Friday, June 15, 2007


Where do you find your inspiration? How do you know where your artistic voice comes from? When you are starting to get serious about your creative work, this can be the most difficult thing to figure out. I don't think there is an absolute answer. As we grow, and change, and get exposed to more things in our lives, our voice will change and evolve. It is like looking back at a high school yearbook and seeing how styles and fashions changed. At the time, it worked. But now, it feels out of place and uncomfortable.

One of my favorite tools to try and explore this terrain is journaling. Spending time just writing. Noticing. When I was writing my artist pages (The Artist's Way) each morning, I would often start out noticing the color of the sky. And as my writing drifted here and there, I would notice the sky changing as the early morning light changed. It was a little thing, but for someone who loves color, I could get lost in studying the sky some mornings. Trying to write down what it looked like made me really study it carefully.

As I walk through my yard these days, my eyes are drawn here and there. Noticing all the changes happening faster than I can absorb them. I am particularly drawn to the colors. Noticing combinations of colors, or subtlties of hues. The forms and scents are beautiful, but what draws me the most is the color. One of my favorite shrubs/plants are two hydrangea plants I bought five years ago on Cape Cod. They start out this soft, icy shade of green. Then the petals start to turn blue and violet. But it is as if done in a watercolor painting. I love watching the transistion. The blues get more vivid and the violets start to deepen. By the end of summer they are a sage green and burgundy. It is like watching a magic show in slow motion for me.

So how can you figure out what it is that sings to you? I love doing collage to explore this area. Get a stack of magazines. All sorts. But with plenty of pictures. Then go through the magazines. Turn the pages and scan. If anything draws your attention just a bit more than the rest, tear that page out. If you find your turn the page and then want to go back to see the previous page again, listen to that. Tear that page out. Something pulled you back. You don't want to overthink this. You just want to look, and listen. Listen from your heart and your gut. Your head needs to be as quiet as possible.

Once you have a pile of pictures, try and sort them in some way. See if there are certain trends that are happening. Are there colors, patterns, or images that you see again and again in the torn pages? Or is it words or text? Don't judge, just notice.

Then you can create a journal for yourself with your images. Get one of those simple composition notebooks. The kind with the lined paper, and the black and white blotchy design on the covers. Start covering the front and back covers with your images. A glue stick will work fine. You can continue the collage into the inside covers of the notebook. After you have it covered, get some clear packing tape, and tape over the collage to protect it. Now you have a place to write down some of your thoughts and ideas. Tape pictures of things that inspire you. Draw doodles. Each time you use it, you will see those images that caught your eye over and over again. And it may seep into you in a way that will not even be perceptible right away. But it may work it's way in through your eyes, and back out again through your hands.

We all have things that draw us more than others. But with all the noise in our lives, and all the distractions, we sometimes need to amplify that inner voice. Quiet the external, and listen and focus more closely to what we respond to. And when we start to find it, trust it. Don't start judging it. It is what it is. No matter what the more you trust it and nuture it, the louder and stronger it will become.

Have fun! And be sure to use that beautiful journal when you are done. Here are some pictures of two journals I made some time back.


Inside covers


artandtea said...

Hi Judy, I love your new work. It's so colorful and organic! Thanks for sharing inspiration to get in touch with our inner voice. Sounds like fun playing to me! -Karen

Anonymous said...

What great ideas for finding inspiration!

Judy said...

Hi Tea Ladies! Thanks for both of your comments. It is lots of fun to do these. You do not need to make a journal. It could be just a 2-d collage, but I like the idea of something that you can use and see over and over again. Send some pictures and I can share them here if you'd like.

Kathi said...

Wow, sometimes it is hard to pinpoint where and what I find my inspiration in. Since I do a lot of canes, specifically PNW and SW indian design, I find myself surfing sites online looking for that one design that will kick start me. I grew up in the Seattle area so I was always surrounded by that art. When I move away from caning and create pieces, I sort of just shut off the "loud" part of my brain and let my inner quiet part do it's thing. Sometimes I start with an idea and then when it is completed it is totally different then what I envisioned. I guess one could say the whole world inspires me, be it my animals, mother nature, or the skyline of a city. Clear as mud eh?

Judy said...

Kathi, I think you've got it! It is not crystal clear, but it is inside us, isn't it? And things we experience throughout our lives influence our work. I could see how the geometry of a skyline actually has something in common with PNW and SW indian design. And I agree that sometimes a piece will go in a new and unexpected direction. I personally love that part of the creative process.
Thanks for the comment.

loretta said...

Hey Jude-
the collaging thing is a great "freeing" thing isn't it? I use collage in my color workshops to get people to respond emotionally to color. I find it particularly helpful to break through the barriers/rules that we all carry around with us.
And it is always my starting point. Whether I find a picture with color harmonies that send me or dream of them at night - I always start with color relationships. If I get that part right, form and function line up like good children!

Judy said...

Thanks for your insights as a teacher Loretta. I do think making a collage can be a great window to find out what makes us tick. And the creative process really is about being freer, isn't it?