Square Crowd David Kapp 2010 oil on linen 50"x60"

This evening I drove out to the Vermont Studio Center to see an artist talk by David Kapp.  He’s a New York painter who’s work I’ve found interesting due to his ability to walk between representation and abstraction (although it probably weighs in on the side of representation).  On the drive there I was listening to the Radiolab episode, Help!. In the section of the episode called Me, Myself, and Muse, they were exploring some ideas of where inspiration might come from. In an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, she talks about the idea of inspiration or creative ideas as something outside of the self that comes to you as a gift. Almost as if it were an invisible entity all of it’s own that comes to you as an offering. like this idea because it releases the artist of the burden of trying to make something great, but I’m not sure how much I believe it.  David Kapp, during his talk, also asked the rhetorical question of whether inspiration came from inside or outside the self.  He didn’t have a direct answer to this, but his inkling seemed to be that it came out of working, which I think I’d have to agree with.  Not too long ago I was talking with an acquaintance, and during our short conversation, the person asked, due to a comment I had made, if I hadn’t felt inspired lately.  I actually felt confused when asked this, and didn’t know how to respond.  Later that day I wrote in my sketch book “work comes out of inspiration – inspiration comes out of work.”  It’s almost like work and inspiration are the same thing.  More and more I’ve come to believe this, and the nights when I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to go to the studio, I make myself go.  It’s become something I do without question, and usually I feel good about it after I get there.  I do need breaks from the studio too; it’s important to refresh.  I think that’s what Elizabeth Gilbert is talking about when she says when she thinks of inspiration as outside of herself.  In putting it outside of yourself it allows you to separate yourself from something you’ve made important so that you can look at it in another light and readjust your attention.  The method of working consistently can allow for this to happen, but knowing when to take a break seems to be vital as well.

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3 Responses to Inspiration

  1. heather says:

    an exercise!: contrast your thoughts on inspiration with Collingwood’s on expression:
    “Until a man has expressed his emotion, he does not yet know what emotion it is. The act of expressing it is therefore an exploration of his own emotions. He is trying to find out what these emotions are. There is certainly here a directed process: an effort, that is, directed upon a certain end; but the end is not something foreseen and preconceived, to which appropriate means can be thought out in the light of our knowledge of its special character. Expression is an activity of which there can be no technique”.
    The obvious parallel is that these both develop from working, and can’t just be intended and then executed. But in another way, INspiration and EXpression are opposite movements; one is something seemely ‘received’, the other one ‘given’. what do you make of the connection, austin?

  2. Austin says:

    Hmmm, interesting. I question Collingwood’s idea of expression – I don’t know if expression is solely tied to emotion – it seems like an idea could be expressed as well, maybe? As humans we can probably never detach ourselves entirely from some kind of emotion. Overall I think I agree with what he’s saying though- that the exploration or process can bring you to something all of it’s own, which a lot of the time is unexpected, and whatever it is, can’t be planned. It’s like riding a wave maybe, you have to feel it out as you go, which relates to your after thought about the ‘breath’ of ‘inspiration’. Although the ‘breath’ seems like it could also be influenced by commitment and determination – but again, we get to this idea that continuing to work allows for expression and inspiration. It’s really interesting how although seemingly opposite movements, inspiration and expression have similar properties and seem to be feeding each other and creating their opposite. Seems like a huge cycle, off shooting billions of pieces. Visually it starts to get me thinking about fractals.

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