What Makes Inspiration?

 Blog-studio-JulyStudio in July

In my studio today I’m making inspiration. It isn’t a mystical process. It’s more like making bread. Workmanlike. Yeast, water, flour, seasoning. Maybe it’s more like making bread without a recipe. How much flour? Unbleached? Whole grain? How much of each? Now, mix. Too soft. More flour? Which kind? Mix again. Knead. Rise. Punch down. Knead again. Rise again. Bake. For how long? How hot should the oven be? If the bread isn’t good, I could throw it out and start over. But oh, all that work and time! Never mind. Begin again.

Last year I had an idea about the way a particular feeling might look. It was just a glimpse, caught in the back of my eye. Not knowing quite what to do with it, I let it be, thinking about it sometimes but doing no more with it than that. Now it seems to be starting to tell me what shape it might want. Then the trick is to turn the idea into a painting.

When I begin a new piece I set up the thing I will end up describing. I take its picture. I manipulate the results in my computer, and through that process I arrive at an image that is the beginning of the work. The painting is never the photograph, or the thing I set up. Or the image I originally had that quick look at.

And I wish that arriving at any image was as easy as saying it.

So here I am, placing objects on a board, setting lights, moving the board around, trying different angles and different ways of fastening and more and different lights. My first attempts at showing what was in my imagination look like nothing. No rhythm, balance, interest, life. No meaning. Move the objects. Re-arrange the proportions. Move the lights. Once more time.

Eventually something begins to emerge. It doesn’t look like what I glimpsed last year, but it looks like something. Fiddle, photograph, re-arrange again, fiddle, photograph. Now I see something I didn’t expect to. Out of the new vision I have a new idea. Begin again. The first image might work. So might the next one. The one after that – I can hardly breathe for possibility.

I thought this might be two hours’ work. Four hours later I realize I have only started. By this time the process doesn’t seem so workmanlike. Though it certainly feels like work. It feels as as if through the exercise of vision, concentration, will, and sheer belief, I’m beginning to make something where before there was nothing at all.

Not that this small beginning  means I will go from here to making art. That’s the next leap of faith. Between now and then, this pixelated representation of an idea will go through my computer, a photo printing process, translation into drawing on a board, and the application to the drawing of oil paint using flat hogs’ hair brushes, by someone who often feels she neither has ever done this before nor any idea what to do next. And who can fail completely at any step of the way.

But today all that is ahead. Today I’m making inspiration.

What makes inspiration for you?

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2 Responses to What Makes Inspiration?

  1. Eve Barbeau July 21, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    What a wonderful writing. I see it all. Thank you for inviting us into your processes!

  2. Laureen July 21, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

    Eve, you write so well about the artist’s life and process. Thank you for this!

    Eve and her sister Elizabeth share an insightful and thoughtful blog at http://elizabethsclayvision.com/creative-sisters-blog-2/