Art or Inspiration – Which Comes First?

People often say they don’t have enough ideas or inspiration, so how can they even think about being creative?

Two thoughts come to mind:

1. Does all art have to begin with an idea in our minds?

2. Are you really as out of inspiration as you think you are?

So if we delve into these a little further…

1. It seems perfectly logical that all art, all creating must begin with an idea. You must have some plan or direction or fragment of something in your head before you begin, something to expand, or to head towards.

image: Matt Stratton

But what about a 5 year old child drawing shapes on a page with their crayons? Do they have a detailed plan in their minds of what they are going to create? Do they pre-choose the colours, the shapes, all the little details?

It’s very unlikely. It’s more likely they just grab the first crayon they like the look of and start making marks on the paper. Is this creativity? Of course, they are creating something that was not there before, there are enjoying it, they are express themselves in some way.

Supposing another child (or adult) comes along, sees what the first child has drawn, says “hey that looks like a boat” and picks up a crayon or two and starts drawing their own boat.

In the first case, there wasn’t really art or inspiration, just a child making marks with a crayon they liked, until something started to form. The creativity came spontaneously, just from taking that first action of picking up a crayon and making a mark.

In the second case, the inspiration came from the art of someone else, and led to new art. Art led to inspiration which led to art.

2. The second train of thought here is about awareness. Inspiration comes from our minds being stimulated in some way, so it forms new connections, makes new associations that weren’t there before. But for this to happen, we rely in our senses. If they were all shut down, we’d have no way of receiving any new stimuli.

So when we say we don’t have any ideas or inspiration, maybe it actually means in some way we’ve switched off our senses. The equivalent of wandering around with a bucket of rapidly drying cement on our heads, oblivious to all around us.

This is another chicken and egg kind of scenario. As soon as you start to see the interest in the tiny details all around you, it gives you more ideas. And, with more ideas, you feel more creative, then notice even MORE around you, and have even MORE ideas. And so it builds.

An easy way of starting this flow is to focus on one of your senses in isolation for just 5 minutes or so, and note down everything you experience through that sense. It’ll be so much more than you expected.

So which comes first for you, the art or the inspiration?

4 thoughts on “Art or Inspiration – Which Comes First?”

  1. Interesting to break down the process of creation that way. I’ve followed both paths, but most often my need to be creative starts the ball rolling, makes me affected and inspired by what is around me. Great post!


  2. This is one really inspiring post!
    Appreciated your ideoma abt causes & consequences as well as spreading inspiration light all over.
    Sometimes it is hard to believe in this chain because of no imediate response or feedback. But if we take longer periods of time – it is absolutly true – inspired people are inspiring for all the worl around and probably we will never know, what is our real influence, but for sure there is.
    Thanks for sreading the word! 😉


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