With the rise of social media, it's easy to feel as if the creation of art is becoming saturated.
Hundreds of new pieces arrive in my feed every day. I find myself wondering how could I ever stand out amidst this sea of creation?
The obvious answer is to create original, wonderful, inspired pieces. Easy peasy, problem solved...
Almost every piece of art ever created is available at your fingertips every moment of every day. Shouldn't this mean that inspiration is a walk in the park now? If you are drawing a mountain you could find hundreds of photos of almost any mountain in the world, with a swipe of your finger.
But when it comes to making original artwork there is something missing from gleaning together bits and pieces of other people's work.
As magical and beneficial for learning as it is to immerse oneself in other artists works, in order to make a mark on this world, you need to go back further.
Follow the trail of your inspiration. Look at what previous artists influenced your favourite artists and what in turn influenced them. Trawl further and further, deeper and deeper. If you go far enough, you will arrive at the very source of all inspiration.
So what is this source of inspiration, and how can it be defined?
In traditional research there are two types of resources one can access, primary sources and secondary sources.
Primary sources being the poem, the painting, the sculpture created. Secondary sources are then the analysis of the poem, or the review of the painting by the art critic. These work very well for research, but how do they stack up as sources of inspiration? I would argue these academic sources can be redefined when considering sources of inspiration.
The creations from other makes that inspire us such as films, literature, songs and illustrations become our secondary sources. An artist has already had an experience or a perspective and this dictates what twist they put on their piece.
This means that the primary source is the experience itself. The sharpness of the air as you hike up the mountain in winter, the warmth on your face during that spectacular sunset, the grief you feel during your first heartbreak and all the passing moments of beauty hidden in everyday life. These experiences and connections are the primary source of all inspiration.
As artists in a digital revolution, we tend to find ourselves looking at secondary sources more often than not. A new and freshly created masterpiece can be in front of our eyes as soon as it pops up into our feed. I scroll through Instagram and Pinterest and admire my contemporaries creations every day. We watch films, read our favourite books, play computer games and listen to hours upon hours of music. Secondary sources are important. They give us insight into the lives of others and provide fresh perspectives and ideas about style. But you can only provide a genuinely fresh perspective on a subject by personally exploring primary sources.
My Eureka moment.
I first realised the importance of the primary source of Inspiration in 2014. I was visiting a small mountain town outside the winter metropolis of Nagano. A series of fortunate events led to my two beloved travel companions and I being invited by a Shinto Buddhist Priest to a snow covered temple surrounded by trees.
When we arrived at the entrance of the temple, we listened to him use a giant shell to make music for the forest dragons. I stood with the snow falling around on my shoulders as goosebumps covered my arms. I was witnessing a real-life Link play his Ocarina in front of a Shinto Buddhist temple.
A lightbulb went off in my brain. As magical and amazing as I found/find the Zelda Games, Shigeru Miyamoto sourced many of the references we so love from real life, people and cultures. He didn't just create this wonderful world out of thin air, but from immersing himself with knowledge and experiences.
Years later, on a return trip to Japan, I visited a source of inspiration from one of the greats. After a bus ride and a small hike I found myself stepping through the ancient cedar forests of Yakushima. I caught glimpses of fleet footed deer gliding over moss covered landscapes and was immediately drawn into the world of Hayao Miyazaki. Specifically the magical forests in the film Princess Mononoke. In the very place that inspired him, being in this fantastical forest in person, surrounded by the magic and mystery, the world's he created all made a little more sense.
I’m still in awe of Hayao Miyazaki and Shigeru Miyamoto and their creations. But as I’ve grown older, travelled, gained life experiences and delved into history, I’ve realised that many masterpieces are not a singular inspiration. They are amalgamations of these experiences, places, history and stories. Not everyone will pull inspiration from forests and rolling hills. Some may be called to the sea, some to exotic cultures and some towards delicious foods. Whatever it is that calls to you, find its source, and explore it.