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The Guises and Sources of Creative Inspiration

Amanda Coen

Hi there,
Are you feeling inspired at the moment? Let me tell you that I am, finally. Not for the first time, but for a while there I had been feeling a little worn out and lacking a little in the inspiration department. Inspiration can be nebulous sometimes. Don't you think? You can kind of make out what's there but on closer inspection it is nothing but vapour and too hard to nail down. I feel at odds with myself when I don't feel inspired because it leaks into all aspects of life. I fight to get back on track. Now it's back and it feels fantastic. PHEW!

I have touched on this topic before and have discussed how I like to inspire myself to create in the absence of spontaneous energetic bursts of enthusiasm. I have mentioned the ways I encourage myself and prepare for the moment that I know will surely arrive and it always does. Nevertheless, after an absense of inspiration when I finally have a breakthrough, it always seems like the first time I have conquered the challenge. It feels like a whole new era is dawning, (the drama). 

Our pretty cat Miss Lemon recuperating outside on the lead - Parade Handmade
Miss Lemon, who passed away recently, was our beautiful, soft tempered one-eyed rescued cat. Here she is enjoying her recuperation after a bout with injury. She is pictured outside on her new lead one day in Spring. She has inspired at least one painting and possibly more yet.
This little cat was a total darling and she adored my husband. As soon as he sat anywhere she was immediately on his lap. If he was in an awkward position when she reached him such as bending over a job he was completing on the floor, she would simply climb up on his back and wait there watching him work, until he was ready to sit up again. It's true. She got on with all the other cats even if they were feeling tetchy for some unknown reason. She would sniff their noses and walk on. She had her routines and was very clean. Miss Lemon, can you guess who she was named after?, had the softest coat you could imagine. The main thing that inspired me about her was how resilliant she was in the face of all she had to go through in her life through no fault of her own. She had a huge capacity for affection and connection regardless of the cards she was dealt right up to her last breath. Little Miss Lemon was much loved. R.I.P.

Road Trip Memories

Recently I had the pleasure of a 2 day road trip with my mother to visit family. We talked non-stop and laughed unapologetically. Anyone who knows her will testify to how much she loves a laugh and how funny she is. During the course of this most enjoyable and sunny time, she told me some fantastic stories and accounts of her childhood, amongst other things. One particular anecdote really stuck with me.

It was a little story of how when she was about 10yrs old. She accompanied her own mother to buy and collect a fancy little coffee table which matched the china cabinet in the 'parlour' or the 'good room'. (The coffee table is still in her house and the cabinet is in mine. You would probably recognise both as many people all over Ireland and England, I suspect, kept their special little china trinkets, statuettes and other such items in these little glass cabinets. The coffee table is round and both have a rope detail around the edge.) I knew already that keeping a 'parlour', for special purposes was typical of the time. It was a pretty little room housing all the precious decorative items and the designated place where guests were brought for visits and/or special occasions. There they would be served tea and homebaked scones, cake and sandwiches. 

Sketch inspired by my mam's childhood shopping trip with her mother - Parade Handmade
Sketch inspired by my mam's story of her childhood.

Sketching the Scene

I was compelled to sketch an imaginary scene of the intrepid pair out collecting their new addition for the parlour. I could have drawn inspiration from any of the above but the reason I was compelled to draw the scene with them together was down to how my mam felt about the situation. It was a special memory to her where she remembered how she alone was brought by her mother to complete this important mission. The honour to be trusted to help and to be in on the whole thing. The day out. Her mother's value on the mission.

Sometimes you might find yourself having an idea to do something or create something inspired by an experience or an event but then you don't follow through. Do you do that? I do it all the time. So does my husband. Not just in relation to drawing or painting but anything really. It could be a glint of household inspiration based on something we just found in a skip or something we were given. Perhaps we have a brainstorming session about something we could do with, such as a room divider as a backdrop, more counter space or more storage under the stairs etc. Inspiration might come but not all ideas are developed.

I even save inspiring images that I take of the cats or people in a cafe or on a bus that I might paint or sketch later but I don't always follow through. Even me in the big chair in the main image could inspire something later on.. I store them all up in a scrap book or more often scattered between my phone archives, daybooks, sketchbooks and diaries that I have lurking around. More often than not things can be jotted down on the nearest bit of paper or kept in the recesses of my brain. I don't always go back to them, preferring instead to follow a hot current inspiration so to speak. However, even to contemplate new ideas is a creative pursuit.

A recent image of Tabby snoozing on the couch - Parade Handmade
Tabby looking comfortable on the couch make great inspiration for a painting with all the folds, leather work, cushions and plants.

Following Through and Celebrating Small Miracles

Why do you think we don't follow through on some perfectly good ideas? I believe it's because all creation requires energy, development time and sometimes it requires a lot of emotional energy and depending on what it is exactly, you might need lots of physical energy and time. Sometimes your physical and/or emotional energy is low even though you have lots of time and sometimes it's the other way around. Either way we should celebrate when something actually does come to fruition. It's a small miracle when you think about it.
We Inspire Each Other

A great friend told me recently that her own creative energy is encouraged and inspired by being around other creative minds. She sparks off their energy like you would start a fire from a spark. It's not to say she copies but somehow she becomes reminded or prompted toward a creation all of her own without the other person intending to or ever becoming aware sometimes that they have inspired this action. Nonetheless she often attributes the inspiration credits to others when it's due.

It happened last week in fact. I showed her a picture of something amusing to do with the cats and she commented how it would make a perfect novelty card especially if you put a clever quote beneath it. Inspiration had dawned at that moment. She described her ideas and this was when she rememberd her own picture that could be employed in the same way with a different clever quote. Now she had the perfect idea for a card for another friend.

My mam inspired me to draw an image based on her story telling and I inspired my friend to create a card inspired by a thought she had about an image I showed her. It's good to share our creativity as it breeds more ideas and happiness for ourselves and others. The next time you ask yourself, 'sure what's the point?', be sure to remember that there's always a point even if we don't know quite what it is.

Keep enjoying your own creativity no matter what it is or how good you think it is. Carve out time to honour yours. Our creativity is always important, special and deserves to be appreciated and protected. 

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Until Soon, Amanda

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  • I thoroughly enjoyed Guises and Sources to Creativity. Not only the ideas, but the wonderful flow of the prose. I loved it.
    And as I sit here I am reminded and encouraged to get moving on my current creative endeavours.
    I enjoyed Nuala’s comments.

    Rose Doyle C.

  • I enjoyed this, Amanda. I’m not the only one with notebooks , journals and scraps of “mixed media” materials lurking in the studio! Recently, however, I finished the watercolour of my first horse painting, inspired by a friend who came to stay and photographed a white horse in a neighbours field. We creative types should get together more often to ignite the spark.

    Nuala King

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