Getting inspired

The artist Ronald Searle, who died December 2011 aged 91

Listening to the tributes paid to the cartoonist Ronald Searle last night made me reflect on what it takes to be inspired. He was said to draw whilst sipping a glass of champagne. In the news report shown he described how the bubbles floating up his nose gave him ideas. An unusual concept but for him it worked. Perhaps it was such an antidote to the long years he spent as a prisoner of war in Japan.

Yesterday’s Guardian G2 section was devoted to ‘how to be inspired’. Get hold of it online, it contains a host of ideas from people from every branch of the arts. Here is a selection of their tips with my own comments.

  1. Go for a walk. The combination of fresh air, nature and exercise seems to clear the brain and create a space for ideas. I find that the enforced silence is also conducive to new thoughts.
  2. Spend time in your own head. Does everyone do this? Mine comes from being bored more or less the whole time in school and escaping in this way. Daydreaming is useful. Train journeys are good for that.
  3. Just start scribbling or drawing or whatever it is that you do. Fear of failure can be stifling. Remember that ‘success is only 10 % inspiration and 90% perspiration’. Inspiration is hard graft rather than a flash of lightening.
  4. Learn to trust your own instinct and rely less on the praise or criticism of others. This is more difficult if your prime motivation is to be liked. And silence the small still voice that tells you you’re rubbish.
  5. Take a break and come back to your work. You really can see it with fresh sight.
  6. Try to ignore noise and distractions around you. This may be tricky. One of my brothers, educated in a boarding school, can only write in silence. I had to contend with the TV, a younger sibling playing, family chatter and clatter. I can shut out extraneous noise. In a strange way I think it feeds my creativity.
  7. Absorb yourself in the arts – music, ballet, theatre, galleries, literature, film, travel. They can all feed the soul and the skill. Writer and philosopher, Edward de Bono, talks about the best ideas coming from unusual sources and successful people often juxtaposing two very different ideas. As a trainer designer I have often reshaped ideas from other forms. For instance a game show has become a technical test, a greeting card a cover design.
  8. Be collaborative and talk to others, not in your field. Sounds obvious but still important. For instance, whatever you are doing, talk to people who know about new technologies. They often have an interesting take on what you are trying to do.
  9. Surround yourself with young people. In my opinion they are less censorious. They also dont mind if you seem a bit vague or crazy. You may help them too!
  10. I’ll give the last line to Martin Parr, photographer. ‘The knack is to find your own inspiration, and take it on a journey to create work that is personal and revealing’.

If you are reading this please add your own tip!

In 1967 Ronald Searle created a cover from the very problem of 'artists' block'

2 thoughts on “Getting inspired

  1. Thanks for the link to G2 article il definitely will read that tonight. My advice for looking for inspiration is to no look too hard, it’s everywhere you just need to recognise it. If u see something u like take a picture, blog about it and then you can reflect upon what is important. Sometime inspiration is staring you in the face but if you don’t recognise it you cant value it. Cu tomorrow x

  2. Give yourself enough time to develop ideas – how can you make genius decisions while knowing you’ve got to be somewhere in an hour. “A guy told me that in order to get one hour of good painting done, you need four hours of uninterrupted time.” (David Lynch)

    Another Lynchian point, always have a “set-up” ready so you can work on an idea as soon as it comes to you. It might be a studio, computer, camera or a notebook but make sure your ready for the moment the lightbulb switches on, or else you risk loosing your good ideas.

    You say, “spend time in your own head”. Very good point Cath. A lot of people spoil the potential of their inspirations by trying to look at what others will like. Know yourself, expand your consciousness and get passionate about your own ideas, mate!

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