November 18, 2011
Where do artists get the ideas for their works of art? When I look at a large abstract of wild splashes of paint or one with lines and geometric figures, I wonder. Such images never enter my mind.
My paintings begin in different ways. When I go outdoor to paint with other artists, someone else may decide where we are going. And when we get there I may not be thrilled with the possibilities. But I look for the best of not very good choices and sit down to paint. (Yes, I know. Some say I should stand up but I am more comfortable sitting down.)
Other times I look at the title of an upcoming gallery show and decide I want to enter. So after looking through my paintings to see what I have that might fit, I also look through my stash of photos to see what might inspire a painting to go with that title.
But the inspiration for the very best paintings feels like a gift. It happens when I all at once I come upon a scene that I know I must paint. Often that involves taking photos. I remember one time when I was in a car with several others on a road in the Colorado Rockies. Suddenly spread out beside the road was a huge blanket of pink flowers with some evergreens in the background. “Stop the car!” I cried. The driver complied and I jumped out of the car and began taking photos. Later at home those photos became the inspiration for a beautiful painting that now hangs in a daughter’s home.
Last month a similar thing happened. Husband and I after a long drive had finally almost reached his brother’s farm. The farm nestles in a valley among the hills the surround the Mississippi on the Iowa side. It was late afternoon with the sun spotlighting one side of the valley with trees in glowing colors where a little stream ran right across the road. I should have cried, “Stop the car!” right then because I knew that here was a scene I had to paint. But I was tired and we were very near the farm so I figured I could come back another day.
Lucky for me there was a another day with sunshine in late afternoon and I walked back to that spot even standing in the shallow creek to get the photos I wanted. I took so long that husband said he was about ready to come looking for me. But going back to that memorable scene was worth it. Several photos were so good it was hard to choose which one to paint first. I’ve finished one painting which I called “Iowa Creek.” (My inspiration does not seem to extend to titles.) I’ve posted it on the Rural Midwest page. This week I made a good start on another painting from those photos. Wherever the gift of inspiration comes from, I’m thankful for it.