More about Inspiration

Here I am... I know... I've not been around for a little bit... But I am back continuing my thoughts about Inspiration, from my previous entries where I wrote about 'borrowing.' So what do I mean by borrow? How do I borrow? Who do I borrow from? Why do I borrow? I think borrowing is the same as Rice Freeman-Zachery's definition of Secondary Inspiration... you know the one where you look at some one else's art and think 'boy that's a great idea. I think I'll have a go at that...' I just call it borrowing. When I am stuck for an idea; when I can’t get started myself, I borrow because starting can be so very difficult for me at times. I think it is for a lot of artists, (although, at the moment I have a head jammed with ideas... and still can't get started!!!). Some people might think that borrowing is a lot like copying. it's not, unless you copy of course! Borrowing is when you take an idea that someone else has tried or even perfected and you borrow some part of it to you get you started. 

Following are some images of my attempts to borrow ideas and techniques from a wonderful artist Vipoo Srivilasa. Check out his website at www.Vipoo.com. You will see my art looks NOTHING like his... what can I say? But I did borrow and made his ideas my own, in my own way... which is what artists do... they learn new techniques and put their own personal mark on them. The Grunge series in my ceramic gallery are inspired by Mr Percival. You'll find him in bits below...

I have had the pleasure of participating in several workshops run by Vipoo Srivilasa, a Thai born-Australian ceramic artist currently residing in Melbourne. I am always struck by how confronted I am in the beginning of a workshop. I never quite feel good enough, but I am prepared to start somewhere. Our class begins with two pinch pots, ideas borrowed from Vipoo...

Still borrowing, I join the pots at the hip to make the body...

Borrowing Vipoo's decorative and joining techniques to make Percival's feet....

Vipoo is an extraordinary ceramic artist who has exhibited globally, but is kind enough to share his ideas and experiences with us fledgling artists hungry to gobble up what we can from his limitless knowledge about hand-building with clay.... and, he knows a lot! Vipoo is patient, enthusiastic and has a great sense of humour. Goodness, he needs to be...Just  imagine trying to teach 23 primary and secondary school teachers at one time!. We've no idea what we're doing (guess I better speak for myself!).

But at the end of the day... success!  Having borrowed some of Vipoo's ideas and techniques, I've been able to develop the skills and confidence to experiment with my own ideas to design a mythical monster!!!

But at the end of the day... success!  Having borrowed some of Vipoo's ideas and techniques, I've been able to develop the skills and confidence to experiment with my own ideas to design a mythical monster!!!

All dressed up and no where to go... This is Percival after several applications of  coloured under-glazes and the final firing. He does look quite smug there...

All dressed up and no where to go... This is Percival after several applications of  coloured under-glazes and the final firing. He does look quite smug there...

Here's a close-up of Percival contemplating the way of the world... after all, he has been pushed around, twisted, poked, pulled, suffered heat-stroke and now, he can't move a muscle!

Here's a close-up of Percival contemplating the way of the world... after all, he has been pushed around, twisted, poked, pulled, suffered heat-stroke and now, he can't move a muscle!

He does have great hands tho'... check out the bling on his knuckles... and what about those nails!

He does have great hands tho'... check out the bling on his knuckles... and what about those nails!

I did not like Percival at first. I thought he looked clumsy and was uninteresting. I was not even going to glaze him... Thought it was a waste of time.... Of course everyone else's sculpture was better than mine... (sound like one of my students!). I used him as a test sculpture to test out my under-glazing techniques. I just laid it on, scrubbed it off and laid some more on... no fear. To me, all was lost anyway... and then he was fired. I opened the kiln door and there he sat pondering his future no doubt... I took him home and my son fell in love with Percival. I kind of warmed to him and then I liked him very much. Percival went into an exhibition and sold before he hit the shelf! We miss him very much.

I am reminded yet again... There are no failures, no mistakes in art, just happy accidents... I put it all into MR P. and he gave it all back. He looked fabulous with his rich surface colours and textures and this is what appealed to the collector. He has pride of place with her other sculptures and I have learned a lesson... to have more faith in myself as a creator... and remember... crikey... it really is just a bit of clay!!! Don't get so emotional...

But thanks Vipoo. You are my inspiration. Thank you for sharing your ideas and techniques and thank you for being so darn nice! I love your work too. It just gets better and better!!!



Inspiration

While I like to ‘borrow’ ideas from other artists to get my juices flowing, I’m also inspired by books; books about creativity, inspiration, ideas, just about any book to do with art and art-making, although I am very selective. Ask my husband, I have hundreds! Several years ago I read a really great book by Rice Freeman-Zachery. In her book, ‘Living the Creative Life: ideas and inspirations from working artists,’ She writes that there are two types of inspiration, primary and secondary. Whether you agree with this or not, it’s a great way to think about inspiration. 

Rice writes (try saying that 10 times in a row... sorry Rice) that Primary Inspirations are drawn from: our experiences in nature; our interactions and relationships with people; things we see and hear in the real world, and our dreams. Secondary Inspirations are the ideas we get when we look at someone else’s artworks, songs or poem, or any other work. I am a secondary inspiration seeker, (how’s that for a label?).

“There is nothing wrong with taking inspirations from other artists, either literary or visual...with taking inspiration anywhere you can find it,” (2007, p. 47).

(Pssst... sorry about the referencing, but I learnt this at University... It was the expected and done thing to do... and it helps to know your sources... after all, someone might just want to check out where I got my info from!).

And thank you Rice! I do feel so much better now. I thought I had to be inspired by nature to make art... tramp about the fields, hike tall mountains (in a single bound?); squelch, slip, slop and slosh through mushy creeks; jog down through rows of vineyards, (gotta say, the cellar door is great); sniff my way through flower beds packed with buzzing bees (ouch!); roll down high hills, (which is fun by the way); and, slide down low valleys (on waxed cardboard of course, now that was fun!); all of which I adore, but presently don’t inspire me to create... at least not right now. I’d like to make art about these things one day, maybe one day soon, but don’t feel compelled to do so... I have to write tho', remembering this day does reach into my very core and tickle my creative urges... The Yarra Valley is a stunningly beautiful place... breathtakingly so...

My family and I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world... The Yarra Valley, just east of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. This is the view from a small cheese dairy just down from a place called Coldstream, which as its name suggests is frigid in winter... Well perhaps not as cold as the Northern Hemisphere... Guess I am a wee bit soft!

This is the view from the Chandon Winery further up near Healesville. It has to be one of the prettiest places in the valley. It always takes my breath away. The storm clouds in the background added extra contrast and drama to the atmosphere. i love it!

Another view from Chandon Winery...

Getting Started

Getting started must be one of the most difficult things to do for many artists. It certainly is for me. It’s like writing this blog. It’s been a while, I know, but I am here now. Having stolen a skerrick of time from my busy day, starting somewhere is often the hardest for me. Thinking about what to write about is almost as tricky as looking for inspiration when making an artwork. The question of, “Where do I start?” is always present, tormenting me like a teasing bully, (did I say that? Guess I did... feels like a big fat bully!) and, yet here I am, writing. 

I guess this leads me into the topic for this post... Getting started... Where do we begin? Where do we get our ideas from? How do we start? I have great ideas... lots of them.... lucky in that way; but... here it comes... I usually start in a frantic mess of questioning and insecurities about being ‘good enough.” Can you believe that? Cruel thoughts like these rant around in the back alleys of my mind, quietly, sometimes loudly, but usually quietly, tormenting at that very moment when I think that I am ready to start... it pounces like a stalking tiger in the jungle. It’s true!!!  When I have cleared the time and the space to begin... A thick feeling of tiredness washes over me like sticky mud, immobilising me... my mind and my body... and then the thoughts sneak in, sabotaged, and I am too weak to continue. I’ve taken up so much time in my head that I am thoughtless... creative juices have seeped away and I give up. Does this sound familiar? I think it is different for everyone.

So how do I begin? How do I move through this stage and begin my work? It’s taken me years, but I have finally come to understand that this is how it is for me. I’m a slow learner, what can I say? It is my beginning... a place where I have to push through and release all thoughts of tiredness and procrastination, of apathy and fear, of lack and insecurity. First, this is something that I have to accept about me... that this is how I work... That I must move through this cloud until I have the confidence to believe that I deserve to be here, in my studio; that I am good enough, just as I am and deserve to participate in this delightful process of making art. And for me, it’s like this almost every time. I am hopeful, that now I know this about me, that each time, each beginning, will be a little easier. I know that this is a time for being patient, forgiving and kind to myself... And then I begin...

This is where I work... where I start my art... a small bedroom converted into a studio. There is no running water, but it does have a great vista looking out onto the trees in our front yard... On the window sill are small objects that I have collected... Some are my own, but many are from other artists who inspire me... They are beautiful objects and I love them... My inspiration wall often has images of other works by artists to help me start... Once I have started, my own imagination takes form and I am off... exploring, experimenting, creating... and I am now at peace...

An Introduction...

Humans have been making marks from when the first footprint was imprinted in mud... the first bison was painted on cave walls 35000 years ago... the first stitch was made in animal hide for modesty’s sake... the first mark was made on our bodies to define our ourselves and connect us to our tribes... And, here we are now, still creating, globally a race of creative beings... still making our marks... in many outstandingly, brilliant ways...

I remember, as a child, making my marks in the mud... drawing, slapping, building... mud pies a speciality... oozing, wet, squelching and slipping between my small fingers, exciting, yet soothing. Nothing was permanent... and this didn’t matter... just the wet mud... memories of mud...

Many years later I am here, playing with mud, yet again... all grown up... hands wet and sticky, lots of fun... challenging, yet still soothing are the memories of mud. Instead of mud, I play with clay. It’s challenging, demanding... Clay waits for no one. It has its own personality... its own demands and yet, I love it. I love its tactile properties. It feels great, soft and pliable and then it’s fired and permanent, almost a dichotomy... Where did its flexibility go?

I’m fascinated by the marks we make, regardless of the medium. I am excited by the many artforms and processes we use to make our marks permanent in this impermanent world that we live in.

While I ‘play’ with clay, I am not limited by this medium. I love it all... painting, stitching, drawing, collage, assemblage, print-making... Why choose? Do I have to? This blog is a journal of my thoughts and feelings about my struggle to discover my marks that I use to express myself. I have not yet decided whether I wish to specialise in a particular art form yet, but I do know that I am intrigued by the many ways in which individuals express themselves through their mark-making. These range from what appears to be simple organic marks to more intricate and sophisticated.

We are creative beings, whether we care to acknowledge this or not, and I want to know where I fit in this creative, imaginative and inspiring global village we call Earth. What marks will I leave behind? Will they be permanent or will these wash away in the mud, like they did many years ago.

You are welcome to join me on this journey. I have no idea where I am going... no idea of the beginning, or the end... But, it is something I must do, and I will, no matter how muddled I feel, no matter how much sense it makes, or does not make. The important thing is to start somewhere... So I start here, on the web, in public view, but privately too, for mark-making is personal... meaningful to the maker, possibly to no other. No matter though, because I care to share like many before me and many beyond...

My goal is to post anything that is interesting to me; engaging, thought-provoking, that inspires me; that compels me to want to make art. I will try to unpack their meaning for me, to understand myself better, to discover my voice and my visual language for expression in whatever artforms I choose. This blog is a personal journal that I hope will help to make me more accountable to myself to develop my arts practice. I’ve procrastinated for so long now, using every excuse I can muster, but time is marching on, whether I choose it to or not, and I am here, later in my life, years down the track of choosing this art path. So now, I must begin and begin I must, so welcome again.