8:04 PM


 Where do you find inspiration?

  Is it a person? A photograph?

A piece of music? An album? The way the sunlight filters through trees on the edge of the road? 

 Fat baby toes in the afternoon sun? The perfect stillness of a lake at dusk? A quiet house? When the air dips to a certain chilly temperature and leaves begin to flutter to the ground?

 Is it a blog? A poem? A photograph of a recipe that makes you want to pull out your pots and pans and attempt it yourself? Design magazines? Beautiful landscaping?

And what is it that you're inspired to do? Sing? Write? Read? Run? Cook? Pull out your own camera? Knit? Sew? Quilt? Make hot tea? Learn to paint? 

Inspiration comes in many shapes and moves us in different directions. I find inspiration in every single one of the instances listed above and I know those barely scratch the surface. 

I am so overwhelmed by inspiration at times that it literally paralyzes me. What to do first? Second? Third? And more importantly...when? I have piles of projects just begging me to jump in. Photographs, baby books, knitting projects, sewing patterns....

As I mentioned before, my latest venture is painting. Thanks to David McCullough who opened my eyes to John Singer Sargent, I am seeing the world through different eyes. I have been infused with a burning desire to paint! I realize there are so many people over the course of history who've answered the call of paint to find its perfect expression on canvas and many of them have mastered it. Mastered it. And then new ones have come along and mastered different, but equally amazing techniques.  

There are the Michelangelos and Rembrandts, the Picassos and Renoirs, the Rothkos and Kandinskis, the Van Goghs and Degas and the list goes on and on and on...and all those move me. But none quite like John Singer Sargent.

He not only painted portraits, he painted watercolors and landscapes in all different ways and they never cease to stun me, captivate me, awe me. I'm not saying everyone will or should react the way I do. But I do hope there is at least SOMETHING in your life that you do react to as viscerally as I do to his work. Something that you love so much you feel it must have been invented just for your enjoyment.

Because to be so moved and so inspired is fantastic and terrifying. It does more than sit there and look pretty and make me feel good. It tosses its head and issues a challenge to me. Ashley, join me. Try this. 

So I've taken a great leap into the unknown to nod my head to the greatness that has gone before me and to learn to understand it. Attempt to find my own voice with paints. Will I be successful? Who knows. That's part of the terror, really. Because for some reason, it's not enough for me to just love Sargent's work. I want to understand the way he painted. The mediums he used. The thought that went into his compositions.

And I, two classes in, am so overwhelmed by a whole world of painting that I never knew existed.  The wide array of brushes to choose from. Different types of surfaces on which to paint. Preparation of those surfaces. Acrylic or oil? Or water-soluble oil? Which medium to use? Water, liquid gel, soft gel, GAC, paste?  How to glaze, dry brush, figuring out your natural brush style, sfumato, impasto, stippling...what to to put my own interpretation via my eyes, brain, arm, fingers, brush to canvas...and have it make a connection to someone else.

I have spent "my" moments, the moments when no other demands are placed on me and I'm just sitting nursing Dorien or reading while everyone else is asleep, pouring through books on the different techniques of painting in oil and acrylic, studying and thinking through the different texts. Reading books on John Singer Sargent and also, doing my own beginner exercises! 

I have no idea where, if anywhere, this will take me. I just know that there is something magical about the brush, slick with paint, making contact with a quietly waiting canvas...

I don't care how busy you are or what you do with your time. You need to be inspired. We all do. Find that something and let it move you to something bigger, something that scares you. Sometimes walking into a room of strangers with nothing in common except a desire to wield a brush can be the best thing you can do for yourself.

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  1. I love this post, girl. And I love Sargent. I believe that he was responsible for my fave retort: "Never throw dust in the eyes of your admirers." More, Ash.More. More.