“What inspires you?”
I’m asked this question frequently, and I find it’s a difficult one to answer.
Let me ask you: what inspires you to go to work every day? Parent your kids in a loving way? Be devoted to your spouse? Exercise when you don’t feel like it? Create??
If you were to ask me this question today, the answer may be different than a week ago. But the reality is, when I sit here and consider all the reasons I parent the way I do, am a wife to my husband the way I am, put my workout shoes on, paint Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, it all boils down to one thing: all to the glory of God.
Before you (potentially roll your eyes and) stop reading, please hear me out.
I’m not perfect in any way, or at ANY THING. It may be more accurate for me to say: I want to glorify God in all I say and do. The reality is I blow it daily, especially in my roles as wife and mom (Ask my man how I spoke to him today on the phone...he'll tell you!). Today, however, I’m going to address what inspires me to create (even on ‘off’ days).
First of all, when I started painting again at the end of 2014, I would wait for the inspiration to create to pour over me (read in a dramatic voice and use arm gestures). Truth is I am wired in such a way that I would be waiting a REALLY long time for said inspiration, and this would cause bouts of frustration. That's why I rarely painted prior to last year! I am a ‘doer,’ a “Martha” for you Bible readers (see Luke 10:38-42). For those of you who don’t know who I’m referring to, think of Martha Stewart, minus the time in prison, and you'll get the general idea. I need to continually be doing something, whatever that might be. In this case, we’re talking about creating. At first, it felt contrived for me to be in my studio, just painting for painting sake. So I would spend time sketching ideas and concepts, kind of like journaling, if I were a writer. That process of 'just painting' helped give legs to my ideas and direction to my thoughts. Still, I felt stifled.
It wasn't until a coffee date with a lovely friend (she knows a lot more about the creative process than me), who shared her strategic work motto: create for 90 minutes, take a break, create for 90 minutes, take a break, and repeat, until you have to pick up the kids. (Thankfully she left it up to me how long a break was.) Then transition to being wife and mom. I found this structure extremely helpful. It automatically put me in a frame of mind that when I’m in my studio, I have a direction/a job to do: paint. Whether I'm working on a commission piece or just letting some creativity flow organically, regardless of what is on my easels (I usually have three – five paintings in various stages of completion going at any given time), I make sure I set aside at least three days for creating.
So that’s how I structure my work time. But what inspires? That truly is a complicated question. I really do want it all to go to God’s glory, but how do I get there? (Ugh! This is difficult to describe, hard to articulate: maybe I just need to "let go and let God.")
Often, I take our dog for a walk after my kids are at school. During that time, I listen to music. Frequently it’s worship music, sometimes it's alternative rock, and occasionally, it’s Mozart. Doing that helps sets my mind on a creative journey.
While I’m walking, I’m looking. Looking at the ocean: how the sunlight reflects on the water, how vast the ocean is, the color of the water at that particular time of day (is it more green or blue today then it was yesterday?). Can I see the cliffs on Catalina Island? I watch the way the clouds inch across the sky, their shapes and the subtlety of color reflected on them, how the pelicans hug the cresting waves. I stand in awe of the majesty of it all.
Perhaps, on a given day, I’m walking in the hills and marvel at the wildflowers growing by the trail or, if in a neighborhood, the exquisite beauty and care in someone’s garden. Oh, the colors!! Can I capture them, Lord? I ask as I take a reference photo for a future painting.
One of God’s attributes is: Creator. Artists and craftsmen have labored for centuries to capture the intense beauty and vibrant colors that exist only in God’s creation. I am among them, trying, in vain, to somehow capture the beauty I see, the intensity of colors, the shapes and subtlety of design, all on a man-made canvas. In truth, it cannot be done! And yet, it is the aching of my heart to offer a smidgen of love, via a painting, to show I see it. God, I want you to know I see it! Here is an offering of my heart, poured out on canvas: for you. Although inadequate, I want you to see my love for you and others in this creative offering.
This may be more info than you need, but when I put a blank canvas on my easel, I put my hands on it, consider what it may become, pray for whoever will eventually have it hanging in their space, ask God to guide my direction, then I paint intuitively. These days, I don’t always have a direction when I put down those first layers of color (my dear friend, Rick, please don’t scold me!) Unlike my earlier days of creating with intentionality, I ask for the Holy Spirit to guide me on the journey. I have had color coats (what I call my first layers) be something so unexpectedly beautiful (to me) that I have a hard time moving past it. They’ll sit in that stage, for a day, a week…one still sits – months later with only two color coats! I have a feeling I’m not supposed to touch it.
Other works in progress will go through layers and layers and layers…and yet more layers before I will consider them complete. With each coat of paint comes a different emotion, too. “Oh, this is awesome!” “I love the direction!” “Sweet!” “Holy cow, this sucks!” “What did I do?” “Ugh, that color looks like crap.” You get the idea. For this artist, creating is actually an all-in experience: mind, body and soul. I lay it all down.
I may not be a tortured-artist-type, with my middle-class vibes and nuclear family ways, but the depths of emotion by which I create are no less given. And by the way, just because I'm not tortured doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced deep, unrelenting pain. But those stories are for another time. Today, we’re talking about inspiration!
So, at the risk of sounding rather ambiguous, these are the components that inspire me: the visual: what I see in creation; auditory : the sounds of music and nature, my emotions: from grieving to exhilaration, and everything in between; and the most important aspect: the spirit-led component of inspiration. All of these play a role in the how’s and why’s of my paintings.
I’ll put it to you one more time: what inspires you? How do YOU stay in ‘it’ when the days are long and tough? I’d really like to know, so if you get a moment, please leave your story of inspiration!
Seeking beauty in the every day stuff of life with you,
Featured Artwork: (appropriately titled) “Inspiration” 3’ x 4’, acrylic on canvas. This is a work in progress, but will be available soon at lynhiner.com. Or give me a call, if you’re interested.