Thursday, April 24, 2014

We Are Inspired

Some students in my class as we
arrive at the gallery
Last week my English class took a full day field trip downtown to our province's official art galley. Besides the fantastic architecture, numerous story ideas that flooded my mind (I seriously recommend visiting an art gallery for story inspiration), and the incredible Italian lunch my friend and I ate in the City Centre, I found a comment that a friend made in my tour group most impactful.
The last exhibition was a historical gallery filled with drawings, paintings and photography of insects, plants and gardens. All of the art was inspired by nature and could be traced back to artists living between now and 400 years ago.
At the end of the gallery, our tour guide gathered us all together and had us sit down around him on either the benches or the floor. We discussed using nature as a subject and he got a few of us to talk about our favourite pieces but the bulk of the conversation was around the idea of inspiration.
Our guide asked something along the lines of, "What are your thoughts of using historical art as inspiration?"
The girl sitting next to me answered, explaining that lots of well known painters such as Monet have used other artists to influence how they paint. The tour guide agreed and the discussion continued as he got us to give examples of different things that influence artists.
One of my friends in the group stood at the edge of the semicircle holding his clipboard of notes to his ribcage. He raised his hand and when called on said, "But don't you think that if artists are constantly taking things from other artists, they aren't being truly creative?"
At first this stunned me. I realized I had once thought through this idea myself. But then it angered me. As a writer with a creative mind and as someone who takes ideas from the world just like Monet, I disagree.

The Starry Night by Van Gogh
There's a big difference between copying and using something as inspiration. 
Paul Cezanne, a famous painter, was inspired by Van Gogh but he never copied his ever-famous The Starry Night. What he did was adapt some of his technique.
Like a lot of writers, I use Pinterest as a source of visual inspiration. I save photos of potential characters, settings or things that I just find interesting and go back to them when I need something to kickstart my creative juices. But never ever do I look at a photo and try to re-create the scene in my story.
I follow a blog, Go Teen Writers, which is written by authors who share their techniques with young aspiring writers like me. It's a source of inspiration. I don't copy their examples or try to mimic the novels they already have published.
There are books that have inspired my own current novels but despite this, I try to be as original as I can. If anything reminds too much of something else that I've read or seen on TV, I take it out or twist it until it's my own.
It wouldn't be very satisfying to make money off of work that isn't really yours. I think that true artists realize this and respect the work of others.

It's not easy. I leave the theatre all the time wishing I could create a villain like the one in the film I watched. I close countless books wishing I had thought of the plot twist the author used first. With media becoming such a large part of our culture, unique ideas are quickly being claimed, recycled, and some even reach the point of cliche. People are constantly coming up with new ideas. Being creative is becoming increasingly difficult but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

Even the first artists were inspired. The first painters probably saw a person or a landscape and wanted to capture that moment forever so they did. The first musicians probably heard the wind or birds and sang a tune along. The first writers documented the stories that happened to real people, hoping to share them with the world. Art's legacy would be non-existent without a stimulus right from the start.

So to my friend who believes that nothing can ever be truly creative, let me say this: creativity is dead without inspiration. You can't simply pull an idea from your head without anything to trigger that thought. Different artists use different things to inspire them. One of these things can be the work of other artists. They can create something beautiful with just the thoughts of something someone else created. Without that painting, photograph, novel, song or whatever else it may be, the idea would have never came to be.

What inspires you? 

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