Finding Inspiration

Q. I’m flat out of ideas to paint and unable to travel to exotic places to get inspired. I don’t like painting from photographs, or pictures from books or magazines. Any ideas?

A. Great question. Too many people have this idea in their heads that if they could only travel to a fabulous place, then they’d be truly inspired and able to paint. I don’t think you have to travel anywhere to be able to paint. For instance, Andrew Wyeth painted in three places: Brandywine Valley; Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; and Cushing, Maine. His inspiration came from the everyday: a bucket of blueberries, a curtain blowing in the wind, a barn, a boat, the people in his life, a window, a dog lying on a bed, a door, a bucket, pumpkins. Everything was right outside his backdoor!

Ask yourself what you would like to paint. When you look out your window, do you see anything that inspires you? Or when you’re out driving around, is there anything that you see that inspires a “Wow! That’s beautiful, I’d love to paint that!” Since you’re an artist you no doubt notice many things (most of us artists are born with a gift to see and notice much more than your average bear).

I, for example, am inspired each day by the simplest things that I see right outside my door. Every hour of the day, the lighting is different, and it never ceases to amaze me when I see a tiny flower that I’ve never noticed before, the fog rolling in, the clouds in the sky, or the leaves changing color. God is present in everything I see. This was his gift to me and my job is then to pass on his beautiful creation to others in my paintings. This is what inspires me—I’m in such wonder of the beauty surrounding me.

As soon as you’ve asked yourself what really inspires you, then begin painting those things. You’ll be painting from your heart. You can’t go wrong, and the more you paint what inspires you, the more ideas you’ll get for your next painting and the next.

If you haven’t painted in a long time, it’s especially difficult to figure out what to paint because you haven’t been in that creative zone. Once you find out what inspires you, paint it. And start painting more often. Once you get your creative juice flowing, you’ll never run out of ideas.

Florida-based artist Sandy Johnson was born in Queensland, Australia, and attributes her eye for color to the tropical surroundings she grew up with. She works in oils and pastels, painting still lifes, landscapes and portraits, which are often commissioned. Johnson’s paintings can be found in Australia, Scotland, Canada and throughout the United States. Her work is also included in Best of Oil, Best of Pastel and Portrait Inspirations (Rockport).

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