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Friday, December 29, 2006

Artistic Inspiration Turned Toxic

Here's a great Koi Fish tattoo design a friend of mine emailed me when I was working on a painting for another friend.

It was a great source of inspiration, although she never gave me the source of the painting. I'm still looking for the source, as I hate to add a photo without knowing at least the environs of whence it came.

Lately I've been extremely inspired to do art, almost devotionally so. The problem with being overly inspired is that it imbalances the artistic process.

Inspiration, of course, is only a small part of the artistic process. Here is the recipe for good artistic production, in my opinion:

1. Inspiration and Drive to Create, a non subjective feeling
2. Time and energy to create the piece
3. A clear idea of what you want to create - and in what medium
4. Patience and Focus to Create (ie. Sit down or stand up and work on the thing)
5. A good skillful day.. some days are sloppy skill days, especially if you've been working your brain too hard.
6. Work, of course
7. Persistence to finish the piece, and finish it well

If you just have inspiration and nothing else, your work is going to be crap and you might as well just throw the canvas or sculpture in the trash! I have painted over several paintings that I just hated, simply because I was lacking in many departments... even though the inspiration was there. With that particular painting I spoke of (the fish one) I had a hard time.. I painted it over a few times, it was a rushed thing-a gift with short notice.. I need to have freedom of time to create something really impressive.

During times of nearly no inspiration, I've created my best works.. usually when my attention span and energy were balanced and life was low stress. Sure the works lacked the punch of inspiration-fueled work, but they were so much more detailed and beautiful.

Inspiration and drive must be tempered in order to be of any use, as it is in any situation in life. When you're just overly enthusiastic and impetuous - things just don't get done as well as they could, it's sloppy, it's lacking in finer "details", lacking meaning. Without being tempered, inspiration can build up enthusiastic energy and drive us mad from lack of productivity - lack of manifesting this inspiration.

Without being a proper conduit for this powerful energy, and letting it build up and fester like a compost heap, inspiration is toxic. You feel shitty because you can't do anything with it, you start blaming your skills, your resolve, your effectiveness in whatever area this inspiration comes from. You stop producing and start brooding. Further down the line you could stop the hobby, job, or whatever it is, entirely. How toxic is that?

Many of my clients have had this occur to them. This desire, this need, this ecstatic energy comes over them to (create art, run a business, travel, etc) but there lacks the tempering to ground this energy. Many have quit being in business, many have quit being artists, many have quit traveling.. too much hassle! Too much frustration! Too many negative feelings! I feel so sad when I hear this, and of course I counsel them to take steps to temper this energy - usually a lot before this kind of negative toxicity happens - if I can catch it in time.

How does one temper desire? Well in art, what I do is artistic exercises. You work on the skill in detail, in small steps. (Again in relation to art) Perspective exercises, shadow and light exercises, realism exercises.. you just work on your craft in small ways here and there - and as often as possible. Daily exercises work quite well. Of course I need to work on this more, as I am stuck in that inspiration rut. It's a good idea to write down all the ideas you have when you're inspired, even the little ones, as in my opinion, that is the best way to utilize inspiration.. when you're in a hard working mood, you can bring those inspirations to fruition.


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