Inspiration. When someone thinks of inspiration they often bring to mind images which have affected their creativity. This is the visual form of inspiration. In the medical field, inspiration is the drawing in of air, breathing, inhaling. Consider these two definitions as one in the same. To be inspired by something should be much more than simply allowing an object, a situation, or an idea to leave a visual stamp on our minds for future reference. We should give ourselves the time to almost literally breathe in the energy of that moment. Allow that reference point to engrain itself in our soul, not just our mind’s eye. Be able to recall not just a mental image, but the emotion that surrounds the subject of our inspiration. Then, when applied to your selected medium, you can create something that moves the viewer beyond just the visual and exudes emotion as well.
I remember when I was young and began taking piano lessons. Everyone starts in the same place, Middle C. At first, I was rather disenchanted with piano playing. My fingers didn’t move fluidly, everything sounded clunky and disjointed, and the missed notes struck the ear like a pick ax. But as my technical ability and skill developed I was able to worry less about what I was playing and more about how I was playing. I discovered how notes that at first didn’t sound pleasing when played together in simpler pieces, took on a new level of maturity in advanced pieces. Dissonance has its place and not all chords need to be resolved. I strove to know a piece by heart so that I could play it completely from memory. Once my fingers knew where to go on the keyboard, my heart would be free to apply passion and dynamics. Most importantly, as I grew in my life experiences, my playing took on more emotion. I had more life to draw from, more love, more hurt, more true inspiration. It had taken years, but finally there was true joy in my music.
Actors, dancers, comediennes, performers of all types work tirelessly to hone their performance skills. The goal: to know the material so well that the performance becomes an outpouring of emotion rather than simply a recitation of lines or movements. The audience then becomes emotionally engaged, enthralled in the story being related and is swept away to another time or place. And so it is with visual arts. When an artist applies their heart to a work, it takes on more meaning, both for the artist and the viewer. From the simple to the complex, visual arts can be as emotionally driven and soul stirring as performance arts.
I offer up this challenge: Look beyond visual inspiration and reach for emotional inspiration. Draw from your life’s experiences by allowing yourself to recall your most intense emotions. Give your heart time to settle into those moments, literally breathing in the memories. Then let your soul create. Be patient with yourself and with your medium as you move from ideas to creation. And know your craft. Know it so well that you can replace concentrating on technique with true emotional inspiration. It is this type of inspiration that can help you to truly breathe life into your art.