How creative inspiration begins

People often ask me where I get my inspiration from, how do I start a piece of work and why do I choose to draw or paint the things I do? I am always silenced by this question because the answer is so complex. It is similar to the question I am asked by people who stop to look at my work: “How long did it take you to do that?” Should my answer be three hours or 40 years?

When a child starts to draw at the age of two or three, every single mark made on the paper is of equal importance. By five they see that people look different and so give them different features like long or short hair, but houses are still all the same. By seven or eight they will include landscape and weather to give context to their characters, but the houses are still the same. By nine the young artist is drawing on their own observations and start to create recognizable compositions of places and things that they know, have seen or, maybe, in response to recent events. There are no houses.

Now that the young mind is taking in everything that is going on, they are gathering image and sensory memories. They are interested in the creations of others and become fans, or followers, of different styles. These influences are also stored in the memory banks of the mind.

With every drawing, a path is being carved between the eye, the creative corridors of the mind and the hand. They start a conversation that is sometimes led by the hand and sometimes by the mind. Sometimes the hand makes a mistake or ‘does its own thing’ and the mind quite likes
the result. Other times, the hand is a slave to the mind’s intent.

As the young artist experiences more emotions the heart also becomes part of the conversation. When we mature from dependency to independence and then to collaboration we seek the input of others and they too become part of the conversation. All the while, the artist is storing away images and sensations that can be later drawn on at any time. The memory banks are growing in size every year. As the artist ages, the memories become more detailed and the banks grow every hour and minute. It can become overwhelming.

So how do I draw on these memories and inspirations? Memory banks are not like a library; you cannot do a search by subject because the categories are infinite and the languages used to store them are those of the hand, the eye, the heart and all 19 senses. The only tool that can sort them out is the subconscious and this seldom works on command.

I access my subconscious every morning in that precious time between waking and rising. As I become conscious, I lie on my back and stretch my spine and limbs as if on a rack. I use a small pillow of seeds and perfumed oils to support my neck. Sometimes I am naked; sometimes my sheet has to be perfectly smoothed over me. I don’t decide – something inside decides.

Now I start to think about the task for the day ahead and soon my imagination, directed by my subconscious, takes over. They talk for about an hour and then it is time to start work while it is fresh. Breakfast can wait.

Bio: A professional artist and author of A Week in Hoi An, Bridget March specializes in urban landscapes and aims to reveal the hidden treasures of city life and small town cultures through her illustrations. Bridget holds drawing classes for beginners and improvers in Saigon. For more of Bridget’s work including her new book, see BrushWithAsia.blogspot.com