This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. A regular contributing writer for FineArtViews, Carolyn’s alter ego, This Woman Writes, publishes lifestyle articles in online and in print newspapers and on her blog site. The co-owner of Steve Henderson Fine Art with her painter husband Steve, Carolyn is the author of Grammar Despair: Quick simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?” and the money saving book, Live Happily on Less.
Inspiration, which is one of those very real things a person can’t see, smell, hear, or touch, is a vital quality to the artist. In the last essay (Inspiration: How Do You Get It?), we discussed what happens when an artist feels uninspired, and I drew upon advice from my Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson.
In this essay, we’ll talk more with Steve who, as a full-time artist dependent upon inspiration to create the work he sells, believes that movement is important. The very act of painting – from taking reference photos to setting up the painting to the actual painting itself – inspires inspiration. In other words, it’s easier to walk up a hill when you’re already moving, as opposed to when you’re sitting in a chair and thinking about it. You’re more alert to your surroundings, and because you’re dynamic, you’re ready to take action when action is needed.
“Inspiration does not schedule itself,” Steve says, “and you have to be alert to its existence which, by its very nature, is not very obvious or loud.
“Inspiration can seem ethereal, fleeting so when it ‘hits,’ I also ‘hit’ by capturing that ‘spirit’ with real solid activity – like sketching out the ideas lest I lose them, or grabbing the camera and getting reference shots.
“It’s okay to talk of ‘inspiration’ as long as the artist DOES something about it.
“The most inspired artists I have come across, who have in turn inspired me, have been very practical, straightforward in their practices. In other words, we can help the Muse in her job of inspiring us by doing our part.”
A crucial part of doing our part as artists, Steve continues, is constantly and consistently building our skill level, ensuring first that we’re grounded in the basics – rendering, perspective, color awareness, light and shadow – so that when we do have something in our mind and soul that needs to be translated to canvas, we have the technical ability to do so.
“I remember one artist who was constantly talking about inspiration and how it drove everything she did,” Steve says. “That may be so, but from the standpoint of a viewer looking at her artwork, the result was hit and miss – colors were invasive to the eye, or a body part was too long or too short, or the shadows were too saturated for the light bouncing off them. One could argue that these were results of inspiration, but speaking baldly, they were results of a lack of skill in the fundamentals. In her honest moments, this artist admitted that she couldn’t consistently translate what was in her mind to her canvas.
“When I feel most inspired is when I am rested in body AND soul and when my skills are honed to a point where I can focus on the work and not keep tripping up or held back by any lack in the fundamentals.”
Acquiring and honing basic skills never sounds as ethereal or romantic as discussing inspiration, Steve goes on, but there is no substitution for the process. Especially for beginning artists, a lack of inspiration can be confused with a lack of skills, with the artist painting to a certain point before consistently running across the same problem.
“The very process of identifying the skill issue, researching options for overcoming it, and working on overcoming it is creative,” Steve says. “We just don’t see this as such because it’s ‘practice,’ and does not result in what we consider a finished, salable painting.
“Artists need to allow themselves time to perfect what they do, without the worry of producing and producing and producing. We do not manufacture paintings – we create art.”
And creation, Steve adds, is an exhausting process, demanding of our brain the same exertion that a Cross Fit athlete pulls out of her body. Like the athlete, the wise artist recognizes the effort required to perform, and gives mind, spirit, body, and Muse a rest.
We’ll talk about this next time in, Too Tired to Be Inspired?
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