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  • Writer's picturesarahhawley

In Search Of Inspiration

An artist or creative is always on the look out for inspiration. That “THING that will inspire them to create, experiment or explore something new, which sends them on a path they have not taken before. Quite often, no matter the place, time of day, or what they are doing, in the back of their mind artists are thinking about how this thing - something seen, heard, experienced, etc., can motivate them to make the next artwork, series/body of work or major project. Most artists who have been practicing for years, don’t even realize that they are doing this anymore. It becomes second nature to them. They see the world differently from other people because they are searching for this inspiration on an unconscious level. Personally, I don’t realize that I do this with my art practice as much, but I still have moments when I notice it with my photography.

For example, If I go for a nature walk with a friend, my friend and I are going for a walk to relax, have a conversation and to enjoy time spent with a good friend while getting some fresh air and taking in the beautiful scenery. As a photographer on a nature walk, I am also on the look out for a landscape with a pleasing composition, or any movement on the trail that could lead to spotting rare birds or other wildlife that I could photograph, even if don’t have my camera with me. It can be very distracting and disrupting to my friends and I am often told that I notice things or details that other people overlook. My ability to see what others miss, is due to this subconscious hunting and unfortunately, I can’t turn it off, it‘s just the way I am.

I should also mention that along with this unconscious search for inspiration comes a range of other emotions. When you do stumble upon something of interest, an artist can experience a sense of adventure, excitement and even an adrenaline rush. This could also be why many creatives continue to look for motivation in this manner, because it works, it is satisfying, and these feelings can be somewhat addictive.

I should mention that some artists, myself included, find inspiration using many of the traditional methods such as research, looking at the work of other artists, attending art openings, exhibitions, artist talks, have discussions with other creatives and lots of other ways to get inspired. However, sometimes these traditional methods get old and once you have exhausted these sources, you search for motivation in other forms.

Speaking from experience, staying motivated to be creative, make new artwork and to continue to move forward with your art practice or whatever your passion, can be difficult at times. Quite often, artists and creatives come up against this. It’s the equivalent to writer’s block. You become stuck in a rut, that prevents you from moving forward. You either end up in an endless cycle, creating different versions of the same thing, or you completely run out of new ideas, suffering from a major blockage that prevents you from moving past it. It can be difficult to come up with new ideas to create something fresh or to create anything at all.

There is no limit to how long a creative blockage can last. For some people, creative block can last a few hours to a few days, or for others, it can remain for much longer, including months or even years. This situation can be extremely frustrating. The most common mistake is to focus all your attention and energy into overcoming the situation. It’s a natural instinct to concentrate on trying to get over your creative block, but this can be a mistake, that only prolongs the situation. The last thing you want to do is to try to force yourself to get over the issue. This only adds pressure and stress on yourself.

There are a few options that you can try that may be helpful in overcoming the problem. As previously mentioned, focusing on the creative block can make it worse, so don’t force the issue. Sometimes the answer is to forget all about it. You need a distraction to get your mind off the problem and to think about something else for a while. This can be an indirect way to actively search for a solution. Spend time away from the problem by doing other activities to keep your mind and body preoccupied. This is a common way to overcome creative block - so don’t search for a solution, let the solution find you. Inspiration can happen at the most unexpected time and place.

These other activities that I referred to, can be anything that you can do to spend time away from your art practice. Pick up a random book, watch some TV, go out with friends, or exercise - go for a walk or to the gym. A change of scenery and a different activity will allow you to think about other things and you may come across something that piques your interest.

Take a break. Walk away from your art practice for a while. Take some time out and come back with a fresh mind and fresh eyes – get a good night’s rest, it can make all the difference.

If you are experiencing creative block over a longer period, it may be helpful to learn more about creative block and to seek advice. Talk to other creatives about creative block. It’s very common and they have also likely experienced this at some point. Discuss and compare notes and tips to overcome the issue.

Reading books about creative block can also help. They explain and suggest possible reasons why you may be going through a blockage, and they often also list suggestions to overcome it. There are quite a few books on the topic. Some books I’ve read and would suggest include The War of Art by Steven Pressfield or even Austin Kleon’s books Show Your Work and Seal Like An Artist.

Perhaps creative block is a sign that you need to make some changes to your art practice. Implementing a few changes can help to overcome creative block and possibly avoid it in the future. To help avoid creative block, don’t get too comfortable within your practice, think outside the box and break out of your comfort zone. Take risks, be daring, and experiment. Keep an open mind and be willing to try something new. Don’t be afraid of failure – making mistakes can be the best learning opportunities. You can learn a lot about yourself, learn from the experience, and you may stumble onto something new and exciting to explore in your art practice.

Other suggestions I have tried include playing games, activities, or exercises – give yourself three random things where you have to make something with them. This is not art that you would seriously consider as part of your art practice, but it is more about getting your creative juices flowing. Starting a new project just because. You may not see the point at first and you might not even be interested in trying it out, but you never know where it will lead or what inspiration may come along with it. I recently photographed various objects in my art studio just because I was looking for inspiration and I wanted a new photography project to work on. I was not able to get out or try any of my usual methods for inspiration, so I focused on what was around me – The result led to some interesting experimentation in taking the photographs and in the editing process of some of the images. It was a valuable exercise that led to other abstract ideas for working with the same objects. A selection of photographs from this project are featured in the galleries that I have included in this blog.

Inspiration is a crucial element in the foundation of any practicing artist’s work. Without inspiration, there would be little to no motivation to create. Artists are always on the lookout, whether they are looking for the next project, experiencing creative block, trying to avoid running into creative block, or keeping the content of their practice fresh, so that it may continue to evolve. There are an endless amount of reasons to look for inspiration and endless possibilities of where you may find it. That is why creatives are always searching and are on alert.

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