I am an easily excitable person; passionate is an understatement. An easier question would be where do I not find inspiration. Still, sometimes you'd be surprised when inspiration strikes.
1 - Simply Doing.
Any experienced artist will tell you that you cannot wait around for inspiration to come to you. You will rarely create anything at all if you take that approach. You have to work through ideas by simply putting paint to canvas/pen to paper/mouse to computer. You get it.
What are you to supposed to do at that point?
There is no better way to cure a case of artistic staleness than to go back to the basics. Maybe that means busting out the charcoal and drawing the objects sitting on your coffee table. Sure, it may not have deep philosophical meaning, but how can you expect to do justice to deeper subjects in the future without first mastering the fundamental elements of design such as composition, hue and value?
2 - My Studies.
Although way over my head at times, my astronomy class really makes me take a look outside my typical field of view. The same goes for my Christian Doctrine class and my Art History class and my Economics class. I was thrilled to find hear the word "chromatic aberration" in Astronomy one day when we were talking about telescopes. In photography this phenomenon causes bright colors to appear as outlines around objects in photos. I had known for years how to fix this in Lightroom, but I never knew WHY it happened aside from using cheap lenses. The point is this: a better understanding of your craft may come from a field you thought you cared nothing about.
3 - Current Events and Issues You Care About.
Some of my most thought-provoking, emotional pieces are stirred up because of the events that surround my generation. All I have to do is browse the news for a bit and I feel compelled to create a more symbolic narrative. Make art about what moves you, but this art has to be taken very seriously. Before I take on a serious subject I like to really think long and hard about what it is that I want to say. You have an opportunity to comment on and engage some pretty meaty topics, unique to your environment and to your perspective. Ask yourself, 'can I do justice to this subject?' And 'Am I cheating it of its complexities?'
This is obviously very dependent on the topic at hand. These issues are pretty case-by-case. Maybe I should write an entirely different entry on artistic ethical/social/political messages. Just thinking out loud.
4 - Humans.
It is without a doubt that people are some of the hardest and most interesting subjects to paint. Learning to draw people teaches you so much about proportions, volumes, and forms. Humans are an inspiring subject; their uniqueness in both physical features and personalities might inspire your art even further than you had anticipated.
In another sense, you need people to spur you on in your work. Feedback is so important. It is wise to have mentors and a community that inspire you to make good art. Especially for the serious artist, if you are trying to function apart from any kind of art community (digital included), you are starving yourself of valuable connections and guidance.
Humans, whether you are drawing them or asking them for advice, are arguably the greatest source of direction. I wouldn't be a merited artist it weren't for the people in my life supporting me and pushing me to be better and blatantly telling me what to do at times.
5 - The Masters.
I would not know half of what I know now about color and light if it weren't for the work of great artists that went before me. The Impressionists taught me that light and shadows have color, and to make something darker you don't have to add black! The Fauvists taught me that color can be used in wild ways that still make a lot of sense. In fact, color doesn't have to be descriptive at all if you don't want it to be. It could be purely a form of expression. Before learning about these movements I knew I wanted to use color but I had some hesitations.
Go to a library or get on Google Arts & Culture and research artists you think you might be interested. When you find something you like, look closer. Examine brush strokes, learn about the techniques used, or discover what technology and social developments drove them to create in the way that they did. Take a look into art movements in history. I promise there is so much to learn and appreciate.
Here are some artists and eras to get you started:
Artists: Chuck Close, Matisse, Thomas Hart Benton, Rembrandt, Cézanne, J. M. W. Turner
Eras: The Renaissance, Cubism, Fauvism, Impressionism
6 - Books & Podcasts.
On the same thread of thought, today's authors and professionals have a wealth of knowledge available to you. Honestly, these resources I've listed below have inspired me to take HUGE steps in my career as an artist. The books I have read have left me in tears and in awe of the gift of creativity. Podcasts have helped me immensely in the business/marketing side of the artist career. 4/5 of the books I've listed here also speak to how faith and art play into each other, and that has been super formative for me in my journey as a Christian artist.
Culture Care by Makoto Fujimura
Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer - This book made me rethink EVERYTHING about why/how/what I create.
What Can I Do? by David Livermore - Has a chapter about art, but I think everyone can benefit from this book. It focuses on how you can use your career to benefit the entire world.
Art-Write: The Writing Guide for Visual Artists by Vicki Krohn Amorose - The reason I'm writing about art... right now. This book made me realize that I need to be writing more about my art in order to give context and content to my work.
Art For God's Sake by Philip Ryken - Another book about the Biblical basis of art in the Bible. Mind. Blowing.
The Art Marketing Podcast by Art Storefronts - Listen to this if you want to make any kind of art for a living, period. Literally so much good information. You should just focus on binging the whole thing.
7 - Rarely social media.
This is more of a reverse example. The antithesis of inspiration.
Surprisingly, or maybe not at all, it is a rare occasion that I am inspired by Pinterest or social media. I am very discouraged by social media most days because I am the queen of comparison. I do get very excited when I see others do well in their field, but I waste my time when I analyze their success in light of my own. I get the pressure to narrow my scope and just work to prove myself rather than to do good work for a higher purpose.
Social media is a great marketing tool, and I'll be honest, I use it more for my own personal gain than I do for the sake of being social sometimes. OUCH that hurts to admit. It is an unfortunate reality that artists today feel the need to use attention-seeking, brand-building tactics. That make me feel icky inside. I have to fight the notion that it's all business, but it's no secret that people who want to sell their product attempt to market themselves and that product successfully. I'm coming to terms with this slowly, but I want to be transparent about my thoughts on the topic at the same time.
SO YEP that's all I can think of at this moment! I hope this is helpful for any artist caught in a funk. You are doing awesome things and the whole world needs you to keep creating beautiful art. I would like to add that I always appreciate feedback and ideas for improvement! Thanks for taking the time to read this and if you're interested in art, I just want to encourage you to dive in deeper!
Much love my dudes,