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All That Inspires Is All That is Required

Return of the Sun, 1985

By Odd Nerdum

Oil on Canvas

If only things could change that quickly. Just because the hands of the clock join together at midnight on December 31, nothing is really different other than the date. Tracking the news, and it all seems worse than a month ago. I’ll stop short because there will be ample time to dissect current events in future postcards. This blog was never supposed to be about politics, civil unrest and a global pandemic. It was to be a simple forum on painting, art, and running a paint and sip business. So, let’s start the year off on a positive note. Here’s to hoping for summer plans and long overdue home improvement projects. Here’s to better times that motivate us to be our best selves, and creating quality moments the old fashion way, being physically close to those most cherished in our lives while forging those memories. Here’s to small businesses being taken off life support and bloom back to health, particularly, those like Roc Paint Sip that facilitate in the memory making business. Finally, here’s to all the little things that we may have missed along the way, that make up the indelible narrative of our lives. All that inspires is all that is required.

Inspiration (Bright Ideas From The Hole in my Heart), 2007

By Luke Chueh

Acrylic on canvas

Painter's Inspiration, 1897

By Jacek Malczewski

Oil on canvas

Creative motivation is a switch in all of our metaphysical dashboard. To most people it’s rarely flipped, like that weird little thing on the far-left side of your car’s dashboard that’s either to adjust the mirror or

Is a child safety lock. Some people use it time and again when they find spare time. For artist however, it like when Spiderman’s senses tingle when something bad is about happen, except this is something positive, it’s inspiration. So, let’s talk inspiration.

We all get inspirational thoughts from time to time. For most however, it’s about something like what color to repaint the living room or how you want to design your child’ graduation party invites. To painters, writers, musicians, poets, etc., those thoughts are an active part of our daily mental physiology like being hungry or having to go to the bathroom. A couple differences. Non artistic folks may have “an idea” about a creative process, like painting a room, then usually act on that notion. Artist, on the other hand, have so many creative ideas in the course of one day, that it’s virtually impossible to bring all of them to life. Secondly, non-artists having painted their room of choice, don’t care what you think of their choices of color, because they are happy with it, (generally). Artists tend to think and rethink and process deeper meanings of things and want, (NO NEED), your judgement good or bad. They need to analyze what impact their creative work has on other people.

Joseph's Dream, 1907

By Mikalojus Ciurlionis

Oil on canvas

Let’s pick apart what it actually means when that moment strikes, when you’re inspired. To me, inspiration is a process, and that’s not to complicate a potentially beautiful moment, it’s the moment a painting is born. Most analogies tend to some up this process with bodily fluids. Thomas Edison wrote,

“Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration” which is close to describing the process. Then again, I wonder if he ripped that off from Nikola Tesla too. I don’t have a famous quote, (yet), but do have a tried-and-true analogy. Inspiration is like a fart, abrupt, sometimes inappropriate, pungent, hangs in the air for a spell then quickly dissipates. So, at the risk of the obvious “Dutch oven” crack, how do you act on such a fleeting moment. To Edison’s point, when that inspirational flash passes, that’s where the real work begins in bringing your thoughts to fruition. Some of us have sketchbooks or journals or notepads or cell phones to at least document the jest of moment. A point of reference to go back and utilize as we develop that thought into art.

That said, not everything an artist is inspired by makes the final cut either. We must decipher between tangent thoughts or emotional cliches and that of unique vision and expression. Yet another biological analogy, it’s like food, we take in what we hope will nourish our spirit and the rest we shit out. It’s not just everything we experience in our waking moments, but our subconscious as well. Sure, liquor and drugs have been known to torchlight many a creative process too. I’ll speak to what I know… painting, did you think I was going to say liquor and drugs?

The Dream (The Bed), 1940

By Frida Kahlo

Oil on canvas

I remember back in college when we would critique our final body of work at the end of the semester, without exception someone would mention “a dream journal”, I hated it! Look, I get it, it’s just as valid as a sketchbook of preliminary drawings. It’s just that any artist statement that starts by references their dream journal is straight up schmaltzy. No offence to those with a dream journal. Again, speaking to the critical creative process the informs our work, it’s the thing that allows one to not have to explain the manifestation of their work because it’s “personal” or “private” and is solely base on pure emotion. And after all, you can’t judge someone’s feelings, right? Although, someone should tell my wife that. It’s the academic equivalent to rolling up into a ball like an armadillo so no one can attack how bad your paintings are. For those that know or have ever taken studio art classes, you get it. The verbal arguments and criticisms of your work help you, in the end, articulate your thoughts, and feelings, as to why you made the creative choices you made and where those choices might lead you next. However, if you’re a mousy little strawberry blond or wearing an outfit purchased at Hot Topic, you may not be ready for your peers to openly and freely shit all over your feelings and consequently your artwork.

The Dream, 1910

By Henri Rousseau

Oil on canvas

Whether you’re a writer listening to the casual banter in a café, or a musician who can hear the rhythm of a leaky faucet. It’s all you let in, in your mind and heart, that shape your personal experience and in turn, your artistic voice. Sometimes it obvious, but most times it’s subtle. It’s easy to draw inspiration from a frothy shoreline on a muggy summer morning or the silhouette of bare treetops that fan out like intricate filigree wings against the waning light of day. But for artist, those things that inspire us are everywhere and are constant. Those things are mundane and sometimes ugly. It’s an oil slick in a mud puddle at the bottom of your driveway. It’s the color combination on a label of a jar of pickles. It all gets filed away somewhere in your subconscious and will eventually seep into your future work, eventually.

By the shear volume of visual stimulus that may or may not influence me, many of those things may never surface or just get replaced by a whole new day of stimulus. I would say may 15% of all those things that leave a lasting impression actually make it to the framework of a painting. I’ve said it before, for every painting that I finish, there’s 6 that’ll never get painted, and that’s every day. There’s a backlog of tonal sketches in my sketchbook and snapshots on my phone that may not get any attention for weeks, months or even years.

So, as we begin a new year, a challenge. The next time you are in a moment that inspires you, take notice. Slow down and be aware of surroundings, and how and what you’re feeling. How will you use that moment? It is a skill I suppose and the more you practice the better you’ll get at it. Sort of like ice skating or meditation. Thus, futile effort of all those art students trying to catch farts in a jar, I mean keep a dream journal. Remember a vivid dream? Then you wake up. You remember certain feelings and images, cloudy sequences and people. But as the day elapses, you forget more pieces of that dream until, by the end of the day, that once vivid dream is barely recognizable.

For the record, I’m not suggesting keeping a dream journal. It’s tough enough to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night when you’re half asleep, or knowing what day it is while you circumnavigate the laundry basket at the foot of the bed, let alone to have the faculties to jot down a coherent description of a nightmare you just had. Though, I am saying pay attention to when those inspirational moments strike like lighting, a resolution of sorts. It’s a different kind of motivation and one you don’t have to proclaim out loud or even post on social media. It’s one that won’t limit your carb intake or boor the shit out of you 2-3 time a week in a gym. It’s a quiet little resolution that’ll chime like a distant mission bell or train whistle, signaling that those are the moments most meaningful to you and make your life worth living.

Inspiration, 1963

By Marc Chagall

Lithography on paper

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