On our painting forum, a reader commented that the subjects in the "paint along" class she had taken were less than inspiring. That started me thinking about inspiration for our work and where it comes from.
Inspiration can be an elusive thing. It can come and go in an instant. Learning to latch onto the inspiration that comes your way takes practice. Actually, inspiration can be preserved, when it appears, and kept for a later date. OK, lets explore finding inspiration.
Say you are taking a drive through the countryside. Maybe over the river and through the wood to Grandmothers house. IF you don't have to do the driving, keep your eyes peeled for any bit of interesting landscape, building, sign, old piece of farm equipment, old pickup truck, a barn about to fall in, a path that wanders up and over a hill, haystacks arranged in an interesting manner, some animals relaxing under a tree; almost any bit of scenery that catches your fancy will qualify.
Fortunately, today all you need is your digital camera or even your cell phone and your artist's eye. Take pictures and more pictures and more pictures! Your don't have to have the perfect composition to take a picture. We're looking for inspiration ... not perfection at this point.
When you get a chance to put the pictures on your computer, you can bring them into any image editing program and tweek them. Put them together, eliminate parts that are not what you want, hang that sign from a branch in the foreground or whatever strikes your fancy.
If you don't have image editing capabilities or prefer to work with paper images, you can print out what you want to use and "cut and paste" for real. If the scale is off, just resize things when you are ready to sketch on your paper or canvas. Or use a copier or scanner and resize the images. But in the meantime, you will get a hands on feel.
If you aren't going for a visit to Grandma, you can do the same thing in a park, on a walk down a neighborhood street or even in your back yard. Photos of flowers, fence posts, neighborhood pets or anything with interesting color, texture or even lighting will give you material for future inspiration.
Now about preserving inspiration ...
Sketches, notes, photos and more photos make for great inspiration material. Pull pictures out of magazines before you throw them away. Please be sure to make folders and keep all your inspiration-quality materials in a file drawer until you need them. Keep your files simple. "Flowers", "Barns & Buildings", "Water" and so on will make you a lot more apt to actually use the files than getting too refined.
When you are ready for some of your preserved inspiration, just dig into your stash and pull it out. I have pictures that are many years old, just waiting to be needed for my next masterpiece.
If you have thoughts or can share inspiration you have found, please feel free to post your thoughts in our forum to help others who may be struggling for that elusive spark.