When posing a question like, “What role does inspiration play in the creative process?” there is an almost immediate, gut reaction to reply, “Inspiration is the most important part of the creative process you knucklehead!” Let’s take a step back though. Does art or design really come from a sudden revelation of thought…and if it does, how do folks arrive at that point?
I offer up a point to consider, in a quote I first heard while watching an episode of “Art Race.” An interesting concept for a show, for sure!
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” - Chuck Close
Chuck is a painter and photographer known, as a photorealist, for his large scale portraits. A spinal artery collapse in 1988 left him severely paralyzed, yet at the age of 72 he has continued to paint and produce work that remains sought after by museums and collectors. If anyone had an excuse to fall back into a “waiting for lightning to strike” posture, it would be the old man suffering from paralysis, right? Maybe Chuck has it figured out. Maybe lightning does strike, but not in the comfort of your living room, sitting on the couch…wondering and waiting. If your aim is to be struck you need to go where the lightning is. You need to climb a high hill, run around in the rain, getting wet and muddy. Only those who are attractive to lightning get struck.
Where is your high hill? Is it a studio? Is it a workshop? Is it a garage? Is it a desk? Go to your high hill and FIND that next great idea by exercising the things you know about your craft, push yourself to test something new…scrape a few fingers, ruin a piece of wood, waste some paint or a canvas while experimenting. If you’re just waiting around they weren’t being used anyway, right?
What are you waiting for? Get inspired by getting to work!