Where does the art come from?

An artist friend of mine recently asked me where I get my art ideas from. And I’m not sure if I have a good answer. As I’ve become a more confident and consistent artist and illustrator, I’ve learned how to take a prompt or concept and explore it methodically. I gather related imagery from my visual library. I take these ideas and experiment with process or composition. I create a foundation for a piece, and then let the rest happen. Trusting my experience and the art.

Sometimes, I find myself looking at my past art like someone else created it. It can seem like the moment I finish a piece, whatever inspiration that gave it life blows out. This is can be nice because it really allows me to marvel at my own work. Although it also means I can feel quite disconnected from it.   

How I feel while I’m creating the work is a different story. I’m making tons of micro decisions and judgments about where I want a piece to go, or about where it’s going. When I’m really excited about a piece, I find myself not really thinking at all. Usually halfway through though, I have a panicked thought. Oh no, this sucks. I’m going to fail. What was I thinking? It’s really discouraging and never very useful. I’ve learned to push through it, even if it’s painful, and I find the piece usually works itself out anyway.

This doesn’t always work though, and sometimes I’ll go days, weeks, or months without being able to make something. This was especially true when I was going to school or when I first moved to the Bay and started my job. I wasn’t overly busy, I just wasn’t very happy. And while art makes me happy, it also requires happiness and energy for me to make. Oftentimes to get out of these slumps, I’ll draw a small circle and try to fill it, or scribble on a page and make a cartoon out of the forms created by the lines. Something short and small to get me going.

There are also times that I don’t know where the inspiration comes from at all. I’ll just have an idea that consumes me. Often, it’s not my typical style, or even visual art for that matter. Sometimes I’ll write poetry, or make a small film. I’ll be sitting outside or it’ll be late at night and I’ll hear words or see an image. Practically incoherent mumblings that become clearer as I tune in. I feel self conscious and pretentious even writing about it. It’s not like they’re always very deep either, and certainly not very ‘good’. I certainly don’t have a trained eye for poetry for example.

I guess the answer to where I get my art ideas from relates to my beliefs about my art practice as a whole. Patience, perseverance, and trust. Being gentle with my ebbs and flows, pushing through when I get down on myself, and just trusting the work.

If you’ll indulge me, I’ll leave you with a poem/song that I wrote after I was woken up by a recent small earthquake we had here. It’s about the primordial soup.

I’m just a tiny tube
Floating in the ocean          
Eating other tiny tubes

I don’t have many dreams
Deep down in the ocean
Or much of a notion
Of what a dream might be

Maybe it’d be nice                                          
To settle down with another tube
Make another tiny tube
Or merely to hold close

But me, I’m just,
one little tiny tube
Dreaming of a different world
Waiting to feel

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