We all know the standard advice on where to find inspiration: go to a museum, take a walk, have an artists’ play date, visit the blogs and websites of well-known mixed media artists. And those work fabulously for a lot of people. You may find they work fabulously for you, as well. They’re excellent places to start when you need some new ideas.
They do not do it for me, however. There is one museum in Midland, where I live, unless you count The Petroleum Museum, where I have never been. I should probably rectify that and go someday. It’s just the name, you know? “Petroleum” and “museum” are just not two words that, together, promise to provide inspiration. Too bad for me; I’m probably missing something fabulous. But never mind. I can visit the one local art museum, which is within walking distance of my house, once every six weeks when there’s an opening for a new exhibit. There’s that, at least. But it’s not like there’s something new every week.
Walking~~I walk at least once a day, usually more, but unlike many people, I don’t get a lot of inspiration from walking. I don’t carry my cell or a camera; when I walk, I’m *walking,* as in “moving as fast as I can without actually jogging, trying to get some exercise.” So I’m thinking more about posture and breathing and stuff, rather than getting ideas for possible projects.
I don’t do play dates. I’m a little envious of people who have a group of creative friends, ones who get together regularly to exchange ideas and share techniques and supplies. I don’t know that that would work for me, though, because I don’t play really well with others. As an only child, I grew up entertaining myself, moving at my own pace, doing things my way. Because I’m what I tell people is a “Type AAA,” meaning I’m moving at warp speed most of the time, making huge messes and talking to myself and working on half a dozen things at once, I’m a little tiring to most people. Not to use the word “irritating.”
For most people, artists’ websites and blogs are a great source of inspiration and ideas. Most of us have a list of ones we visit regularly, checking in to see what’s new. Sometimes, though, visiting those online spaces can be a little depressing, for a variety of reasons. I’m not a fan of what’s popular or what’s in style or what’s trending, so seeing the same things everywhere–birds’ nests, maybe, or clowns (yikes!) or, well, anything that’s currently hip–just kind of bums me out. It makes me worry about whether there’s any innovation and brand-new-to-you ideas left anywhere, and I end up being even less inspired than I was in the first place.
So where *do* I go for inspiration? Aside from visiting the inside of my own head, which is where I’d recommend that everyone start (not the inside of *my* head, goodness, no, but the inside of their own), there are a couple of kinds of places that always spark ideas.
I’ve been keeping a journal since I was 17 and was required to start one for a creative writing class in high school. The interesting ones volumes start when I started making stuff. Before then, the notebooks were mostly written, and I’ve thrown most of those away. Here are the ones I’ve kept.
Now, I hardly ever write in them; I use them for notes, ideas, bits and pieces of things I want to save, sketches (in the loosest ever sense, since I am not a sketcher), photos.
I don’t keep art journals, although I love looking at other people’s. I don’t write in a journal: I do enough writing everywhere else, and I don’t have much angst that needs exploring. But I really recommend that everyone who has any kind of creative life keep some sort of notebook, of whatever kind you find appealing, where you can corral ideas, reminders, jump starts, a record of what you’ve done. If you’re like me, you’ve made a ton of stuff that you’ve given away or sold or repurposed. I wish now that I’d photographed all of it–I’m sure some of the things I made in the past and have forgotten would spark new ideas and experiments. Alas, most of it’s long gone, both from my house and from my memory. Some, though, I can come across in the pages of old notebooks, and that’s always fun. “Oh, wow! I’d forgotten all about this one! I wonder what would happen if I made it out of silk, instead?”
For a while, I was really into bookbinding, both re-binding old books and making my own . Here are a couple of the journal volumes I made from old yearbooks and ledgers.
What’s inspiring are ideas I had at one time but never pursued. Here, for instance, I was trying to figure out how to do a very, very simple cartoon sketch of myself, something that I could easily replicate. I never got one I liked, but the idea is still appealing to me. (See? I told you I’m no sketcher.)
I also added photos and scans of stuff I made. Here’s a fetish necklace I made for someone–they sent me a box of memorabilia, and I made it into something they could wear. From this one little scan, I can get ideas by looking at the bits and pieces someone else saved and imagine what I could do with them.
I have an index for some of the volumes, with a few notes about which ones contain some of my obsessions–when I first saw Susan Shie’s quilts, for instance, or Ken Bova’s jewelry–both at exhibits at our neighborhood museum, long ago. Those set off explorations of their own, and I can go to those volumes and see what ideas I had then that I never pursued.
I’m sure we’ll talk more about journals later on, but for right now, think about starting one if you don’t keep one already, please.
Next time I’ll talk more about some other places I get ideas. I’d love it if you’d leave a comment and tell us where you get yours~~