- Bianca Vinther
The truth about art inspiration + how to find inspiration and stay inspired as a visual artist
Wanting to feel inspired and wondering what art inspiration really is?
Inspiration is a topic of common concern among artists. If you're one of them, you must have felt inspired many times before. But you’ve likely been feeling uninspired too, and you may have wondered what inspiration is, where and how you can find it, if inspiration is real and whether art needs inspiration at all. As we all know too well, feeling uninspired and empty can be discouraging and demotivating for a visual artist. Nonetheless, understanding what inspiration really is can help you feel inspired again.
This blog post provides you with essential knowledge about art inspiration, which includes:
Myths and truths about creativity and inspiration in art,
A definition of inspiration for visual artists,
An explanation of the difference between creativity and inspiration, and
The key to how to get and stay inspired as a visual artist.
I wish you happy and inspiring reading, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Creativity and inspiration beyond the myth
Creativity and inspiration in the visual arts are often subjects of mystification.
Mystification obscures the true meaning of things and explains away what is otherwise evident (Berger 1972, 15 f.). It disempowers. In contrast, demystification sheds light on the true nature of things and clarifies them. It’s amazingly empowering.
False beliefs about creativity and inspiration in the visual arts are often the reason for feeling uninspired. They're also a hidden cause of artist block. In this section, I’m going to demystify the concepts of creativity and inspiration so that you can reclaim your creative self-confidence and start feeling more inspired when you make art. Here’s a typical example of mystification:
Artistic creativity is a spontaneous, autonomous, irrational act, an irresistible urge, which comes about by enlightenment. It doesn’t necessarily require observation of the empirical reality, and it is not reliant on previous practice or training. Artistic creativity pours out of the soul.
Art inspiration is a stroke of a genius, a great idea coming as a sudden insight, a strange intuition occurring as through magical intervention, a bolt of lightning that strikes of its own will. Artists can only be creative when inspiration strikes.
That’s by far not all. Quite often in my life, I’ve seen “appropriated resources” being used as a means to unlock creative power. I’ve often stumbled upon the misconception that making art “on an empty stomach” may never lead to the heights of inspiration, nor may it help artists produce outstanding works of art.
Can you relate to these myths? Do they make sense to you? I hear you saying: “No. They’re rather discouraging and hopeless. They sound exclusive and alienating.” I couldn’t agree more. These are false beliefs that do nothing else but put you off. If you feel uninspired or even stuck with your art, then this kind of approach to creativity and inspiration kills your slightest chink of light.
Whatever the composition of this toxic cocktail, it's like a wall that blocks your sight. Myths about creativity and inspiration in art play a major role in artist blocks, generally in subtle, subliminal ways. Let’s dismantle this wall piece by piece and build your creative courage in its place.
The good news is that irrespective of the external factors and one’s physical and mental constitution, creativity and inspiration are inherent to every human being, including yourself. In other words, they’re always there.
You’re naturally creative, and there’s a deep source of inspiration inside you, which only needs to be tickled and activated.
The question is: how open and sensitive are you to the gentle voice of inspiration? And what do you do when you feel inspired? Do you act on your inspiration or do you ignore it?
What is art inspiration?
Inspiration, inspire, spirit, inspirare, spirare, spiritus … The word “inspiration”, which has a long tradition within art history, goes back to the Latin word “inspirare” (“to breathe” or “to blow into”), which itself derives from the word “spirare” (“to breathe”).
Inspiration is the energy you absorb from the things and people that seem important to you. Inspiration is what you breathe in when you connect with the things and people you love. That fires you up and puts you in the mood for creating art.
For example, I love most the seaside and the water. They're vital to me. When I’m on the seashore, I read beautiful poems about the sea, or I peruse my maritime image collection, I breathe in the seawater's vitality and beauty. As a consequence, I start feeling inspired. Inspiration begins to talk to me with a soft voice. If I take immediate action, my inspiration grows and my creativity follows suit.
Listen to the gentle voice of your inspiration, act on it as soon as possible, and you’ll feel more and more inspired. That will have a domino effect on your creativity, and your artistic process.
Inspiration and creativity
There's a close connection between inspiration and creativity. I like to picture them as a beating heart symbolising life itself unceasingly breathing in and out.
Inspiration is the subtle information and vital energy you take in from the things that seem important to you, from everything that resonates with you, from all the things you love. Creativity is the vehicle that takes that energy out of yourself and expresses it in manifold ways, which are, in fact, an expression of yourself.
You don’t have to search for inspiration and creativity. You just have to find them within you. You’re life itself inhaling subtle information and creative energy and exhaling personal expression and vitality into this world.
How to get inspired
Inspiration combines a vivid interest in something with close observation and steady artistic practice.
Everyone has his own interests and ideas. Each one of us takes a vivid interest in a thing, a concept, a person, a topic. If you stop searching outward and start looking inward, that is to say, if you move from everything outside of yourself into your inner zone, which is the actual real, then you'll get inspired.
Start with a thing that moves you
What do you feel like expressing through your art? What screams to be taken out? Take some time to find out what you love most, what resonates with you, what moves you, makes you laugh, remember, or dream, what deeply preoccupates your mind, in short, what's really important to you.
Then ask yourself, what is your message? What do you want to say and how? Explore, experiment, play ... Your relationship to the things that seem important to you will always shine in a way or another through your art. Don’t be afraid to take those feelings and ideas out!
Be one with the object of your contemplation
Irrespective of your message, notice that your perception is unique, and your version of the things that seem important to you is a mirror of yourself. There’s no separation between you and them. As soon as you’ll have taken that thing in, you’re one with it.
And once you reached there, you'll experience a sense of expansion. You'll understand what it means to be within you and in the “world outside you”, one with the object of your contemplation. You'll experience what it feels like when, from your creative centre, the inner and the outer become one.
Let me explain that by an example. I love the ocean — I wonder at its depth, vastness, and force. I love to paint water, waves, fishes, corals, seaweed, seashells. I need to express my genuine fascination with its infinite beauty and that sense of freedom and limitless opportunities for exploration and discovery, which the ocean gives me. That's my message.