Updated: Apr 20, 2020
As I wandered through the majesty of my local book trader (see my previous article on why these places are AWESOME) I decided I needed to find something different than my usual. My ever growing stack of books on Renaissance and Baroque artists is wonderful, I have a lot of fun looking at my collection, but I noticed I’d been getting in the habit of buying books on the same subject as the thing I’m currently reading before I finish it and then I end up in a long chain of the same, or very similar thoughts. These thoughts become drastically less inspiring as they carry on and become more and more mundane so I needed something new, something inspiring in a way that I don’t usually thrive on. This lead me into a rabbit hole of thinking about how I, as an artist, find inspiration to create what I create and I thought it would it would be fun to share with you all.
One of my biggest inspirations, and I think this is true for a lot of artists, is art shows. Nothing gets me into my studio space more than seeing an artist I really like, or seeing a new technique I can try. Other people’s creativity is extremely contagious to me and seeing dope art makes me want to try to make my own dope art and then maybe inspire someone to make their own dope shit. My best recent example of this came on my birthday last August (hint: hit ja boi up this August), and getting to see the career and life retrospective of one of my favorite artists, the equation known as RAMMELLZEE. This show was put on at the Red Bull Arts gallery in New York and I’ve got to give a massive shout out to the team behind it because it was the best curated show I’ve ever been to. I wandered through this two floor space for hours over the two days I was in New York, yes I went to the show twice, and drooled over the majesty of some of my favorite work and my brain started motoring on about what I was going to create when I got home. I really relate to the work of RAMMELLZEE because we both work with found material, are inspired by graffiti and have our own hierarchy and lineage of characters within our work. Shows like this just get me fired up and ready to create and, as I mentioned before, I’m sure plenty of artists can relate.
But beyond the obvious, art inspiring art, I want to talk about things outside of our genre or what we normally look at that can inspire us. I love seeing work in galleries or books but I think if we just let one piece of art inspire another, then another, then another, we get a chain of monotony that eventually just bleeds together into a collection of pieces that are, at their core, the same thing. So this brings us back to the bookstore, I tried to find books on artists or art periods that I didn’t usually look at but I just couldn’t find anything that tickled my fancy so I left the art section and began wandering around looking for something that caught my eye. I found a book on old horror movies and two books on Alcatraz amongst the piles of literature and I was completely sucked in. My work is heavily inspired by the macabre and I had these two references that gave me tales and images of both fictional and real life terror and I found myself thinking about making pieces that were different than my usual, a hard left turn off of the road I was headed down. I was looking into new things and it made me look at art I had made or was going to make in a new way. We all need to refresh our perspectives every now and then and I found myself being totally rebooted by these books.
This made me asses what I look at on a daily basis and it really hit me that inspiration is everywhere, art is everywhere. Go out into the world and just experience it, take in the scenery and examine how that reflects in your art. I think artists, and I’m totally guilty of this, get stuck in the same rotation of looking at the same references and the work gradually starts to get watered down and, well… lame. Our subject matter can’t stay the same all the time, art would be a hell of a lot easier if it could, but sometimes it’s so hard to find new inspiration or subjects. If we look at art through the ages, we see that new periods are typically started by one or two people who suddenly decide to do something new when whatever is going on is stale and then artists say, “oh shit, that’s way better than what we’ve been doing.” Art and artists occasionally need a reboot, to be unplugged and plugged back in, so try it! Try to put down the shit that you’re doing and do something new. I think that in school or when we’re young we experiment so much but at some point we just find something that works and keep doing it. And that’s awesome, we all need to find our niche, but we can’t let experimentation die with that. Go out, look at something new, experience something new and take those new things and create something new. Never get too comfortable or just keep making the same thing, do more, try more, never close your mind to new art. Build an ever growing reference collection that spans across all subjects and use it!