This was a hard one.
Somehow, somewhere I got fixed on the idea that I should write about inspiration. Something in my brain made me adamant that I have to write about one of the vaguest and most abstract emotions/force in the creative stratosphere. This was a tough one because when I started to question myself about the topic, I started to wonder what do I really know about inspiration anyways? I already had a hard time defining it for myself, so I was bound for a rocky ride. But hey, since my brain had already made its mind – I might as well try.
I think the first time I started to think this subject was couple of months ago, when I was e-mail interviewed by a student, and she brought up the subject of where I got my inspiration. It wasn’t the first time I was asked this, nor will be the last. To be honest, it’s kind of safe question with no real depth behind it since it simplifies the whole creative process, but I played along – not wanting to upset the student – and I listed a few authors, some artists, and history, and nature, and so on until the list was a just big collection of random names and events, and left me feeling very uninspired by it.
Not because the artists or creators were uninspiring, but because I felt like I left something unsaid. But the student was happy to get his homework done, I got my five minutes of meaningless glory, and so life went on.
But I couldn’t leave the matter alone.
Since then, I’ve tried to analyze and think harder what inspiration really is, and I’ve come to a few conclusions that I’ll try to share with you. Bare with me if it’s hard to follow, for I’m still figuring out things for myself.
1. Inspiration is potential.
We all have these sparks of inspiration when we feel “Oh I could do this!” or “I want to start doing that!”. This trusting feeling that made you feel like you just found a meaning to life’s existence, your true calling. You get it when you see amazing youtube-drawing tutorials from beginning to end, you get it when you read about how to become an artist in a few easy steps, or when your friends tell you how they quit their jobs to follow their own lifelong dreams.
Inspiration is the feeling I get when I can see a clear goal broken down into tangible tasks that are easy to follow and fun to perform. That’s why it’s very easy for us creative types to blurb out names of other artists when asked about it; those artists symbolize something that we understand mechanically. I can break down a painting and recreate its essential points and compositions, just as I can do the sam with stories, and when I answer with just a name as my inspiration – it probably means that I have interest to someday, somewhere make something similar.
2. Inspiration needs action.
But that’s the thing about inspiration, if you don’t do anything about, it’ll just go to waste. Ideas are cheap, goes the saying. We can all come up with great, fabulous ideas for worlds and stories, but without the stamina and the mindset to sit down and perform, no one will ever hear about them. It’s easy to get the thrill of inspiration and talk to your friends about it, but then fall back down as you start to feel the pressure. I’ve seen it happen many times to good people, who lose their willpower after the momentum is gone, so make sure that once you’re hit with your lightning, don’t stop running until you have something to show for it.
When young artists ask me how many hours they have to paint per week to become a concept artist, I say at least twenty-five for four years. Some are terrified by this amount of work they have to do. But to be honest, it’s not too bad, just three-and-half hours a day. If you’re patient and smart, you’ll get there. But, imagine how good you’d be if you worked eighty hours a week. Just imagine.
For anyone wondering, during my student days, I painted something like thirty-to-forty hours a week. I always preferred to work smart, rather than excessively hard, and always towards to a balanced portfolio. My routine was to paint one really big painting per week, and then take few days off, and then start all over again.
Now, that I’m also studying writing besides my full-time concept art work, I wonder if I’m putting enough hours behind it. It’s my personal struggle that I try to balance with healthy eating, sleeping, and absolute lack of social life, and while I’m not working on it as hard as I used to work on concept art during my student years,. But I’m at least three times smarter now, and hopefully that counts for something.
3. Inspiration inspires.
Best part about inspiration, be it small or big, is completing it. Getting it done and gaining confidence, for when that next strike of inspiration comes, it’s so much easier to avoid getting depressed when you realize how much work it will require from you.
I advice you start with small tangible tasks and pump yourself full of endorphin and happy memories of one successful project after another, for when you start that big one, it’s a lot less daunting.
Now go do some work!
Special thanks to Kaija for the baby-photos. They were inspiring.
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