Line and Inspiration

When people talk to me about my art, I'm often asked, "What inspires you?" I'm always stumped by this question. Perhaps I'm too literal about it. I imagine inspiration as a "Eureka!" moment in the bathtub, I guess. I don't have those around my art. Because I have made art my whole life, I feel like asking me what inspires me is like asking me what inspires me to breathe. It's simply what I do.

But people really do want to know and it's unfair to discount their curiosity simply because I've accepted that I make art so to question it is sort of pointless. I've really had to think about it and often what I have come up with seems so mundane as to be utterly boring and not worth sharing. But perhaps that is simply because what inspires me is so normal to me it seems barely worth pointing out to others.

So here's what I've found over the years, I am inspired by what I see in the world.

All my life and today leaves, plants, flowers, buds, trees, branches, limbs, and twigs in all seasons draw my curiosity. The regular cycles of veiling and unveiling the supporting forms of bushes and trees each year. How blooms are arranged on a limb. How limbs are arranged on a branch and branches on trunks. The anatomy of blossoms, flowers, and leaves.

So in shorthand, I'm inspired by nature and plant life in particular.

Years ago, I was fascinated with the power lines that criss-crossed through Houston above the streets. The way they were coiled and wrapped at each post, the negative spaces created between the lines and inside the loops, the hard lines of the black wooden poles and supports interrupting and supporting the softer shapes of the power lines' heavy lazy weight.

(My fear in revealing this bit of information is that it will detract from my work for the viewer. I worry that like a magician who reveals his tricks, you will no longer go to see his show. Why would I want to take away someone's impression of musical instruments in my work by talking about my fascination with bushes?)

But back to the things that interest me. In all of these things, I find line as the constant. I envy the lines in nature. The lines that serve a purpose and yet are perfect and beautiful, more perfect and beautiful than I could ever create. And yet, I am driven to create the perfect line. The line that ebbs and flows in weight, the line that ends up looking as if it happened without my intervention or indeed, even creation, is my goal. Maybe goal is too pointed a word. It's more of a need. 

And that's where I always come back to the question of inspiration. I feel less moved by inspiration as by need. I need to make art. I need to make art because it makes me feel better having done so. There's a strange sense of calm and satisfaction in creating a line that never existed before that moment. There's fear in every mark knowing that each one will either add to or subtract from the finished image. And in my current mediums of watercolor and pen and ink, there is not much room for correction once a line is put down but I must try each time to create a complete and whole image.

But yes, I think more than being inspired, I must make art like one must scratch an itch. Which is not a glamorous answer at all, especially when we're discussing such elevated topics as art. But it's the best way to describe it for me. This little niggling thought or feeling that it's time to put pen to paper to see if once again I can create a new image that somehow stands apart as being special. But it turning out well is not the reason for making art...that's a happy result indeed but it's the creation that soothes the itch.

I think the more appropriate question, for me anyway, is not "What is your inspiration?" but "Why do you make art?"

And I pose that question to you. If you make art, why?