Slowly Tangling with Inspiration

Inspiration. We all want it, even crave. Some of us find inspiration all around us. Others, like me, are clueless about what inspires anyone at all. 

Lots of bloggers discuss what inspires them to produce certain works, whether visual, verbal, one auditory. I read these and think, What a great way to get inspiration! And then I try what they do and–nothing. It is as though I have no imagination. I do, I think–I hope. It is just that I haven’t figured out yet why I draw or doodle or write or otherwise produce what I do at any given time. For an individual who feels pretty well aware of herself, this is a difficult admission. I am not even sure that my inability to determine what inspires me is always true. What I mean is, sometimes I do know what inspired a work. Most of the time, however…

Lately, I have been trying to learn the art of Zentangle. I am currently on Day 12 of One Zentangle a Day, by Beckah Krahula. But I have been following the lessons of this book for almost two months. Amazingly, this is true even though I Zentangle at least an hour a day. Perfection isn’t part of my problem, as followers know. I share mistakes and very rough work as readily as I share “masterpieces.” It is part of my learning process–share and discuss either the problems of a messed up work or the surprise when something comes out pretty good. But every art form requires inspiration–even Zentangles–and I often stop and do little more than practice or exercises that I hope will guide me. So the fact that I have been learning Zentangles for so long yet remain on such an early stage should not surprise me.

In fact, I was surprised when I started looking at dates of art works in my sketch pads and realized how long it has been since I practiced traditional drawing and how long it has taken me to practice a particular Zentangle motif without feeling comfortable with its execution. Out of the twenty-some Zentangle patterns I have learned, I am still very uncomfortable with about half a dozen, even after watching YouTube demos until my eyes cross. And I swear that each demonstrator uses techniques that are qualitatively different from all others. 

It seems like mere weeks since I was practing facial features in my sketchbooks. I became really good at eyes and mouths, but ears eluded me. But when I attempted to draw another portrait, it was as though someone else had drawn the realistic sketches, not me. I couldn’t seem to get anything right.

On the other hand, I find that, while concentrating on a Zentangle motif or attempting realistic drawings, some part of my mind is thinking about story or blog ideas. I quickly jump onto Word on my tablet or computer, and set down whatever ideas came to mind so that I don’t forget a feeling or a plot or just a description that I want to play with. 

Sometimes, these writing ideas give me ideas for a Zentangle tile or a drawing or painting subject, at which point it is back to a sketchbook. Yet, when I go to my oil painting workshop and the instructor asks me what I will be painting, I shrug and apologize for not bringing a photo or picture to put onto canvas. The truth is–and I really need to share this with her–there are times when I just want to paint something that is inside me, not something from the real world. So far, I haven’t been able to share that with her. I just allow her to choose a subject for me. As I listen to her grumble in French that I often don’t come fully prepared, I just meekly interpret whatever she comes up with and do my best to make it real instead of making it me. 

The other night–sun-up, actually–I was thumbing through a how-to book when I got the idea to do a pen and watercolor sketch of one of the book’s pictures. I was dead tired because I couldn’t fall asleep, but I attempted something new anyway. Since I sometimes have problems with hand-eye coordination from an age-related tremor, I managed to mangle a part of the pen element when my hand twitched. I tried to save the work by painting over the error with Chinese White paint, but watercolors are generally translucent at best, and the effort wasn’t very effective. Still, as a first attempt, I was relatively pleased with the overall effect–as long as I could ignore the error. Why I would start an ink sketch after no sleep when I am not comfortable with the permanence of ink media, I don’t know. It seemed the right thing to do with my sleeplessness at the time. Then, after getting some sleep, I was able to use the sketch to inspire a Zentangle tile and the beginning of a blog post I am working on. 

Is that inspiration? Does working in a variety of media inspire a project in one or more forms? Maybe I should just trust in what I probably should call my instinct and just enjoy the process of whatever I am working on. Letting go has always been a problem for me, but I think I am going to follow my instincts more and worry less about the success or failure of a project. After all, I learn a lot from my errors, and talk about what I learned in my blogs. If that comes so easily to me, it really is time to just do and not worry about the try. 

Yoda had it right: Do. Or not do. There is no try.

May the Force be with you (and your art!).


About DrEMiller

Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). Home: Sint Maarten. K-12 teacher for 13 years (Special Education for 10 years); Post-secondary educator since 2002; Education consulting since 1995. When teaching, held teaching certificates in K-12 special education, reading specialist; and secondary social studies. Doctorate: Educational Psychology Programmer/analyst for 10 years, including project management and training of corporate execs.
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2 Responses to Slowly Tangling with Inspiration

  1. DrEMiller says:

    Thanks for sharing, Pete. Just gotta say, for not being a writer, you do an amazing job with words. May all your fogs dissipate quickly.

  2. Pete says:

    Many times over the years of writing for my blog I have failed to find any inspiration. There were times it went on for a week and other times while in the middle of writing, a metaphoric cloud descends and I am stopped cold. Now not being a writer in any form or fashion I have found when all else fails do something totally different and forget about the writing and I have been amazed that as often as not the fog lifts and inspiration return.

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