Stealing, or How I Rediscovered My Inspiration

The one thing that I learned when I went on my trip to the Navajo Reservation in May was what was important to me and why it was important. For me, my art is important, and now that it’s my (pretty much) ONLY focus in my spare time at college, I find myself being happier and finding artistic inspiration and working wherever I go.

For instance, I found inspiration at a gallery showing in the Fine Art Building on my college campus.


The exhibition was called “FOCUS” (if memory serves me correctly) and was a showcase of award-winning high school student art from the Northwest Ohio area. I’m sure many of these students got scholarships, and if they didn’t, they should have.

Yes, there were a few works that I felt didn’t meet my standard of “awesome art!” However, I did find works that constantly made me say,

“Why didn’t I think of that?!”

This book (besides being fun to flip through) was just one example of what I’m talking about.

And you know something? For an artist, that’s healthy.

It means you’ve just been inspired.

At least, that’s what I believe.

In my opinion, if you see an artwork and think or say to yourself, “That’s cute/cool/meh/fun/interesting,” but don’t think of much of anything else, then sure it’s visually pleasing. However, it’s just eye candy: something for you to look at that doesn’t get your juices flowing.

In other words, it’s not artistic inspiration.

However, if you find yourself looking at something you genuinely like for whatever reason, and then say to yourself, “Seriously, why didn’t I think of that?!”….that’s inspiration.

The reason it’s inspiration (in my line of thinking) is because it’s in a medium that you appreciate and they’re playing with either a principle, a technique, a material, or a subject matter that you yourself thought of doing, but never got to do. Now that you’ve seen someone actually do it, you know that it’s not only possible…but it looks great to boot.

I had actually thought of a technique like this, but didn’t know how it would play out. Now that I do….

So what do you do once you see these new artistic inspirations in play?

Do what an artist does: STEAL THEM.

This is not functional whatsoever, but I WANT.

Does this mean you steal the artwork itself? No. That’s RASL‘s job. Your job, as the artist, is to think about the principle/technique/subject matter/material/blahwhatever that inspired you in the piece, and take that thing that inspired you. Then play with it, and place it in your work.

These owls have inspired me to be more whimsical yet delightfully detailed in my art.

Should you feel guilty about this? No.

People play with ideas all the time. It’s perfectly ok.

If you want further proof that it’s all right for an artist to steal, go read this entry by Austin Kleon on the subject. Not only does he find a way to justify it in a more articulate way than I could, but he gives you WAYS TO DO IT.

Now what inspires you varies from artist to artist. For me, personally, I’m inspired by a few things:

  • Whimsy
  • Fine details
  • playing with the form/presentation of the piece
  • playing with the shapes/colors of the subject matter
  • bold, passionate colors
  • a straightforward, yet thought-provoking, message

The image above is inspiring to me because it’s straightforward (it’s an advertisement for a high school play) but it’s thought provoking: Why are the figures portrayed like that? Is it in stark black and white because the play talks about shadows versus light? I could, of course, answer these questions, but asking them is the fun part, and making up the answers even when you don’t know them is even more so.

This teapot inspired me to play with form: Not all teapots need to be perfectly round.
This inspires me not just because this looks like my friend Tori, but because it uses blacks and reds boldly.
I just thought this piece was too cool. It’s a box, with a clock face on the top. It actually runs!
This presentation had a very poignant message: it addressed the issue of human trafficking in Toledo, and how many of the victims are little girls. It’s a straightforward message, but it’s also thought-provoking.

 So did this post inspire you? What kinds of art/techniques/etc are you inspired by? Let me know in the comments!


Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.

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