Monday, January 17, 2022

Inspiration On The Road Less Travelled



Like most artists, I’m frequently asked about the mysterious whereabouts of that elusive creature, inspiration. Nothing mysterious about it, I can’t speak for all artists, but I am surrounded by it (and those of you familiar with my work will get this). So why is it you see a palm tree in your front yard and I see magnificent swipes of blues and greens? Part of it certainly owes to my artistic temperament, but a great deal is owing to the fact that your tree is new to me, and to you it is routine, like visual white-noise.

Change is not only good, it’s necessary to the health of our nervous systems. Most things disappear through routine. If the art in your hallway never moves, you stop seeing it – but hang it by the front door and it suddenly becomes a new purchase. If you play the same CD in your car along the same route to work every day, you stop hearing it – the sameness of your route, as well as the sounds, will contribute to the overall numbness of the trip. And that’s when our alertness can begin to plummet.

A professor I knew, when lecturing on the importance of change in composition, used to explain it this way: remember when you were very young and just starting to take interest in romance? Remember sitting in the dark theater and tentatively holding hands with the boy or girl next to you? (I have no idea if this still goes on today.)

After a while, too afraid to move, you not only stopped feeling your sweetheart’s hand, but yours as well. Much like the shirt you’re wearing, you may feel it when you put it on, but after a few moments your brain simply stops receiving those nerve sensations.

Last week I was a passenger on a ride to Cape Coral on Interstate 75. After about half an hour I was jolted out of my stupor by the realization that my usually active mind hadn’t had a cognizant thought in all that time. Interstates have such an homogenized look, that quite often we get the feeling that we could be on a highway anywhere – Ohio, California, Georgia. There is little to no stimulation, so we have little to no mental reactions.

On the other hand, take the road less travelled and all sorts of things may inspire you to think of all sorts of things: see that group of gnarled trees, that old farmhouse, that twisting creek? Smell that wood smoke? Hear those birds? Perhaps they awaken a sleeping memory, or inspire a creative vision. Perhaps, with your brain fully activated, you find a solution to a persistent problem. All things are possible when we are fully engaged.

Change your music, your art, your garden. Change your route of travel, your food choices, your furniture arrangement. Change any routine, or any number of routines and you are likely to stir your imagination and become truly inspired. After all, an artful life exists on the ability to see things in a new perspective.


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