What Inspires Me

I recently visited Sheila’s blog DelineationDotOrg and left a message for a post she’d written about her Crisis in Art. I could relate to much of what she was talking about and left a message of my own. The next day she sent me the following email: You and I need to have a long talk… Especially about those lovely reliquaries. I’ve been wanting to make one, but I haven’t a CLUE where to start. ~Sheila

I’ve been thinking long and hard about what advice I could give her about “where to start.” Maybe she wants to know the mechanics, the “how-to” behind making the reliquaries. Or maybe she just wants a kick in the butt. I don’t know Sheila at all except that she makes some very cool collages that she posts on her blog. But it got me thinking about my own process of beginning a piece of art, and that seemed like something worth writing about.

There are a lot of things that inspire me to create the art I do. The idea behind my Reliquaries was inspired by a magazine I picked up in the doctor’s office where I found photographs of a home filled with antiques and gorgeous calendar reliquaries hanging on the walls. They were like small architectural gems. I love the beauty of architecture in art, so it got me wanting to create my own.

Sometimes I’m inspired by the smallest things: my second son’s baby teeth, a lock of my oldest son’s blonde, blonde hair (which he now dyes jet black, shaves, and mowhaks for special occasions), or a fishing lure. My most recent altered book was inspired by a baby doll that I found lying in the gutter a couple of years ago. That doll had been sitting on my cluttered bookshelf, just waiting to be enshrined. It was the idea of children soldiers that finally got me moving.

Other times I’m inspired by a piece of beautiful paper. In one of my favorite stores, I happened to come across some incredible paper that I’d never seen anywhere else. So I bought it in several different styles and colors and once I started working with it, I didn’t stop until I’d used every piece. When I went back to the store six months later, it was gone.

I have been inspired by a shade of paint that I bought– Golden’s Quinacridone Gold– and used it in a series of collages I did called Mixed Media Collage :: Woman’s Ideal of Man.

I’ve found inspiration from old postcards, photographs, holy cards, and pictures in books.

And of course, my number one source of inspiration is the book itself, particulary book titles, chapter headings, and text. I wouldn’t have created the same set of collages with the Quinacridone Gold paint if the book chapter I opened to had been something other that “Woman’s Ideal of Man.” The title, the paint, they both swam in my mind and caused me to move in the direction I did with those collages. So much of it is just kismet– opening a certain page in a book, finding the paper with vintage clown images for Clown Art Reliquary :: Angel’s Bone and then the bone, and then the clown pin, and then the red fringe. What makes something fall together that way? It’s luck, fate, magic, fun work, an obsession for collecting– all these things inspire me.

So . . . decide on the medium- canvas, watercolor paper, board book, regular hardcover book, board, bottle . . . Or . . .find that special thing that lights a spark of an idea inside . . . a feather, a photo, a crushed can, a piece of bone . . . Or . . . find a color of paint that matches your mood or sends a little shiver of optimism through you.

Or . . . Don’t wait. Don’t think. Just plunge in and go! Who cares how it ends up? If it’s crap, toss it or hide it, or give it to your best friend who’ll love it because she/he loves you. Then go on to the next piece, and make it a little better. Just keep going, because in twelve months if you don’t create something, you’ll still be a year older.

3 thoughts on “What Inspires Me

  1. What inspires me? It used to be so easy. We’ve met! I was in that altered book group with you and Rae and the others! I moved to Florida two years ago and have been having a hard time finding my inspiration again!! Art is coming back into my life again, slowly, painfully, not fast enough and not with the same intensity. I want it back again! I want to be inspired every day by everything around me…the way it was in California! It helps to look at art on the web and connect, even virtually with other artists.

    I love your blogs. I loved the one about your cat. It reminded me of the deep feelings I had when I lost my sweetheart of 17 years. I have never said, it’s just a cat!! It never was! Good to connect with you again, Karen.

  2. karen, this is so funny..i just sent you an eamail thanking you for the art, calender and card and laminted about my process, and the fear or whatever of completing what i start..then i went to you blog and lo and behold..look what i ended up reading (what a riot!!)..i should have read this first:-))..it is amazing how we get what we need when we are ready:-)

  3. I love your work.

    My question is, how do you just get started. I don’t mean the mechanics, I mean how do you just do it?

    My husband and I bought a home three years ago and I have done very little creatively since then b/c I don’t have the space. I know that may sound like a huge copout, and I suppose it is…but nevertheless it stops me in my tracks.

    Where do you “do” your work?

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