There are times when I can’t figure out what to paint— not because I don’t have enough inspiration, but rather because I have too much inspiration. There are images all around me, and I find something to like about so many of them.
I got even more carried away with absorbing images once I joined Red Bubble. At first, I enjoyed perusing profile after profile, group page, after group page, taking in all of the different styles and subjects. In addition to looking at so many different paintings, I’d also catch myself looking at photographs, and imagining ways to turn those photos into paintings too.
After a couple months of this, I hit my saturation point. I got to where I couldn’t bear to look at another portrait or textured piece, or hit that favorite button one more time and make a nice comment. What could I say that hadn’t already been said about all of the beautiful pieces I was looking at? And yet, I’d get up the next day and check out all of the latest work. And I’d be both inspired and discouraged— because it was all so beautiful, and there was SO MUCH to look at. When it came time to paint, I’d sit there and wonder: what could I possibly have to say with my art that hadn’t already been said a bunch of times over?
It was time to step back and evaluate what inspires me to paint in the first place. I needed an overview. When I first started painting, I used to drag all of my completed pieces out and tape them to the walls of the barn just to see who I was as an artist. I have a few pages of art uploaded now here on Red Bubble, so it’s much easier to look at my art all at once. It helps to step back and take a look at the forest, skimming the individual trees to see what they have in common.
Looking through my art pages, I noticed a few commonalities; texture, emphasis on composition, strong marks with the brush or pastel. More importantly, I noticed what wasn’t always common among all the paintings: subject matter. Even though those subjects varied, they all made sense to me. And then I realized what it is that makes my paintings mine, different from everyone else’s: their inspiration.
I paint what I see, as many artists do. I paint the places I go, the scenery here in Southern California, the people and animals I love, or strangers and nature I observe. I paint things from the past, when something about them speaks to me. I paint the things that make up parts of my life and the impressions I have as I go through it.
This is not different from what lots of artists do, but what makes it different coming from me is that it’s my life that inspires my work, not someone else’s. No one else has had the same life I have, and that’s what makes my work unique. If I’m feeling overloaded with images, I need to turn them off— the computer, t.v., all of those devices that bombard me with pictures. I need to sit back and look around my surroundings, or through pictures of the things I’ve seen and appreciated. I need to sit down with my daughter and swirl some paint around and enjoy the experience.
It’s good to connect and see what other artists are doing, but ultimately my art is between me and myself, and focusing on that relationship is what makes it stronger. I think this is what makes artists different from others— ultimately, our greatest source of inspiration lies within ourselves and our need to create.