Finding inspiration isn’t a problem for me. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. I am compelled to create things and I am never lacking for ideas. Sometimes it is difficult to actually finish something because I always have a better idea in the middle of what I am doing. My mom will attest to this. She tells stories of elaborate schemes presented to her in order to get her to take my sister and I to the local hobby store. No one was bored at my house.
There’s an expectation, or perhaps a social media inspired trend, that I am feeling right now that when you are an artist that you do a lot to find inspiration. You create a mood board or a journal or you collect things that inspire you. You put things in your space to provide inspiration. In fact, you have a specific inspiring space where you do your work. And you post photos of your inspiring space to help inspire others. And you pin photos of other people’s inspiring spaces.
Abby, a blogger who I follow, just posted something the other day about a comment left on a photo she posted of her laptop at the kitchen table:
This question really struck me. I started to wonder what people might be imagining it looks like here at my house when I’m writing or sewing or podcasting or working on my business. Do they think it looks somehow different than this? Sexier than my kitchen table? And if they do, why?
What makes us want to imagine artists in beautiful light-filled loft studios surrounded by a rainbow of paint tubes where even the drop cloth is color-filled and brilliant? Or writers sitting in bustling coffee shops sipping espresso and effortlessly dashing off inspired tomes?
In fact, this has been somewhat of a recurring theme for me lately. In an art group I belong to, we had a discussion about journaling. One of the artists is in a mentoring program that does not require, but strongly recommends, that you keep a journal of your experience. She wasn’t sure where to start or how she could do it without it becoming something she felt obligated to do, rather than inspired by. Another group meeting recently had an activity where we were each asked to bring our sketchbooks and talk about our process. A friend stopped me at an art show and was disappointed when I said I didn’t have a studio that I work in. (I get asked this a lot)
I actually find all of those things the opposite of inspiring. I don’t like to have other people’s work in my space. I have art all over my house, but nothing specifically there to “be inspiring”, just things that I love. I don’t want to have a photo clipped from a magazine that I can copy. I don’t keep a sketchbook or a journal. In fact it was very awkward for me at this meeting with the sketchbook activity – I felt as though I had to defend myself for not having one. I keep a notebook of notes, but it’s all math and technical notes. I write down RGB and hex codes for colors. I write out the math for determining how much ease and the size of the facing on my wrap skirt. It’s practical and it’s information I know I might need again. I also keep meeting notes in there and stuff I write down while on phone calls. It’s not very inspiring. I like working in my house and being able to scratch my dogs and go make tea or a piece of toast when I feel like it. Sometimes I work in my sewing room, but it’s small and so sometimes I spread out all over the dining room table. There’s a card table set up in the dining room right now too because I am working on a big project and I feel like I need the space. Sometimes I spend the whole day at the computer, which is on a big messy desk cluttered with coffee mugs, earrings and camera equipment. And I am not talking business chores on the computer, it’s a part of my art process and one that I love. But not exactly inspiring either (at least to anyone else.) Believe me, erasing pixels is exactly as exciting as watching paint dry.
I think about the artists who I know and love and none of them have Pinteresty workspaces or processes. My friend Donna works with buckets of frozen rhubarb leaves and stews made from a whole lot of other things that most people would compost. There is nothing romantic or pretty about that. (I imagine some of them smell bad, too.) Another friend’s studio is a mish-mash of storage space, staging area and place to make a mess. She doesn’t want the mess at her house, so the studio is the place to make the mess and it invites you to do it. I work in the dining room or at the kitchen table or on the back porch or sometimes all in my head. I may or may not be wearing a matched pair of socks while I do it.
Do I burst your bubble by admitting this? Are you sad that I don’t have a secret artistic sketchbook to show you? Do you want me to have a studio and a pretty Pinterest-worthy wall? (I am curious now.) Do you have a sketchbook of inspiration? Does it work for you? Or do you do it because that’s what artists do?