Should Nostalgia Inform Art?

Have you ever thought about using nostalgia to inform your art?

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion that connects us to the sweet and the bittersweet. We all possess a reservoir of special feelings about the toys and games of youth, the smells and sights, the music of long-ago bands, the movies we grew up with. The naturalist who furthers our understanding of evolution was once a boy with a bug jar; and every visual artist is carrying important visual memories from childhood and youth, memories that might inform his or her current work.

Often embedded in our best mature work are things from long ago and far away that are just unforgettable, if only we stop to remember them. Of course nostalgia is only part joy and has its sad parts too. It is joyful to remember the way your mother smiled but painful to remember that she smiled so rarely and could murder you with her sarcasm. Because nostalgia has a measure of sadness in it you may want to avoid feeling it or thinking about it. But if you spare yourself the bad memories you will also forego the good memories. Might a little nostalgia work wonders for your art?

“We all possess a reservoir of special feelings about the toys and games of youth, the smells and sights, the music of long-ago bands, the movies we grew up with.”

If you think it might work some wonders, start a nostalgia sketchbook. Close your eyes and think back. See what wants to emerge. Do this regularly, but maybe especially when you feel as if you’ve lost the past and with that loss a piece of your creative history and roots. Every so often return to your nostalgia sketchbook and do some remembering. Often our clearest, most powerful ideas and our best work spring from that bittersweet past!

Eric Maisel is America’s foremost creativity coach and the author of more than 40 books including Making Your Creative Mark, Coaching the Artist Within, Fearless Creating, The Van Gogh Blues, and Mastering Creative Anxiety. Dr. Maisel presents two live one-hour teleclasses every month with the Academy for Optimal Living. You can visit Dr. Maisel at ericmaisel.com or contact him at [email protected]

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