Friday, September 27, 2013

Inspiration or Motivation? What drives us to make art?

At a recent gallery talk I was asked: What inspires you?  A very common question at a gallery talk!  I was surprised to find myself momentarily stumped. I had never thought about! I just love to paint. My answer was: "I just really love the physicality of rich, juicy oil paint and the way it reponds on the canvas, or panel, or paper. It doesn't seem to matter what I paint. It's the joy of doing it that drives me."

Hmmm. So I've been thinking about that ever since. Then I read a Painter's Table interview with artist Joanne Greenbaum . She says:

"Inspiration is not a real word for serious artists, they don't get 'inspired,' they just work. Ideas come from actually working for me, so even if I have an upcoming show, my work may be more intense but all in all, I keep regular hours each day, working until I am tired.   ...I am one of those people that likes to work with no goal or specific ideas in mind, I like to just play with my materials and something always interesting comes of that."

What she said really rang true for me. It felt good to know that such an accomplish painter also worked that way. When I play with my paint something interesting usually comes from it. If I start with a kernel of an idea, it is usually evolves into something completely different. Even painting outdoors, I start painting a view but then lose track of any specifics and let the painting take over. Even those familiar with the location are often hard-pressed to identify the spot.

I'm motivated by the inner feeling of joy doing it, rather than inspired by some influence outside of me.

Painting above: These rocks, they whisper to me, 19 x 25", oil on yupo. Painting en plein air at Stonington, Maine's Sand Beach.

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