For artists, the creative spark must be kept lit. Yet sometimes we find ourselves in a creative malaise. There are many books written for advice on how to escape this doldrum state, and I want to share some of my own tips and tricks for a fast track back to artistic inspiration.
1.Take a trip to an art museum.
“I invent nothing; I rediscover.” ~ Auguste Rodin
I love moving through art museums to see the innovative art created today, as well as the antiquities on display from centuries ago. I can often find a thread or connection between art created hundreds of years apart, and I find this continuum comforting and inspiring. From the carved marks on an Egyptian sarcophagus to the dancing brushstrokes of an impressionist painter, it’s artists who visually reveal the history of our planet whose contributions encourage us to keep it going.
So, invent, reinvent, reconstruct, make it bigger, make it brighter.
2. Clean up your workspace.
“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.” ~ Mary Shelley
There are some studies, like this one, that have suggested a messy environment encourages creative thinking. Some say creativity born from chaos as a visual networking of unrelated items unexpectedly residing near one another encourages new ways of thinking. And this does work for some.
But despite this research, I need a freshly cleaned and organized workspace for new ideas to flourish.
For me, new ideas come from an unpolluted space where older projects are out of view and are not competing for my imagination or my capacity to problem solve.
3. Keep an inspiration box.
“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.” ~ Thomas Edison
I have kept an “inspiration box” for 20 years. It is overflowing with pages ripped from magazines, with photos, cards, colorful beads, feathers — anything that appeals to me visually. And, today it is even easier to collect sources that stimulate creativity. I have a folder on my computer consisting of screenshots, quotes, book covers, photos and memes I have dragged into it, and when I have finished scrolling through that folder, I can hop on Pinterest to peruse the collected inspirations of thousands of others.
4. Be observant.
“Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” ~ Robert Wieder
Art and design are everywhere. You see it in the curve of a car’s fender, the patina on an old bicycle rack, the iridescence of a butterfly wing, an unusual color juxtaposition in a passerby’s clothing choice, graffiti on the walls or in billboard ads. Soak it all in. Make a note of what appeals to you, and add it to your “inspiration box.”
5. Sleep on it.
“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” ~ John Steinbeck
The old adage, “sleep on it” may have legitimacy — studies have shown sleep helps us problem solve. Sleep restructures our memories and experiences leaving out preconceptions and biases. The subconscious workings of REM sleep more effectively sifts through our brains’ stored data because it is free of any new conscious sensory input competing for direction.
So, at bedtime mentally review your artistic goals, write in your journal or sift though your inspiration box, and in the morning you may wake up with a vision of your next masterpiece.
6. There are no mistakes.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ~ Albert Einstein
Never be afraid to implement your ideas. Any artistic attempt, whether you feel it is successful or not, is a lesson, not a loss, and may even lead to a more satisfying creative endeavor. Another artist once said to me, “It’s only paper.” That was good advice.
7. Believe in yourself.
“In every work of genius, we recognize our once rejected thoughts.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Now that your creative mind is in high gear, and you have some fabulous and exciting ideas, act on them. I have a theory — questioned by some — that ideas fall to the earth and hit a number of people on the head at the same time. Act on your inspiration before you see it on Instagram executed by another artist.
Be confident, be productive, be artistic — and most of all, believe in yourself.
Artist Ora Sorensen (orasorensenart.com) was born in New York but grew up overseas. She has owned a gallery in Delray Beach, Florida for 20 years, and has also been represented by other galleries across the country. Sorensen now lives and paints in North Carolina, and her paintings are collected worldwide and have been shown in numerous exhibitions.