It's the most commonly asked question in interviews and people alike asking about art in general. A very innocent question, or is it? I read somewhere that if you make a dramatic statement people are more likely to stay tuned for whatever follows, so I hope it worked because I'd like to talk a bit about inspiration.
So what is it about this question that so many of us artists struggle with? Is it the fact that we've been asked so many times and can't be bothered with it anymore? Or is it because we ourselves struggle to answer the question in a meaningful way? As a matter of fact I think the entire question is flawed.
Here is the thing that I struggle with in this particular instance. Inspiration is dealing with stimuli that trigger creative processes, but the creative process to many is so elusive and intangible that defining it in a broad statement is difficult. My creative process switches constantly, this is not to be confused with the process of how I make my work or how I set myself up to do that work in a practical sense, i.e how I arrange my desk and what software I use. Parts of the creative process in the way it's finally executed and how it manifests itself in a painting is always the same. The tool, digital painting in this case, remains the same. It's done on a computer, behind a desk, most likely after careful planning. Inspiration therefor weighs in much earlier in the creative process, in the stage where everything is still very much up in the air and up for grabs. This space in your mind where you try to focus on a blurred image. Grabbing and pulling in many ideas and references trying to make sense of this blurred image, the idea. In this space we have to look for inspiration and this is where the question goes terribly awry. A quick note by the way, the art of sketching is incredibly important in this stage. It serves as a sort of auto-focus on a image, it helps clarify what you are looking for. Inspiration in this stage could means something completely different than the inspiration that had you arrive at the blurred image to begin with. A often missed point in this is image progression or evolution.
Artists sit around and wait for inspiration. When they find it, they make cool stuff. Maybe they listen to music or something.
The thing is though; what happens when you (and I'm talking to non artists right now) listen to music, or look at art, or go for a run. Do you get inspired to create masterpieces of art? No? Nor do we artists, generally speaking. There are presumably exceptions to the rule but I have yet to find one.
Art is hard work. An amount of hard work that if you were fully aware of it before hand you might not get into it. Such is at least true for trying to stay 'competitive', for lack of a better word, in the art community. But more on that later. It's hard work to improve and that piece of white paper staring at you can be a terrifying thing. The core however to this whole thing lies in the drive to get better and, right next to it lies curiosity.
Curiosity is a curious thing. In many cases it's the silent engine that allows for us to push through boring moments and touch upon some new information. In the book FLOW the process of increasing complexity is described as being stimulated by new things. This process allows for more brain activity and is important to prevent a form of brain slumber that can occur when doing menial day to day tasks, a.k.a 'The daily drag'. Getting these impulses therefor is hugely important. HUGELY! Get it yet? The extremely short version is: If you don't experience new things your brain turns into a potato.
Our curiosity drives us to research new things. New things keep the brain active and interested, in turn making us curious about more things. We incorporate this into the creative process when we turn our research focus towards something we would like to, in this case, paint. Everything then becomes about adding something to the painting and the process broadens. It is here where we stumble upon the falsity of the inspiration statement. For me, it is really all about curiosity and how to stay motivated enough to stay curious and continue the creative process.
So where does that leave us? Should we all stop asking the question where inspiration comes from? The answer is, yes. Absolutely. I can't even emphasize it enough. Please, stop it. I get it though, it's not your fault. You mean well! So don't worry, I don't blame you. A very good alternative would be: "How do you stay motivated?".
P.s The answer is a mixture of terrible food, music, self loathing, crushing self inflicted pressure and energy drinks.