The American painter Chuck Close, said, ‘inspiration is for amateurs’.
Famously, he’s never had artist’s block, because he simply trusts in the creative process. His advice for artists is to show up and start, and see where the process leads you.
We should draw comfort from this, we don’t need to feel inspired, or be in the mood to create. Art making is not a sacred activity, in fact every mark we make is a departure point, and every face, object, thought, or dream is ripe subject matter.
For example, right now, I’m not feeling particularly moved, but I’m writing anyway in the tiny pea-green kitchen of my clapped-out caravan. The chip-board table has a crook leg and it’s limping on every word. The valley is shrill with cicadas feeding off their own drama, and as if on cue, the westerly sounds along the ridge and a spotted gum drops its crown to the forest floor with a great crack like polar ice breaking. Yet I feel strangely cocooned in here, like a passenger in John Brack’s car. The van windows have sliced the yellowing hillsides into safe cigar-box paintings and stuck them to the ply as if they’re prints from the Heidelberg School. The western sky is rolling darkly on itself, teasing. Summer has arrived, and there’s just enough water in the spring to flush the dunny one more time…
There’s enough material right here on either side of these fraying insect screens for something…I’m not sure what, but I agree with Chuck Close, we don’t need to summon the muse before we start making, and we don’t need to travel far to find our subjects. Like Miro’s line going for a walk, pick up your pencil, tap your keys, and see where it takes you.
However, like the spring on our property, an artist’s reserves can run dry. I find the words of Australian artist and author, Shaun Tan, encouraging on this. And while he doesn’t like to use the word inspiration particularly, he does suggest that we must live a life that’s open to inspiration and experiences in order to create.
In his book ‘The Bird King : An Artist’s Notebook’, Tan talks about the cultivation of creativity like a gardener. He sees the artist as a tree that must draw from a rich compost of experience ‘- things seen, read, told, and dreamt – in order to grow leaves, flowers, and fruit. Art, following the laws of horticulture, can only make something out of something else; artists do not create, so much as transform…’
Tan says, ‘artists need to work hard to make sure their creative soil is well tilled and fertilised. They need to look outward and actively accumulate a swag of influences to bring along with them when taking that line for a walk…’
This has been my year of travel. I don’t say that to brag, I’m not well travelled by any stretch, but transformative experiences happened, and new opportunities came about because I left the safety of what I already knew. The potters I met this year in the poorest neighbourhoods in India, over a wedging table in Bali, and in the villages and vibrant cities of China, all revealed to me new ways of seeing, and those experiences are informing my work in the most wonderful and surprising ways.
We don’t need to wait for inspiration. Inspiration is calling us to come and play, it’s courting us constantly. We just need to say, yes.
In her ‘Conversations‘, American poet Maya Angelou says, ‘Life loves the liver of it. You must live, and life will be good to you, and give you experiences.’
BOOM! I love that. You’ll sure as hell eat some shit sandwiches along the way, heck, you’ll even make some for yourself, but Angelou is spot on. ‘Life loves the liver of it.’ Amen, sister!
Next year, I’m pushing out into the deep, and I want you to join me.
Call me an amateur, but I hope you’ll step outside the caravan with me and fill your spring.
It’s gonna be inspiring, it’s gonna be transformative, it’s gonna involve passports, it’s gonna be JUST FOR WOMEN, and if anything potters – like a Summer storm – it’s gonna be BIG!
Stay tuned, or sign up to the newsletter here and be the first to hear all the juicy details.
xClaire aka Pinky & Maurice