Inspiration in Painting: Where Do I Find It?

Inspiration in Painting: Where Do I Find It?

Inspiration in Painting: Where do I find it?
Sherrie McGraw/ Tang Horse in an inspired set up
Inspiration in Painting: Where do I find it?
Raw set up
Inspiration in Painting: Where do I find it?
Inspirational light on objects
Sherrie McGraw
David A Leffel/ Painting of same rug as part of a visual concep
David Leffel Evening
David A Leffel/ Inspired by evening light in Des Montes

The most important way to find inspiration for a painting is to be open to your subject.  Curiosity  is the first requirement for this prized state of mind to occur. Being open encourages something new to enter, whereas if you feel you have all the answers, you will simply repeat what you’ve always done.  No new solutions will present themselves. Being open  means not being attached to any fixed way of doing something.   Jackie & Sherrie discuss what it means to find inspiration and how it can improve your painting technique.

Jackie

Hi, Sherrie.

Sherrie

Hi Jackie.

Jackie

Today, I’d love to talk to you about what how you find inspiration in painting. I know that’s a really broad subject. But if you can just touch on different aspects of what draws your attention, that’d be great.

Sherrie

Okay. Well, first of all, I think that the most important word that you’re using is “inspiration.” And I really do believe that you are always going to learn the most and do the best when you are inspired by what do you want to paint. So if someone is not drawn to still life, then it’s important to find what subject matter inspires you to paint.

Finding Inspiration in Painting a Still Life

I happen to have been quite drawn to still life and you can see by the objects behind me that I’ve been spending a lifetime collecting beautiful objects. So that’s one thing, if you are drawn to still life, then collecting objects that you think are beautiful is really important.

It can start with just one object and really wanting to capture something about that object. And then, you know, we have several films in the Artists Guild Library that deal with setting up a still life. So that could help people guide people in terms of, setting up a still life and how the ideas actually conform. But it usually will start with one thing. It could start with possibly like color combination. You might see two objects that really make you want to paint. It could be a size relationship. Or, you can see a size or a shape of a particular object that might really draw you to it. It might be the color of it, you know.

French Vase as Inspiration in Painting

Right now I’m working on a beautiful French Vase that everybody’s seen above. There is this beautiful warm yellow on top and just glazed on the top and then the rest is just the raw earthenware and it’s just so beautiful. So that’s what inspired it and then everything that I put with it was with the idea of making that beauty that I saw more apparent.

So that’s what would happen in still life. In portrait or figure it could be all kinds of things, you know. It’s pretty individual in terms of what would attract you to want to paint a certain person. You know, somebody you might want to paint might not be somebody I want to paint. It’s a personal thing.

For me, quite often, it’s bone structure, it could be the skin color, being a beautiful color, a coloration that I’m interested in, the hair color, of course, I’m in love with redheads. So I always want to paint redhead. It could be just a lot of different reasons, and quite often I’ll find my figure or portrait models by having them in a drawing session first. Of course, now during the virus, I’m not hiring any models right now. But that is how you would kind of find the ones that speak to you. As well, are the kind of your views and, and make you really want to paint.

Landscape

It also could be landscapes where I find inspiration. We live in such a gorgeous area, right by the mountains, right at the foot of the sun grid, the crystal mountains. And there’s just an endless variety of color combinations, cloud formations, you know, and you start to find out. Something about yourself in terms of what you’re drawn to, you know, like you’ve lived on the ocean. I know that the ocean has been inspirational to you, landscape as well, tree shapes, you know. And so you just, if you pay attention you find out the things that really speak to you and is something that you really want to capture something about. So that is the first thing is to find something that does inspire you and makes you want to capture something about it.

Jackie

How would you explain how painting in the style that you do and just help with your inspiration?

Sherrie

Well, right. Well, that’s a good question because really I, in particular, because I love drama, I love light and shadow and I’m drawn to the chiaroscuro way of painting. And so if I don’t have good strong lights, it’s just not as interesting to me to paint it, and likewise, it’s actually not as interesting to me to draw it. So I actually like strong light on a model, strong light and shadow, you know, where it’s like someone like fashion actually didn’t want light and shadow.

You could see that once he moved to New Mexico, you know, and actually his studio and you and I have taught in that studio. The skylight it’s actually a 45 degree angle, which means it was letting in sunlight. And apparently he did like that, and he had light kind of coming from all over. So I think if light and shadow had been of importance to him, he would’ve set his studio up differently. But the walls were light was coming in from all over sunlight was streaming in certain times a year.

So I think depending on what it is that really appeals to you, you’re going to start to find that light situation. Certainly for your studio indoors, in a pure landscape painter, and all you’re doing is finishing paintings indoors, then the light is going to be not as critical as if it’s light hitting objects.

Jackie

Well, thank you very much, Sherrie. That’s going to really help a lot of people. Thank you.

Sherrie

Okay. Thank you.

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