This week I picked up on a interesting question posted on a Facebook group. One of the members reached out to ask what others had done to overcome a creative road block. I contributed my two pence worth, but I was surprised at just how active the thread became. Whether or not you do photography it's fair to say that at one point or another we all hit these low points. That creative abyss where you just can't muster any ideas and that fire in your belly becomes nothing more than a smoldering pile of 'meeehhh'.
A few others shared the fact that they too had been in the same boat as of late. Some felt it was due to the time of year, being so soon after Christmas and the bleakness of winter setting in. The comments that flooded in were incredibly supportive. These are people who perhaps have never spoken before or met in person. Banding together to help a fellow photographer/artist overcome a commonly shared challenge. And it actually put a smile on my face to see such warmth and comradery in an online community.
The word 'inspiration' I find is tooted a lot in certain circles. And I'm just as guilty of over using it, only because it sums up a 'need' so well. But what exactly does it mean? The most basic explanation I can come up with is this. When you're inspired, your creative passion is in full swing with an artistic or technical goal in mind. Waves of ideas morph and evolve as they intersect and collide with one another. You have a surge of concentration to nurture these images that have been flapping around your brain for days, weeks or even months begging to be brought in the physical realm of reality. And it's when these creative ideas dry up or just wont flow as freely that we discover we are 'lacking inspiration'.
So what causes inspiration to shrivel up like an old prune? Each person is different but I would generalize this problem into two areas. The first is exposure to creative influences. Think about the moment when you decided to become a photographer. How many of us rushed out to snap a nearby beauty spot or carefully patrolled a flower bed in the local park looking for the next best shot!
There comes a point when you simply get bored of photographing the same thing over and over again. If you don't know other photographers, visit galleries, trawl the web or explore fine art then to a large extent you're limiting your 'exposure' to positive influences. When I started out I had a basic idea of the kind of images I either liked or disliked. In the beginning these personal tastes helped create some interesting imagery. But over a very short period of time I found it harder and harder to be creative... to be inspired!
Then I asked myself that all important question, obvious I know, but not a question I asked myself from the word go. I asked myself 'What is it that actually inspires me? What imagery invokes an emotional response? Why does a particular image catch my eye? Is it the message the artist is trying to convey in their work? Is it the post production values that I admire? What would I need to do to create the same image?'.
When I started asking myself these questions it helped develop a more critical eye and better understanding of how an image/concept is pulled together. But more importantly it opened my eyes to the creative ideas, concepts and effort others had gone through to produce their imagery. I realized that my brain had become hard wired to a 'normal' way of thinking. Having worked in office jobs most of my life I think you can become conditioned to a certain way of thinking. And it's this conditioning that had dulled down my blade of creativity! So it's very important for me to expose myself to more art, whether photographic in nature or not. It's about waking up that creative side of our brains that we all have.
The second point I feel is more general in nature and not so much about creativity but mood. Our moods play a huge part in not only the type of work we produce, but perhaps how well and how often we do it. If you're feeling happy and jovial then those emotions can direct the ideas and approach you take in your projects.
In this modern age we all lead very busy lives and exert different pressures on ourselves, whether that be family commitments or working long hours. Sometimes we don't realize that our minds are becoming frazzled! It's important to take timeout, even from photography and the creative process. All to often I find myself thinking about my next project way to much and spending hours on the internet finding props. There's no harm letting the grey matter rest for a while. Watch a film to take your mind off things. Stuff your face with some Ben and Jerry's cookie dough ice cream. Have a get together with friends and part take in some responsible alcoholic refreshment. What ever it is, just disengage for a few days to recharge!
I need some inspiration...
I challenge you right now to set yourself a goal. A goal to create something completely different from your usual style. Look around at your peers to see what they have created, something that interests you. Ask them about their creative process (the 'how did you do that' questions).
There are some amazing pictures on 500px you could use for inspiration. Why not try your hand at face painting and incorporate that into your imagery. You can see this in action in my Demon Light images available on my portfolio. For those of you saying "But I don't know how to do that..." I would say at least give it a go! I had never done face painting before but found some fantastic tutorials on YouTube. Unless you give things a try, whatever the outcome, how do you expect to grow as an artist?
Make sure that you 'learn' something from the experience. The more you create and challenge yourself the more you will learn. In turn the more 'light-bulb' moments you'll have for your next project. Ideas that become wilder, wackier and more ambitious than the last!
Do you have any useful tips which help get the creative juices flowing? Leave them in the comments below!