Where does inspiration come from?

Destiny, oil painting by Renate van Nijen

As an artist and writer I often wonder where inspiration actually comes from. I’ve even wondered whether it will ever dry up. The thought of that happening is somewhat laughable because if anything, it seems to grow. It feels as if there is a never ending source of ideas and feelings to share with the world, to such an extent that it can sometimes be overwhelming. My (I want) to do list is rather long!

So what is inspiration?

According to an online dictionary inspiration is the process of being mentally stimulated to either do or feel something, especially something creative. Inspiration can also be a sudden brilliant or timely idea.

A journalist friend told me years ago “I like meeting up with you because you have an opinion about everything”. Now I would like to replace that word ‘opinion’ with ‘interest‘. I can be fascinated by so many things… nature, inspirational thoughts, various religions and how people make them part of their lives, animal welfare, politics, spiritual books and webinars, but most of all people. I would go as far as to say that my interest is the source of my inspiration.

I observe people in the streets, when I’m having a coffee or a drink on the sea front, during my daily doggy walks and even during a meal out, as my husband often reminds me to not stare so much at people. I don’t want to be rude, but observing means that the storytelling starts in my head. I also watch people online or on television – I love documentaries and talk shows.

Whatever I see can be the trigger for a pose in my next painting, or a story for a book or one of my blogs. There are so many stories to write, new books to publish, paintings to create and ceramic statues that are waiting to see the light. I could easily fill 48 hours in a day and still feel that I don’t have enough time. I have to add that I do feel very grateful for being in the position where I can focus on my art and my writing for the biggest part of each day.

How do I process my inspiration?

I tend to make notes about things I still want to create. I love beautiful notebooks; they are precious to me, but I don’t really treat them as a diary. I’m quite disorganised and you can find these notebooks anywhere in my house. Sometimes they function as a gratitude book, or for writing down phrases and ideas that come into my head, or inspirational information that I viewed online and don’t want to forget. I also use them to jot down something I just saw in the streets, on television or my thoughts when I wake up during the night. My lovely notebooks, in fact, serve as a treasure trove of inspiration triggers.

What inspires others?

For my book ‘Reflections from La Herradura’ I interviewed a lot of local artists, such as painters, musicians, writers … and one of the questions was ‘where do you get your inspiration from?’ Their answers differed but one of the writers, Salvador Compan, worded it really well as he explained “my inspiration is the observation of reality” He gave some examples like that time when he saw a little girl wearing a blue jacket with brass buttons on her way to school, who came across a little boy who walked in the opposite direction. Or when Salvador met a man in a red jumper in a bar in Seville during a national holiday. The man was drunk and crying. He asked the man whether he could help him. About an hour later he saw the man again wandering down the streets, people trying to avoid him. Who was that man, where was he going? His untold, unknown story became the story of the writer. Both observations were a trigger for novels that Salvador wrote.

Most of the artists I interviewed were inspired by nature, by reading other people’s work, music, their travels, personal memories and observing their surroundings in general.

For me inspiration is a mystery that I can always count on. I don’t have to go and look for it. It’s an automatic process. A white canvas or a white page in a notebook sufficient to get my fantasy flowing, subconsciously drawing inspiration from the images and observations stored in my head. Sometimes a word or a short sentence can be enough to trigger that story that I then work out on the canvas or in a story on my computer. When I’m in the flow it doesn’t really matter where the inspiration comes from … all that matters is that it will never go away!

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