An artist can be inspired by any number of things: a dream, memory, or feeling, or more tangible things like nature, people, or a location. While anyone can look at something beautiful and be inspired by it, moved by it — it takes an artist to take that inspiration and create something entirely new from it.
The vast and unreachable “unknown” of outer space captivates artists and scientists alike. Glass artist Josh Simpson (married to renowned astronaut Catherine Coleman) creates stunning glass planets that evoke some of the incredible beauty of space.
Each night, Simpson walks from his home to his studio and spends time gazing into the night sky. He never tries to replicate the beauty he witnesses, but instead tries to instill some of the wonder of the universe into his glass work. He often isn’t even aware of the source of his inspiration until someone points it out to him later.
Neil deGrasse Tyson said:
As you know, I study astrophysics, and let me tell you the kind of art I’m least interested in – it’s when people see these beautiful images from the Hubble telescope, and they’re inspired by that, and they just sort of draw that.
And my response is – I don’t NEED you to draw that. I have the telescope to give me that. As an artist, why don’t you process that through your own creativity, and take me to a place I’ve never been before?
Then you’re adding a dimension to it. Don’t just copy what’s there – I’m not telling an artist what to do, but what I like is when an artist is inspired by the Universe, and it goes through their machine, and comes out of them in a new kind of way, and you go “Hey…I bet I know what inspired that.”
I want an artist to show me something I might not have noticed about that natural beauty. I want an artist to layer an emotion on that natural beauty that I might not have seen myself, or even known to access.
From outer space to inner reflection — this piece by Cathy Broski is inspired by memorable people and events in her life. Broski created a cavity in the form which features metaphorical objects: a ladder symbolizing inner growth achieved through aging, a bird as a metaphor for the inner voice helping to keep us on our path, cups representing time spent with the ones we love.
Sometimes it’s important to look at something in a different, unexpected way to find inspiration. At first glance, we may only notice the blooming flowers in our gardens. Look again, and you may notice more subtle beauty found in the silvery fuzz covering a stem or the fresh green tones and shapes of leaves. Nancy Linkin is inspired by the curvilinear forms found in nature and geometry. In a conversation with Linkin, she shared that the spiraling curled ferns and gracefully bending vines and grasses in her garden inspire her work — can you see their forms in her jewelry?
Memories and experiences are sources of inspiration, too. Perhaps a blue and white color scheme present in a childhood kitchen now evokes feelings of calm and happiness. Or maybe a memory of a special trip to the ocean draws you to pieces with a nautical theme. The Summer Porch Peach series by Karen Schulz was inspired by ‘a summer vacation ritual of lining up luscious peaches, to watch them ripen and dwindle over relaxing, joyous, carefree days on Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.’ The warm yellows and oranges in the piece contrast with the cool blues and greens to bring the artist’s memory to life.
Inspiration can strike anyone, but it takes an artist to transform inspiration into something new and beautiful.