As an artist, I get asked this question a lot.
The word ‘inspiration’ essentially derives from the Greek for ‘God-breathed’ or ‘divinely breathed into’. Being inspired is exhilarating yet mysterious. Inspiration almost feels like it happens spontaneously, a burst of ideas in the spur of the moment.
The word ‘inspiration’ essentially derives from the Greek for ‘God-breathed’ or ‘divinely breathed into’.
There are many things that can inspire me – books, stories, nature walks, music, culture, etc. They are sources of stimulation for my imagination, and it is especially easy when I am moved by them emotionally. However, there have still been times where I felt uninspired. No matter how much new music I listened to, or how many nature walks I took, the ‘aha’ moment seemed so elusive.
Not limited to artistic professions, but also in every field of work and study, getting ‘stuck’ is one of the most common problems amongst creators. Sometimes, even countless hours of research and experimentation does not help us become more productive in generating exciting and interesting ideas.
I remembered there was a time when I was working on a storyboard of a romantic moment. It started out really well, I had all the pictures in my head of how the first shot would look. A girl would discover a stable, and being curious, she went in and found that it was a stable of winged horses. Later on in the story, she would bump into her schoolmate by chance because they were both supposed to be at a ball, only to find out that they both had somehow escaped from the dance hall.
Next day, I sat at the same desk working on the same storyboard, only to find myself staring at the same panel for an hour. The productivity was so different compared to my previous drawing sessions. I gave myself another week, but there was no improvement. A month passed by, and I began to get frustrated. I started turning to movies with romantic scenes, reading books written by experienced storyboarders, watched online tutorials and searched for resources that could help me with my design.
In the end, I had to reference some works that other artists did to finish my own, but it didn’t feel like it was mine. Then I thought, I had spent too much time on this and it was not getting me anywhere, I should put it down for a while.
A couple of months later, I went back to the storyboard. Immediately I saw the problem – the story was awkward because we didn’t know why the girl didn’t want to be at the ball, and why she was surprised and secretly thrilled to see the boy in the stable. The story here wasn’t the detailed description of things that happened during their encounter. What made the moment romantic was that the girl found her true love by letting go of the cultural norm by leaving the ball. So, I sat down with the panels, this time focusing more on the girl’s emotions. When I finished, I could see I was finally telling a story.
I realised the biggest source of inspiration is not from books, music, or nature. These sources help, but they are limited by human ability and advancements in our skills and techniques. Nonetheless, there is something beyond all these things that can provide inspiration. The moments where I feel most at ease drawing or designing something full of inspiration are when I have experienced more of life. Every event in my life, be it joyful or devastating, they serve one purpose – they enrich my life. The more I experience and the broader spectrum of emotions I feel, the easier it is to access resources and details of things that move me, and the more I understand why and what moves us.
The moments where I feel most at ease drawing or designing something full of inspiration are when I have experienced more of life. Every event in my life, be it joyful or devastating, they serve one purpose – they enrich my life.
Now when I find myself getting ‘stuck’, and find no inspiration from this world, I will sit back and observe. I will be present in my surroundings, get to know the lives of the people around me, and not confine myself from experiencing things I love and hate. I used to only find inspiration in things I enjoy, but I have come to know that every part of life is a source of inspiration.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”