Often when I perform a task, I find myself adding a twist. Even with the ridged parameters of an excel spreadsheet, I’ve found art in numbers with cost analysis and business plans. As a bored teenager, I would create abstract-impressionistic patterns when mowing the lawn, and it doesn’t and won’t stop there. In search of answers, I turn to my genetic line.
My Father was a very creative and innovative engineer who designed intricate conveyor systems that robotically handled the most delicate items to large bulky raw materials that required micro-modifications and delivered from point A to Z with precision and efficiency. My open-minded, care-free, adventurous Mother brings just that to her paintings. She’s a great experimental watercolorist that tests tradition and strives to learn and develop her own voice. Her drive to learn and evolve comes from her Father , a beautiful and simple, but extraordinary complex man with a great soul. In retrospect, I believe he never found his true calling, but he lead a very happy and satisfied life.
I fall squarely in the middle with a slight slant on my Father’s side. I view business challenges with a different perspective and hopefully bring that same innovative and fresh ideology to my sculpture. My career choices have been diverse and I’ve lead a very adventurous life. I think I’ve passed those heritable traits, along with a few others to my daughters.
So, for now, let’s go with what I’ve heard before….”you’re something else.”
As I prepare for my upcoming show, I’m getting away from metal for awhile, but sticking close to nature. As nature struggles to repair itself from our invasive actions, I’ve discovered gravity again as I wrangle an invasive plant (wild grape vines) on the property here in Newtown, CT to construct a series of spheres representing…
I have a habit of going to a dictionary to note how “they” classify or define everyday words. Words we use independently with our own self-defined thoughts surrounding that word. (By the way, I met “they” once…wasn’t very impressed). So, I recently looked up “artist.” This is what I came up with:
~”A person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination”
~”A person skilled in some task or occupation”
Conclusion – We are all artists. Some of us just stop calling ourselves artists after the third grade.
I’ve received some very positive feedback regarding the “inspiration” question. Continuing on this theme, I’ve devised three questions below that I hope yield the same feedback.
When did you first discover your creative talents?
For an artist, selling their first piece of work is a memorable moment. Tell us about your first piece or a special piece that was sold.
Who are your favorite artists?
Similar to the last query, I’ll post answers with an image of the artist’s work. Below is the last round of “inspiration” essays…for now…
“Much of my self-portrait work is driven by themes of isolation, alienation, death and the deconstruction of the personality. Because of this, it is first a sense of neccessity to externalize and visually represent these emotions that is the inspiration. There are certain archetypes that reflect these states, and I tend to gravitate toward them. For example, my Resurrecting Ophelia series was created because I wanted to visually explore ideas of isolation, grief and the symbology of water.”
There is a quote by my beloved Artaud which I often refer to when considering the idea of inspiration: “No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modeled, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell.” –Antonin Artaud”
“One of the best aspect about making art today is the loss of a master narrative. There is a freedom to create and sustain any discourse you wish, in any method or form you desire. I choose to make works that combine a certain level of conceptual rigor, a light hearted humor, andthe beauty of a well crafted object. Formally, I am interested in the
visual spacial dynamics of the two dimensional surface and the ability for more than one representational system to communally cohabit a picture plane. The paintings oscillate between concepts in abstract mapping, and photographic representation. Abstraction or photographic representation are not placed in opposition to each other, but are a matter of distance, related through actual, perceptual, and procedural distances. The paintings, as historical document, attempt to archive common cultural effect. Popular culture disseminates information that leads us to believe places in our world like Metropolis and Gotham are the homes of super heroes. Many locations enjoy a simultaneous existence in both fiction and reality. Beliefs generated by invented identities influence our perception of the real. Imagined identity can also be imposed on place through reoccurring phenomena like the Super Bowl, World Fairs, or a papal visit. These events, though short lived and migrant, create an atmosphere of close connection and in this, the chosen locations will share in the legacy and identity that is lent through hosting these various spectacles. History is shaped through these matters of influence.
The location of history is another area of interest, since popular culture has always distilled beliefs, desires, and life lessons. For example, we know history is told through images and objects a civilization produces. My objects reflect the time they were made by embracing both the synthetic materials and digital data banks that have had a recent emergence. These materials are then, from our time and metaphorical of our shared experience, embracing the validity of the art object as historical document or anthropological artifact.”
Artist: Ron Laboray Title: South Park Medium: Auto enamels and surfboard resin on aluminum, 4’x5′ Website: http://ronlaboray.com
“I have always been very visually oriented in the world. I remember as a small child my teacher informed my parents that I was spending “too much time staring out the classroom windows and too little time focusing on the lesson plan”. Who knew it would later dictate one of the chief passions of my life and would ultimately be a career choice. For me everything from other artists work, watching a terrific play, hearing a moving piece of music, reading an arresting article, or anything I find arousing can serve as inspiration for a piece. I often translate an idea through my own life experiences growing up.
As you can see in many of my paintings, I draw a lot of inspiration from children and childhood. I have to thank my parents for giving me such a wonderful life as a young person, and so it is often when I am deciding what to paint next that I will reflect on a happy moment from this time. To me, childhood means a time of freedom, truth, and being directly in touch with the immediacy of life and the moment. But most of the time I harness the flakes of the world I am surrounded by or even some occasions paint the serene place I wish I could be and pass it through my unique lens.”
“What inspires me and my work is life and the daily mesmerizing beauty which is revealed in front of my very eyes, often through apparently insignificant details. I find inspiration in feelings caused by circumstances I have never been. I feel inspired by emotions, imperfection, smells, colors, material, texture of aged surfaces and the talents of other people. The moment something is created is a thrill and I think the motivation behind everything I do.”
Artist: Sabin Aell Title: Departure to Wonderland Medium: Installation-Acrylic on discarded billboard, 50 year old telephone wire, black tape hanging rail system. Website: http://www.sabinaell.com
“Trying to create a painting that is better than the last one. Constant refinement of an idea or feeling, untill I’m somewhat satisfied. And the act of pure expressionism from an emotion that must come out and see the light of day.”
“Rightsizing Narrative is a project that grew out of my investigation of memory, and the amazement of discovering what was an actual memory, and what was a memory of viewing snapshots or home movies of an earlier time. I began this project by returning to childhood places to take photographs utilizing the methodology of seventies black and white street photography to create a sense of the veracity of the real moment. Always the intent is on posing the question of what is authentic, pointing out the confusion between this “real moment” and real life.”
Artist: Meg Madison Title: Sister Imelda (named for story by Edna Obrien) Medium: Silver Gelatin Lightjet, 20″ x 45″ Website: http://www.megmadison.com/
“My interest in found and organic materials and the concept of creating work that changes naturally or through intervention presents interesting questions regarding longevity and quality as well as the viewer’s response. Much of my work investigates the concept of The Uncanny, in the paradoxical ‘push and pull’ reaction, what it is in human nature that draws us in but at the same time repels us and how this response can be manipulated through re-contextualisation.
My inspiration is primarily drawn from my environment, in the textures, surfaces and structures of organic forms, architecture, science and technology. Experimentation with objects and materials, the juxtaposition and interplay of technological, architectural and organic forms, materials and contexts is at the heart of my practice.
The coalescence of art and science through materials and processes as well as thematically connects all of my work. Themes of transition, manipulation and ‘imperfection’ are explored through the analysis and re-appropriation of found objects and matter with a view to creating work that harnesses both control and spontaneity and that have the potential to or the feeling of being able to transform and evolve over time.“
“What inspires my work most? Other artists. I never feel more inspired than when I just get home from hearing an artist lecture, visiting an exhibit, seeing a documentary on the arts, etc. I am a member of several creative meet-up groups, including Boston Handmade, and the energy and enthusiasm I feel after meeting with these people, bouncing ideas off each other and exchanging information, is always rejuvenating. I don’t think I have ever walked away without a slew of new concepts and ideas to try. I am not sure where I would be as an artist without the support of my artistic peers and the inspiration from artists I admire.”
Artist: Lucie Wicker Title: White Tree Medium: Digital Photograph, 11×14″ Website: http://www.luciewickerphotography.com
“My work is inspired by the complexity of the human experience and my life experiences; the juxtapositions of beauty and the abject, the despair of loss and the hope of other, the inexplicability of why. My location within these questions are inspired by landscape, sense of place, and mythology.”
I recently had the pleasure of meeting gardening goddess, author and speaker extraordinaire Sydney Eddison – a golden-souled raconteur that has the presence of the Dalai Lama and the drive of her Jack Russell terrier Chloe.
As visitors and garden helpers milled about, I enjoyed a quiet moment at her kitchen table as she proudly displayed 30+year-old images against the current backdrop. The conversation quickly turned topics from the garden’s evolution, to her late husband Martin and careers. Discussing my current three-legged career state, Sydney confided in me that she confessed some concerns of her own regarding the late timing of her book writing career to her partner. His reply to her was “now is when you have something to write,” implying that she has more to say now than she did before. Somehow I think Sydney would have made as a significant contribution back then as she does today…she’s a terrier (Sydney’s new book).
I walked away that day with a reinforced value of my diverse career path and the validation of another friend, who was a business partner of mine and a terrific writer, with an equally diverse background. His name is Paul Tukey, and he is the founder of Safelawns.org, my current Cause Partner.
From journalist, to landscaper, as a publisher, an author, TV show host, and documentary producer, Paul Tukey has landed on America’s lawns with Safelawns.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting organic lawn care and ground maintenance programs as an alternative to dangerous chemical treatments that are still frequently used.
A percentage of proceeds from my upcoming solo sculpture show, October 17, Embyonic Armour will be contributed the safelawns.org. Read more…
It’s an interesting question as it relates to artistic style, choice, influence, direction and….inspiration. It’s not my goal to debate this topic, nor do I have any scientific data to support any conclusions, but to what extent is there a heritable component to individual artistic differences?
What direction would Picasso’s daughter Paloma, now a designer for Tiffany & Co., have taken if she was separated at birth? Did her father’s fame discourage her from becoming one of the next best painters in the world? Would we have experienced another Cubist-like movement?
Or is artistic style a straight act of transforming individual emotions and experiences?
Here are some more “inspiration” essays. I will publish one more round next week.
“My art is inspired by many ideas—historical, philosophical, scientific—and every piece demands its own media and execution. Books, however, have always occupied a special place in my heart, both as aesthetic objects and conduits for ideas. Thus, it was a great honor to be invited to participate in the 2008 exhibit “Banned and Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship.”
My sculptural piece “Harry Potter & The Fires of Ignorance” was inspired by the fourth Harry Potter book—Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire. Given the book’s 2001 release date, most likely copies of the Goblet of Fire were those burned in March 2001 in the first such protest incident; a small evangelical group in Pittsburgh had taken offense at the book’s portrayal of witchcraft (interestingly, they admitted to not having read the book). This turned out to be the first of many such incidents around the United States.
My piece plays with the various meanings of “recover”—i.e. to cover again, to regain possession, even to remove or extract (as, say, from a fire).
A de-acquisitioned library copy of The Goblet of Fire became the genesis of the sculpture. I created a new dust jacket for this book from matches and deconstructed matchboxes. Harry Potter—part of the illustration from the original dustjacket—peers out from his bunker, under siege, as it were. The new spine (printed on wood) cites the various burning and mutilation incidents around the country. The cross formed by strike pad material and spine symbolizes the paradoxical nature of religion in which creation/destruction co-exist. Inside the book, I added special pages to carry various quotes and excerpts about censorship that were important to me. The “recovered” book rises from the ashes of burned books, also copies of The Goblet of Fire.
I wanted the work to embody the incendiary nature of the censorship battle, the fragility of the cultural legacy that books represent, and the ultimately hopeful triumph of books under all threats of censorship.”
“My images always reflect the different stages, that I’ve gone through in my life. I’ve gone from a dark period to a colorful period, which is where I am right now. My pictures are always a reflection of who I am; an expression of my inner world. Even though I shoot mostly fashion images, I consider my pictures to be more about capturing emotions & movement. I am more concerned about capturing people, faces, expressions and sensations, rather than showing clothes. I am inspired by interesting faces, locations, music, the light at sunset, artists like Francis Bacon, Caravaggio, Rothko. I usually investigate, design and plan my personal work for weeks with an specific concept. I’m very detailed in terms of selecting lighting, locations and models. Until all of these elements fall into place, I go out and shoot.”
“I am motivated to create art with bold composition, inventive use of color, and often dramatic light.
I am passionate about color and texture and try to bring these attributes to life in my work. I seem to lean towards simplicity and regular scenes. I am fond of the south west and the western shore.”
Artist: Robert Nall Title: Storm Station Medium: Oil on canvas, 18×24 Website: http://bobnall.com
“Many aspects of life inspire my work, but my latest body of work has been focused on communication. Current society is engrossed with the instant message; communicating through email, cell phone, and texting. Because many of our daily relationships are built on these instant communications, little room is left for the deeper understanding that comes from communications that are developed through the passage of time. My hope is that the time intensive build-up and accumulation of the materials in my work would point to building longevity in relationships through communication.“
“First and foremost, I am inspired by the process of art making which in my case is painting. I am continuously infatuated with the act of painting. How it feels, smells and looks during the painting process; even the steps leading up to the start of a painting are inspirational. However, it can be difficult to convey process to a viewer and sometimes nebulous inspirations need concrete ideas to make them more accessible to viewers. Second to process, my inspirations come from daily observations of the world around me. I am inspired by complex arrangements of objects or environments wherever I find them. A source could be anything from the utility poles to wildlife – urban, suburban or exurban landscapes. I am currently interested in things that divide and unify simultaneously. The division and unification dynamic creates a fragmented but connected symbiotic state. For me, this condition is a reflection of the modern world that is overwhelmed with high speed bytes and clips of information. I create encaustic multi-panel pieces that reflect the highly structured bytes and clips sentiment, while the gestural oil paintings reflect the speed and movement with hints of disorder.”
“My work, or rather the act of creating the work has varying starting points of inspiration. But common among each approach is a desire to understand my (or our) intangible and unseen potentials. I often write short fiction, attempting to reconstruct memories and place them into the realm of metaphor. The visual works follow the writing in a non-linear fashion, but I think they are attempts to further construct this alternate reality so that I might understand another facet of my being.
All too frequently, I’ll find that I’ve delved too deeply into the abstract and so I return to the “surface” where I document and collect the objects and spaces of my immediate environment. I might investigate an artifact of the “real” with a scientific approach, picking it apart until it becomes an abstract world of molecular structures. Alternately, I might completely re-contextualize the object, using it simply as construction material for something else.
Inspiration is an elusive construct, and often I don’t recognize it until the process of making finds its stopping point and the residue of the inspiration is staring me in the face. Inevitably, the work fails to fulfill the original desire, and this failure is what leads to the next piece, the continuous cycle of trying to “get it.””
“My inspiration comes from the energy in a experience or a thought. It can be anything from the smells of Thai food, the feel of silk or the weight of heavy, warm evening air. I like to tap into the experience of all the senses. Sometimes I try and translate sound into painting. I see art as an energy transfer, from my mind to the two or three dimensional surface. The artwork then invites the viewer to receive the energy if they choose to.
About this piece: Some 12,000 feet bellow sea level, albino life thrives in otherworldly darkness, feeding off small creatures tucked into volcanic fissures. The powerful sense of hunger, an unquenched drive for survival, is expressed in the painting’s subtle shades of white mixed with gray, olive and ocher.”
“I don’t think I can draw a distinction between where my life ends and my art begins. They are one. What inspires my life also inspires my work. My greatest inspiration is dance/movement. I have danced my entire life and consequently everything I experience is through my body. I am very physical and consequently my work is very physical. Often for the viewer when seeing the work live, there is a visceral experience as a result.
Thoughts, ideas, concepts that are currently (or constantly) finding their way into my work: materials- mundane materials, dynamic relationships, the knowledge that experience is based on perception, presence to the moment, not knowing, having and holding two dichotomous ideas together in the same space, vulnerability and metaphors of human-ness.”
Artist: Connie Noyes Title: In the beginning everything fit together perfectly Medium: Recycled packing paper, oil, enamel, asphalt, resin on panel, 50 x 50 inches Website:http://www.connienoyes.com
“My greatest inspiration comes from city life and nature. In the city there is so much going on, from graffiti walls to cool architecture, that it makes for a good painting. People watching is also fascinating and can lead to abstract figures and cubism art. I love color so I like to make a grand composition with different hues to enhance my artwork. Just recently I was inspired by the sun and the moon. The moonlight casting down in the alley of a very urban street with nothing but a garbage can and an old car. Perfect for creating something unique. An abstract cityscape with a raw feel and maybe a cubist human form in the foreground with Batman jumping into the scene. How cool.
In nature, every creature is fascinating and the colors and patterns from animal fur can be used from realistic portraiture to surreal works of art. There is so much we can take from nature to use in our artwork that every artist could be inspired to create for a lifetime.
I carry a sketchbook in my bag wherever I go so I can draw new ideas that pop in my head from whatever inspires me in my environment. Daily life is very interesting and fun if we just take the time to look.”
Artist: LauraBarbosa Title: UnCanny Valley Medium: Acrylics and Ink on Canvas, 24″ H x 36″ W x 0.5″ D Website: http://laurabarbosaart.com
ERICKH Sculpture, Levens, France
“My inspiration is drawn from the stone, from my sensibilities and from revealing my hidden emotions.” Artist: ERICKH Title: Divine Medium: Marbre Statuaire de Carrara, 23.6 kg 61x32x16 cm Website:http://www.erickh.com
“Inspiration is an organically evolving thread which builds on the past, is influenced by the present and is filled by the wonder of the unknown future. Artistic inspiration is that elusive element that is different for each person at different points throughout their life.
As an artist, I am inspired in particular by the quirky juxtaposition of a thought, a material, an artistic process and/or a moment that flips my internal sensor toward the next steps.”
Artist: Suzanne Morlock Installation: I spun old newspapers into a “yarn” and then knitted the yarn with 1.5″ PVC pipe “needles” — the result of a “moment”. The gallery was an old chapel in France. Website: http://suzannemorlock.com/
“I suppose life inspires me. Daily something will touch me in a way that naturally goes into my paintings. It’s more of a spiritual, subconscious feeling with always the hope that I’ll learn something on the way. With non representational work I can tell a story or evoke an emotion without it being obvious. If you can’t name it then what is left is the imagination and life experiences that allow a personal interpretation. What I love the most is when someone finds something I didn’t see in my work. Then I know I’ve done my job.”
“On question what inspires me….. I am not able to give a firm answer. My paintings, my whole work comes from inner experiences which last since I was a child. That is my way to create my private world, which in a moment becomes my therapy … as, I have to admit, working makes me relaxed. Doing it, I feel good and safe. But I am mostly interested in a HUMAN BEING and I psychoanalize them.”
Every time I travel, I’m reminded of how vast this world is. When I take a wrong turn (which is often) and find myself far from where I’m destined to be, I see a part of someone else’s small world, just as unique as mine. I like getting lost.
It’s a very intimate question “What inspires your work?” You’ll read some intimate answers from a diverse group of visual artists. Here are a few of many intimate worlds.
Kathryn Arnold, San Francisco, CA: “It, my inspiration for creating, began at a young age. Sitting on the front porch of my childhood home in freezing cold, I noticed the deepness and richness of the color of the winter sky and felt alive. I practiced ‘mental photography’ as a way to keep the image fresh in my mind so as not to forget. This grew into wishing to capture and remember an entire moment, the people, the colors, the vivid sensations of the world around me. This still inspires me. In my work, I capture shifting perceptions as they change and interact moment by moment mixing with my imagination. Within this, ideas and/or images intermingle.”
Aliey Ball, artist and founder of a fresh water initiative in Melbourne, Australia: “My work explores the human/nature relationship. I’m a firm believer that humans are “natural”, including our technologies and built environments – though it seems we have forgotten this. I am passionate about freshwater systems, geology, palaeontology, deep ecology and living systems. Notions of “place” and the phenomenology of space are of great interest to me.
My latest work “Cabal” is a meditation on symbiotic alliances, tran-species affiliations and co-evolution. Composed of four elements, each with orifice and phallus, facilitating interconnectedness toward an emergent structure – a Cabal.”
“The garden outside my studio walls inspires mypaintings. From it I pluck a reference palette—petals, leaves, pods, grasses. In the studio, I follow forms and colors until the painting or something—music, memory, currents of feelings and thoughts—suggests the next move. I make marks with brush and hands, sticks and garden tools, investigating nature’s vocabulary, while seeking resonance with an inner landscape.”
“What inspires my work… is my life and everything that surrounds me. I know sounds like a cliche but thats what it is. For me, art is a means of communications. It is how I express my thoughts, hopes, regrets and joys. Paintings are for me another way of expressing my feelings. Although I often gain great pleasure from the process of painting, it is most important to unfold expressively those feelings within myself. My work uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which exists independently of visual references to the world. In my work I always emphasize on the color as a significant and unifying element. The color helps me create a world that’s at once eerie and alluring, a world that exists only in ones imagination. My art doesn’t speak to the intellect but to the soul and to the feelings.”
It started when I was about 4. I saw my Father using a screwdriver. Moments later, I had the back off an old antique radio, surgically removing wires, bulbs, and capacitors to see how it worked. Unfortunately, it didn’t after that….sorry Dad. If you ever wondered where the phrase “If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it!” came from…well, it came from my Dad. Let’s just say, I’ve created a lot of spare parts over the last 30+ years. Anyway, my fascination continues…but with people. I’m intrigued by individuals who possess extreme talent. Whether a writer, athlete, engineer, a Mother or…an artist, I admire the discovery of that talent and the application.
Although art is open for self-interpretation, I’m always interested in what the artist’s message is, their motivation, their “intention” as one artist put it and their inspiration. So, I asked. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting feedback from a wide range of artists from all over the world on “What inspires your work?” More to come…