Staring at a blank piece of paper or canvas can be daunting. What if you start in the wrong area and end up with a bad composition? What if you’re working in aquarelle and paint a part of the paper that you end up wishing you left white? A cluster of decisions is staring back at you and judging your every move. But what if you turned the tables and instead of anticipating what your work will look like in the end, started asking it questions?
There are artists who by themselves are unable to produce anything. Call it inspiration or divine intervention if you like, they just struggle to arrive at the point where they would get some sudden flash of ideas and start building something. Instead they need to experience things made by others, preferably some sort of mess of incoherent ideas; a pile of gibberish stickie notes or a large abandoned ceramic factory with lots of leftover bowls and plates, or an old case of family pictures from a long-forgotten stranger.
For them (like many of us), inspiration doesn’t come by starting blank, but by piecing together things that, by themselves, don’t have any immediate connection. Maybe the next time you’re staring at a blank canvas, a fresh slab of rock or the empty workspace in your image-making software, instead of waiting and searching for the right ingredients, go for a walk and pick 5 curious things that catch your attention. Or call your friends and have them tell you a few words that they like.
It may be banal to go trash-picking or painting on the topic of “hangry”, “Netflix” and “binge”, but inspiration doesn’t reside inside of us like some hidden spirit. It is a problem solving mechanism that reacts to the things and events we experience in our daily lives. And if we don’t feed it with interesting problems, how can we expect it to work when we need or want it to? Because the reality is — that blank canvas you’re staring at, will stay blank until you fill-up on new and exciting ideas.