Inspiration is everywhere; it shows itself in color, in shape, in theme and subject and is as close as what surrounds us and as free as our imagination. I feel that what eventually inspired me to paint came from years of observation. The only difference between then and now is that I observe more carefully, more closely and much more often. There’s so much that can influence what we come to enjoy in painting.
It can be the appreciation of a particular artist, or the desire to turn a photograph into a painting. Children’s books or holiday accents can bring out the whimsical side of art and shapes and textures can push imagination even farther.
Even non-painters find themselves inspired by art through home décor, landscaping or even when buying a product. Recently the color green has attracted a lot of attention for those who are dedicated to the environment. Did you know that shape and color of a cosmetic product is given as much attention as to the product itself. Style sells. Color sells.
When painting a room, often much thought is given to color. Will it be subtle and relaxing or vibrant and exciting? Consideration is given to furniture and accents so that they all work together in a particular scheme, even eclectic is a decorating theme. My mother-in-law, who was not a fashion maven, once told me that every room should have a touch of red in it, even if it’s very small. I was watching “Fairly Legal” the other night and noticed the conference room table had a long narrow tray of red apples displayed. My first thought was “that’s so simple and a very appealing accent”. My second thought was “apparently someone was inspired by the same decorative advice as my mother-in-law.”
When grocery shopping, have you ever found yourself identifying the product by the packaging rather than the brand name; the bright yellow box of a Cherrios Honey Nut cereal with the little bee, for example. I remember the little Dutch bonnet girl on Dutch cleanser and the artwork of Frances Hook on the Northern toilet issue wrapper. Today it’s the Charmin bears. I still choose my Kleenex or Puffs tissues for color and design. Last year Kleenex had beautiful metallic vintage scenes on their holiday product along with a change in box shape to an oval….I couldn’t resist buying one. Artists and illustrators can inspire our choices, and often we are not even aware of it.
As a huge fan of TCM, I often paint while the movies play. I’ve seen some so often that I no longer need to concentrate on the plot. But the art graphics at the beginning almost always get my attention, and most often they are in black and white which make them even more striking. I especially am intrigued by the cityscapes and someday may actually try to paint one. Some movies continue to capture my imagination long after, like the cottage in “Random Harvest” with the flowering apple tree out front by the picket gate near the little stone bridge.
More often than not, when I do go to a movie, while trying to keep up with the plot, I find myself studying the scene for even the little things. If someone is pouring tea, I’m looking at the color and style of the teapot and the cups. If there’s a scene in a room, I’m more interested in what’s in the room than the people in it.
When I was talking to my daughter, who loves to browse the antiques stores, I asked her if she’d noticed the dishes on “I Love Lucy”. She said “you mean the ivy Franciscan ware. Those are difficult to find.” And after she proceeded to tell me how there’s a difference in the originals and the newer ones, she went on to say, “Did you notice the Pyrex set of mixing bowls?” Yes, I did, along with the wooden rooster canister set.
Through the years of the sitcom, it was interesting to see how the accents in art décor changed on the shows. Sometimes the style of the day can effect what we choose to paint at the time.
When looking for a special greeting card, have you ever found yourself picking up others just to admire the artwork? I can browse a card aisle for half an hour if I’m not in a hurry. The art is amazing, from basically simple designs using color or shape to detailed work of scenery or still life. And, of course, there’s the whimsy that can melt your heart, sweet kittens or bluebirds or the happy faces of little ones. Some are so comical they can make you laugh out loud. It’s not only cards; it can be wrapping paper, too, especially at Christmas time. I usually choose a roll of adorable snowmen or Santa’s for whimsy, poinsettias or landscapes for elegance, scenes of the Nativity for the meaning of Christmas and occasionally a metallic or plain roll simply for the color.
We can be inspired just looking out our windows or sitting on the porch. All it takes is the time to really look at things. What color is that tree bark? How many shades of green in a leafy tree? Are the feathers of all sparrows the same? Looking up, compare the color of the sky for a week and at different times of day to see how it affects the space around you. Today, it’s cloudy so shadows are extremely vague. There are no clouds, but the sky looks like there are other shades of grey within.
Water is intriguing. When it’s calm it has a mirror reflection of everything around; if there’s a current, it picks up other colors but is more impressionistic. If it’s turbulent, the painting application or technique will reveal a strong motion. No matter how grand or how simple, observation is a great teacher. It’s an invaluable asset to painters to really see the things that are around us and always worth the time.
To observe is to be inspired. And you can take your inspiration from so many sources and so many places. To a suggest a few, books, magazines, flyers and ads, seed packets and garden catalogs, newspapers, photographs, sketches, posters and paintings, and most important….from the world that surrounds you.
When you photograph, take a picture from different angles and at different times of the day or season. Painting from your photos allows you to be the architect of your painting by adding to or taking from the design as well as rearranging the placement. You can also add as many details as you see fit to create more interest for the viewer. Or you can enlarge and paint a close up to encourage the study of an object.
One thing is for sure, there is no end to the possibilities.