I am often asked where I get my inspiration. For me, it comes from discipline. If that sounds counterintuitive to you, it’s probably because we are taught that inspiration is something mysterious, something we can’t quite explain. We are led to believe that inspiration is floating around outside our grasp.
This has not been my own experience.
During my years working as a journalist for daily newspapers, where there was always a deadline looming large, pushing us editors to “produce”, I’ve come to understand that if I don’t sit down with the intention of “producing”, or better, of being productive, I will not have anything to show for most of my days. If I don’t decide to take time and just start drawing (or painting, or sculpting…) nothing at all can happen.
Inspiration is, to a significant extent, a function of time and mindset.
Sometimes I walk into my work space with a vague idea of something I’d like to try to do. At times it’s colors I want to put together, because I liked them on the cover of a magazine, or it’s shapes I saw in the petals of a flower outside. It could be the interesting outline of the shadow of a cereal box sitting on the counter.
More often than not, what emerges bears very little resemblance to my original idea. And so, it does not matter whether I go to work “inspired” or just go in there, pull out my tools and start putting color to paper. What matters is that I go in there with the intention of opening myself up to inspiration, letting happen what starts to happen when I get my head out of the way and put aside the idea that I’m in control of the process.
For me, inspiration therefore comes from the discipline of setting aside time to work, declaring my intention to create and opening myself up to the possibilities that reliably seem to present themselves once I enter that space, physically and in my mind. Once I get into a mindset where I am ready and willing to flow with whatever comes my way, interesting things start to happen.
An open mind is a prerequisite to being able to draw fish with giant luscious lips (http://www.sandphiferart.com/fantasy-fish-series/) and to putting lots of reddish purple into the fur of a moose. This, too, requires discipline. If I let myself be constrained by preconceived ideas, insist on executing only what I “know” to be real, I can still be creative, just less so, the tighter my mind reigns in the imagination just waiting to be let off the leash.
It’s mostly a question of letting myself ask “what if”… I gave her purple eyes, what if I made her orange, what if she had legs AND a tail for swimming …. what if ……. And then DO IT.
So I say no to lots of other things, making time so I can get to work, put color on that page and let inspiration happen.