The ‘Ah!’ Moment

Inspiration is a strange and fickle thing. It comes and goes as it pleases, taking you by surprise and disappearing again just as quickly.

Perhaps you can compare it to a frightened kitten. You have to create the right atmosphere before it will come out from behind the sofa and play. You need a calm, trusting environment to coax him out and the right stimuli to initiate his playfulness.

Sounds simple in theory, but it takes some trial and error, and some surprises, before you learn what the right atmosphere and stimuli are for you to become inspired.

Where to start? Well, let’s first think about what inspiration actually is…
We could define inspiration as ‘stimulation of (often) creative action, ideas, thoughts or feelings’. If you like, it’s a stimulation that animates or awakens you.

What do you need in order to become inspired? A source – something that provides the stimulation or interests you. This is of course very subjective and can vary immensely. Also, openness – you need to be open to or to create the right atmosphere, time, space and frame of mind. Inspiration can be blocked if any one of these factors is not met.

For me, work-related inspiration comes from opportunities to develop (personal development, coaching etc) and improve (usually process related, or starting new projects) and from passionate and enthusiastic people. Outside the work arena my sources of inspiration are more visual and tend to be art and nature related. Bold primary and secondary colours; artwork from other artists; flowing patterns and forms; vast, impressive or colourful landscapes; the power of nature (such as the sea, wind or volcanoes); water in its various states; large, intricate or gnarly trees. The list is pretty long.

From the definition though, for something to be inspirational it should incite you to action, thought or feelings. Mostly it makes me feel really alive! Often, with the fascination and energy that these sources awaken, it’s enough to stand there, take it all in, experience them and appreciate them. There’s a deep contentment, an aliveness, a sense of things being as they should be. To capture these feelings I’m usually driven to photography. Painting is more an indirect result of my inspiration stimuli, as it tends to come from deep within and is a more subconscious process.

Sometimes though, the feelings awakened are akin to a sort of longing, somewhat similar to the feeling I sometimes experienced as a teenager. It’s an undefined longing and a slightly sad and pensive feeling. This tends to inspire more philosophical thoughts. A vast expanse of sea or landscape can cause this. Other times the stimuli can awaken my curiosity (my scientific side?) and I start asking questions – How? Why? – I want to know more…

Inspiration, although fickle, can also be a circular process. Being inspired leads you to do things that in turn inspire you further. Maybe you see a photograph of a place, which inspires you to travel, and in turn, travelling inspires you to take great photos…. I find that once I open myself to inspiration and start the creative process, the more I become inspired. If it goes on for some time, it can become almost feverish. Break this cycle though and it stops very quickly.

Of course, without inspiration, there would be no art. There would be no passion. And without art and passion, there would be no inspiration, no ‘Ah!’ moment.

Dieuwke Swain
Fine Artist & Photographer