The Blank Canvas: Finding Inspiration

The Blank Canvas: Finding Inspiration

Seeking inspiration can be difficult in a world of ads, social media, and the latest trends switching daily. With Pinterest and Instagram as the new ways to “get inspired,” these sources of inspiration are mere time-suckers. A few minutes of looking at posts and pins usually leads to a lost hour, or two, and no progress is made on your creative projects. So if I wasn’t clear, surfing the web is not a source of inspiration and will only delay your desire to be more creative. This post is about finding ways to reconnect to your creativity while redefining what inspiration truly means.

Redefining Inspiration: The Light Bulb Moment vs. The Slow Burn

There is a lie that we all tell ourselves about creativity. This lie is the light bulb moment, that special moment where we get the best idea and we are suddenly inspired and it just magically popped into our head. The ah-ha of a light bulb moment doesn’t exist in the real mind of the creative, sorry to break the news. It takes time to flesh out ideas, problem solve and design your work. Literally, the light bulb took over 3,000 different design prototypes until it was ready for a patent. If we all waited for the perfect idea, nothing would get done in the world, and definitely, no art would be made.

A different metaphor to consider in regards to our creativity is the burn of a flame. When we care for that small lit match and feed it fuel and oxygen, the fire grows into a roaring flame. If we are not feeding it tinder and stoking the fire then how can we expect the creative fire within to burn? Taking small actions to continue to feel inspired and to exercise our creativity goes a long way. Repetitive inspiration and creative habits prevent us from feeling blocked or stagnant in the studio. The saying goes, the key to getting ahead is getting started.

Research Your Creative Habits

Creativity is a skill that you can learn to flex daily. By studying your habits, noting when you get inspired, and doing a little bit of self-trickery, you can jump-start your inspiration and creativity, even on days when you don’t feel particularly creative. Instead of feeling overwhelmed at the sight of the blank canvas, here are a few ways to light your fire and flex your creative habit:

  • Carry a sketchbook or notebook with you and fill it up with all of your ideas, inspirations, and inklings. Get everything down on the page even if it’s an idea that doesn’t suit you right now.
  • Get outside and get moving. A little bit of exercise and fresh air can do wonders to a blocked or stuck creative mind.
  • Car rides, washing dishes & mending – mindless activities such as these that have repetitive actions actually help trigger your creativity. The repetitive motion keeps you busy and occupied, and lets your brain wander often leading to inspiration and ideas. 
  • Start making something new that is different from your current work or outside your typical media- a small project, a sketch, a cross-stitch, or a community education class can get the inspiration flowing.
  • Begin working on your art after you perform a creative ritual: light a candle, put on some music, or begin with a creative affirmation. Do something to signal your beginning to be creative. Each time you sit down to work, repeat this. Eventually, this ritual habit will trigger your brain that it’s time to be creative.
  • Sit with your “blank canvas,” at some point you’re going to get bored and you will eventually start making something.

Learn What Ignites Your Creative Flame

Learning about what inspires you is the fun part of self-discovery, but it can require a bit of open-mindedness, bravery, and a sense of adventure, especially if the idea seems silly. Inspiration that informs our art can come from anything, not just art-related topics. Vintage paint by numbers, cross-stitching, skate deck designs, reading magazines front to back, studying ancient symbolism. None of these things need to relate to what you do as an artist or creator, and that’s what’s so great about exploring your inspirations. Consider the possibility that you could get your next big idea because you spent an afternoon at the zoo rather than the local art museum.

We have the ability to draw inspiration from everything, but not everything that’s trending inspires us. This is why spending hours on Instagram can leave us feeling more empty than inspired. Follow what feeds you even if it seems crazy or unconventional.

Creative Burn Out

Sometimes we confuse feeling uninspired or creative block with burnout. Our creative fire can burn down to ash and coals that appear seemingly out, but with a little care, we can bring it back to flames. Our creative fires are never out but sometimes need creative recovery time. If you just completed a large project, hit a big deadline, or see yourself at the crossroads between projects, give yourself some recovery time. Forcing inspiration and staring at the blank page can sometimes add more stress. Be gentle with your inner artist. You know when you are ready to get back in the studio, on the page, in front of the easel or wherever you meet your muse.




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