Inspiration and creativity: Where does it come from?
I get asked a lot where I get my photography inspiration from, followed closely by where I get my costumes. I’m always a bit taken aback at the former. I don’t always feel inspired. I don’t always know what I want to create or even if I want to create at all. However, in the end it always does happen and that at least I am confident in never losing.
I think it’s hard to talk about my inspiration for portraits or creative ideas for shoots because there are so many ways in which they come about. I talk to other creatives and they always seem to know from whence the magic font sprouts. Turn the question on me and I can reply with a very decisive, succinct and defining “uhhhhhhhh”. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I can answer with a pithy “ummm”, or if I’m feeling really honest, a simple, “I have no idea”. If you haven’t guessed I’m also awful at interviews.
But do I? Do I actually have no real clue where I create from? No. I know the answer is simply long and convoluted and I don’t think anyone wants the long answer. I need a short answer I suppose but short answers always feel like a swarm of ants are crawling up my spine and frankly into my pants making me squirm and twitch in an extremely uncomfortable and unladylike way.
The short answers I can imagine rolling off my tongue sound too smooth and disingenuous. I would rather shoot myself than say for instance, “I’m inspired by breathing happiness” or “"Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done: the dictation of the materials." Both of these quotes are by the artist Annie Albers. Now I don’t know Ms. Albers and never will, seeing that she passed 26 years ago, but I imagine the self possession and confidence she must have had to say this without giggling.
I joke but I actually do admire people that can so succinctly explain their creativity because it is a question that comes up often. I’ve decided to attempt to put feeling into words. I mean if you can’t say it you can’t do it so WTF. Who knows? Perhaps at the next cocktail party I attend and am asked “what inspires you?” or “where does your creativity come from?” I may just be able to loftily answer while taking a sip of my dirty martini with 4 olives (don’t judge I get hungry) “My dear, I simply spit into the wind and absorb my fertile moisture back into my soul.” This might very well be my response, depending on how many martinis I've had. The unlikelihood comes more from the fact that it’s not 1963 and nobody has or attends cocktail parties any longer.
So let’s start beating the poor figurative horse. I think part of my creativity or inspiration comes from ignoring it frequently. I just don’t think about it. Consciously. I think this is a blessing because I vary rarely feel any creative blocks. I most definitely fail, many times, when trying to execute but the ideas themselves always come. That’s the most confident thing that never leaves me. My ideas may end up being redundant or copies of something I’ve seen. The old “that’s been done.” Curiously that doesn’t bother me because it hasn’t been done by me. Only I will have that point of view or insight. The end result may end up being something I don’t share but I never feel bad or disappointed in making it. More ideas will follow.
By consciously ignoring any fear I might have of a well that’s run dry I simply procrastinate and distract myself. The wait could be an hour or it could be a month. I ignore and avoid straining my brain and do something else. I think it’s always best to have multiple avenues that are of interest. Whether it’s some other creative outlet or just surfing the web. It’s a time where my subconscious gets to stretch her legs.
“I am creatively inspired by giving voice to my subconscious.” Eh just trying it out. I threw up a little in my mouth.
I ignore the creative urge that doesn’t have a direction yet and let my senses experience and absorb. Sights, smells, sounds, touch and taste. It could be an interestingly shot commercial on television that starts something percolating, a photo on a magazine shelf, the smell of a particular cheese, who doesn’t love stinky cheese? Even the delightful feel of wrapping my fingers around the stem of a particularly good glass of wine, or not so good, sometimes I’m a cheap wino. It’s all everyday stuff and it’s around all the time. Some part of me pays attention and starts connecting the dots in my brain.
“My subconscious pays attention and my thinking brain connects the dots.” Er...nope that one gave me a bit of wind but I see a theme emerging.
Ok show don’t tell. I had a picture of a painting sitting on my phone for ages of Jean Honore Fragonard 1770 The love letter. It was part of a mood board for a shoot that never happened. Yet every time I hunted for something in that gallery it drew me. I loved the colors and the costume. But what I loved most was wanting to know and imagining what the girl in the painting was thinking.
I looked at it over and over again by chance for the better part of a year. What was she reading? What made her smile that way? I started imagining what happened just before and just after that moment in time. I didn’t really have a complete concept of what idea was beginning just that I wanted to do THAT. So I did. Simple as that. It’s not original in the idea and it’s not just inspiration, I just felt like making it. Like all other humans on earth I have a my own tastes and favor certain colors and tones, dark rather than light. I love pastels but am drawn to create with richer colors. What I ended up with was something that was most definitely mine even though the idea was originally to copy something else.
“The fruit of creativity stems from the seed of the subconscious.” I think you just made a gagging sound.
What stemmed from that shoot was the grand “idea”, “the concept”. I imagined that the letter she read was from a secret lover. One that she was planning on meeting as the note requested once the sun had gone down and the anticipation of pleasure was putting that secret smile on her face. This was also the backstory I fed my subject to get her expressions. After the shoot I kept thinking of scenarios that may have happened down the line. Future correspondence, perhaps maturing into a full blown affair or even heartbreak. Yes I do love my historical romance novels thank you very much. In any case what followed was a series I called “Letters”. I know so creative and original wink wink. The idea was born from a picture meant for another unrealized project and my attempt to copy it through the veil of my own aesthetics.
“Creativity is my subconscious plagiarizing ideas through my conscious aesthetics.” I don’t even know if that’s possible. Yet seeing as it is said there are only 7 basic literary plots, I could be on to something there.
One thing is clear to me. Inspiration and creativity is not something I chase after. It would be pointless for me to do so. A watched pot never boils and all that. So I embrace setting everything aside and will simply ignore it until it won’t be ignored any longer and then let it out for better or worse, like a purging of my constipated subconscious. I only ask one thing of you if you’ve read to the end, if I meet you at a 1960’s cocktail party swinging a martini around and I utter one of the above quotes, please don’t kick me in the shin.
"creativity and inspiration comes from the purging of my constipated subconscious" I like it. It feels like me.
Now get out there and procrastinate and percolate and ignore until you can't stand it anymore and then just do something, anything and it will evolve into something great or not so great but enjoy the process non the less and have faith that it will eventually lead you somewhere.