Inspiration. It’s a bit of an elusive word isn’t it? As intangible as a ghost, fleeting as time and often identified as the catalyst to something greater. Great minds are said to have it, pioneers in innovation and advancement thrive on it and yet there is no one definition. According to the Oxford Dictionary though, Inspiration is “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”. Poems are inspired by words, dance inspired by movement, paintings inspired by colour, sculptures by form – you get the point.
I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean.
To the artist, inspiration is like creative influx, having the right mental stimulation at the right time. Many find their muses in words, doodling, colour, conversation or sometimes by plain observation. As the artist and inspirational needs go hand in hand, so does the term “tortured artist” get thrown about. These practitioners have the unfortunate time of never being able to find their muse – stuck between a limbo without instinct and affirmation from within. It’s a conflict with the inner and outer self; unfulfilled potential in a way only you could identify.
Is it necessary to always be continually inspired if you wish to be a living, practicing artist? The short answer, yes, but not for reasons you may assume. It should be easy enough – inspiration could be anything quite literally, and while the quality of a work is often associated with great inspiration, causation is not correlation as the irregularity of art trends and its value can show you. What makes great work and how the inspiration to one’s work can either merit or demerit its potential is not an easy question and much less an easy answer. What we can do though, is struggle through these questions as part of our contribution to the greater narrative of the artists in our own generation. A common fight we must all partake in.
Inspiration is fleeting and intangible as we’ve talked about. If that never comes, what then? Should the artist just relinquish their work and career due to an inability to produce, for lack of a muse? With inspiration, artists usually produce work that is in line with their vision, their branding. It also helps to them to explore interesting ideas/approaches that will eventually open new doors in practice. Though, with dependency to inspiration, works come and go and most times, your “magnum opus” may not be all you expect it to be. Personally, some of my better works are done spur of the moment, without needing pensive time for calling upon my muse to descend.
Then, there are also artists who produce because they’ve built a solid formula for themselves. When the merit of their work no longer rests on the work itself, but on the influence and persona they’ve created. I find this to be quite common for modern day household name artists. What obligation do they have to continually be inspired to produce? When all work is said and done, I am left dry and have shared all that I can with the world. Could the artist hang up their metaphorical paint brush?
Regardless of your stance, inspiration is the bread and butter for practicing artists. If you make art for the sake of “being an artist” without feeding on inspiration then all is lost. Ideas and emotions are catalysts that bring your work to life. The treatment of art as a commodity within capitalist grounds have a long history that are deeply set in the perception of art, art making and the artist as we know of today. Value, both monetary and intrinsic are at constant heads with one another, unregulated and untamed as much as the art and their practitioners.
What I do bring up is this – you do need inspiration to continue practicing art, but you don’t need it if you want to be ‘considered’ an artist.