inspiration in response to my post. <<

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Joan Linenbroker February 16, 2010, 12:36 am

    Wonderful. Love your description of the process many of us go through.

  • Roslyn Dames February 20, 2010, 3:00 am

    Excellent point. But what about those with “artist’s block?” Does this come from a need for inspiration or something else?

  • Alison February 20, 2010, 4:19 am

    As artists, I suspect that we need experiences to react to, things that make our hearts turn over, and those connections in our minds rush faster. In this way, we can called perhaps more accurately replace ‘inspiration’ with ‘reaction’. Block may reside in a lack of reaction – possibly from a lack of things to react to.

    As artist, I think we can have a strong revulsion ~or attraction to ~ a contradiction, or source of tension; equally, we can experience a strong pull towards something we perceive as beautiful.

    Either can provoke ‘inspiration’, or as I prefer to call it ‘reaction’.

  • Roslyn Dames February 21, 2010, 12:40 am

    Incredibly well said, and completely consistent with your view of art as a continuous, organic, natural re-creation of the life we observe, receive, interact with and…react to. Thank you for your response.

  • Roslyn Dames March 4, 2010, 1:32 am

    Thank you for posting a link to what I wrote & podcasted about inspiration…not sure why it isn’t working at the moment. Anyway, the correct link is here: http://roslyndames.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/audioboo-2-what-inspires-you/

  • Alison March 5, 2010, 1:41 am

    Thanks for correcting it. I had no idea it wasn’t working 🙂

  • Stephanie Clayton April 19, 2010, 2:23 pm

    Well said. I agree with you. As creative human beings living in the world, we have the life experiences already, and therefore whatever inspiration we think we may need, is already there in the form of desire to “make things”. I hope that makes sense!
    Just wanted to add- I really enjoy our twitter conversations. Perhaps others will join in the exchanges.

  • roxanne checketts October 18, 2011, 11:16 am

    i love it 🙂

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