I don't love "inspiration." It's the Creatives' Anthem, sure, but it's so fickle; it should be called "fleeting-euphoria-that-you-must-act-upon-NOW," but Webster has yet to respond to my calls. Disclaimer: I know my tagline "Make Life Inspiring" might seem contradictory to this whole post, but it actually works with it. You really do have to make inspiration!
But really, if you are a creative type in any capacity, and you don't feel inspired, congratulations on being a normal human (sorry, I know we hate being referred to that way). ;) As I've been making strides to transition my art from hobby to profession, it's become even more... sludgey...when I paint. That was the only word that came to mind (another note for Webster). On one hand, I'm super jazzed about getting my work out there and it's challenging me in really cool ways, but on the other I feel like I'm constantly on the brink of burnout and wonder why I'm even bothering. This is NOT a pity post, it's an encouragement post because I KNOW for a fact that this is reality for so many. I don't have a perfect nugget of wisdom that will transform your entire life and I'm definitely in the midst of learning a LOT of hard lessons that I can't even identify yet.
On THAT heavy note, I do have a pretty simple method I recently found that's really effective at reminding me that I really do love what I'm doing and that it's worth it, and lucky for you, I'm not the secretive, stingy type (which has been my downfall on occasion)!
PAINT WHAT YOU KNOW AND LOVE
Replace that first word with "write," "bake," "sculpt," whatever applies to you. It seems WAY oversimplified and, honestly, sounds like a phrase I would normally ignore for being a meaningless platitude. But seriously, guys, there's such a pressure to push boundaries and take risks (hey, this whole blog is a risk for me in its own way!!!), but pursuing the new and edgy and totally original just for the sake of responding to that pressure is exhausting! The subtle things you learn from delving into the familiar are endless and essential for creative growth, which is what I'm learning right this very moment.
Here's exactly how I made this (gradual) discovery, because being vague on subjects like this is awful and we all want to look at pictures now!
That is Lake Michigan as seen from Highway 2 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a.k.a. where my heart and soul live. If you know me on a remotely personal level, you will have already been aggressively made aware of this. I seriously love it up there.
I've lately been in the habit of painting aerial scenes of water, all starting with this:
...which started with a cool featured image of rough waters I once saw on a streaming music site. While painting it, I thought Huh. I like kayaking in Michigan a lot. I'll just put a kayak in it. Whatevs. And you know what, that's one of my favorite pieces ever. I know now it's because I painted what I knew and loved.
I liked painting that one so much, I just kept doing similar pieces: aerial views of water and waves, with the occasional kayak. It's not the most boundary-pushing, gritty art I've ever produced, but I have grown as an artist in this phase more than ever!
So on our latest trip to the Upper Peninsula (also known as the UP), I took a few pictures to reference on this next painting to give me an extra boost.
I wasn't going for realism here (I'm the queen of Nopatience Land), but reference photos can be awesome and, I'll finally admit, I used to really resist ever painting from photos because I wanted to be SO original, resulting in some wonkily inaccurate, under-developed weirdness where it just didn't belong. Remember that point about pursuing the edgy and totally original...?
This isn't really a painting tutorial (you can see one here if ya want!), but I'll include a few good ol' progress pictures.
Voilà! I happily thought of the UP the whole time I worked on this and ended up with something that's meaningful and loved, which, I think, is always evident in a piece of art.
Shameless Plug Alert: If you'd like a print of this and other pieces, check out my shop! :)