Use Your Muse: How To Find Creative Inspiration When You Need it Most

A hike through the woods in autumn. The first scratch of vinyl on a Tom Petty record. That super long hug from your best friend. Whatever truly stirs your soul is something to hold on to. They had a name for that in Ancient Greece – a muse. And when you’re feeling creatively stuck, your muse might be the one thing that can break that dreaded mental block.

From one creative to another, I know how it is. Working through a dry spell is like carrying a backpack full of bricks up a long hill. It’s awful. And that’s when it’s time to #UseYourMuse. To help you do that, here are some ideas and words of advice from our Artist community to help stoke the creative fire so you can get back to making awesome things.

Nature

“Only Light” by Allison Coelho Picone

It’s always good to step outside. Don’t even bother with a weather report. Rain, shine, snow or sun, let nature envelop you with its grandeur, even if it’s just for a moment. Take a trip to see some natural wonders, or simply take a walk up your street. Wander through the woods or stick your toes in the sand. The world is full of mystery and magic. Dare it to inspire you and it will.

“Observing the sun’s glow behind a blade of grass, leaf or flower inspires me to create, not only with the colors that result from backlight but also on a transcendent level. I do not produce a representation of what is observed, but rather I create nature’s mood and light.” – Allison Coelho Picone

“My work captures the beauty that is around us every, single day. It is so cliché, but I am a huge believer in stopping and smelling the roses.” – Catherine Freshley

Artists

“Church on the Prairie” by Jim Westphalen

It’s been said that everything is a remix. That’s not a bad thing, merely an observation. We learn by imitating and we innovate by understanding those who came before us and who create around us. Who is your favorite Painter muse? How about a muse that is a Photographer, Filmmaker or Playwright? Observe their work. Sit back and enjoy it. There’s no exam, so you don’t always have to study them. Savor the work of Artists who fascinate you and they will stir your Creative spirit.

“My inspirations are many, but I make a study of many painters, always dissecting the light quality, textures and color palette they use. My biggest influences have been Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper and A. Hale Johnson.” – Jim Westphalen

People

It doesn’t always take an artist to inspire art. Great men and women from Aristotle to Rosa Parks have prompted masterpieces from the greatest artists in history. You can find their words everywhere from ancient texts to YouTube. Learn about their lives and deeds as much as their words, because inspiration comes from action just as much as creation. Entire movements of great change have been started by a person trying to do some good in this crazy world. These men and women will no doubt lead you somewhere uplifting.

“I look to Rumi, philosophers, writers and artists for uplifting quotes before I begin my day. Sometimes the quotes themselves take on a part of the title and of the image.” – Allison Coelho Picone

Culture

“Prince” by Lori Herbst

Can you hear it? The beat of our cultural drum? Take a minute to listen to the rhythm of life around you. That may be found in the bass line of a Prince song, or from the shuffling of little costumed feet to your door at Halloween. When you surround yourself with your local culture, it’s almost like an electric buzz you can feel. Channel that energy into your fingers and watch it transform your creative project.

“I’ll choose something that has my attention: when Bowie, Prince and Mary Tyler Moore died; watching horror movies during Halloween; my never-ending love of Sci-Fi. I like the idea of using modern materials and mythology in a kind of classical format.” – Lori Herbst

“The cubists’ and Marcel Duchamp’s ideas opened my eyes to modern art, and punk rock culture fueled my appetite for collage, so that’s really where it all starts for me” – Jim Ford

Places

Work by Catherine Freshley

Where are you from? Where do you want to travel? What’s your favorite coffee shop nook? All the places that hold meaning to us, big and small, spectacular and ordinary, are full of creative inspiration. It’s easy to forget about them when we’re hustling and bustling to get to the bank or the grocery store for the third time because we forgot to get milk. But they remain eternally. Find them. Remember them. Dwell in them for a little while and tap into their ebb and flow.

“I am most inspired by the natural beauty of our everyday landscapes. I live in Oklahoma right now, surrounded by miles and miles of prairie. It, and the sky above it, is beautiful to me. While something like the Grand Canyon or Glacier National Park might be more breathtaking, I prefer to paint things that are more ordinary – to celebrate the beauty of our “normal” scenes that is often overlooked.” – Catherine Freshley

Stuff

“Talisman, Tally Me Banana” by Jim Ford

If Andy Warhol can create 32 famous paintings of Campbell’s Tomato Soup cans and the band Nirvana can change the musical landscape with a song about deodorant (seriously), then it’s safe to say you can be inspired by anything. Don’t discount all the little items in your life that are easy to overlook. And because this is such a broad subject, there’s really no right way to find what will spark your thinking. Just start by taking a closer look at the world around you. Your next great muse might be right under your nose.

“There are a lot of things that inspire me to create… Sometimes I’ll start with a color or a concept in mind, and sometimes scraps around the studio inspire a collage that builds up a surface structure… My process is very free and abstract; sometimes I don’t really know what I’m making until its done.” – Jim Ford

The Process

Artist Sarah Trundle in Studio

Nobody likes to hear that failure is a great teacher. But, alas, it’s true. Take hope in that, however, because it means that all the little stumbles are steps towards the end result. A set back is still progress when you view it as a learning moment. Try to laugh a little more during these times. You might be balling up scrap pieces of paper in frustration, not realizing that those scraps are building a delightful little mountain landscape around your trashcan. Lo and behold you’ve unintentionally created something! The Artist Bob Ross would call that a happy little accident. And we can all use a little more happy in our life.

“A crucial part of a painting is the struggle that goes into its creation, so I strive to keep that apparent by leaving evidence of shifted lines and shapes and the under-layers of paint.” – Sarah Trundle

“Paint what compels you, not what you think other people want to see, what the current trend is, or what might sell. Be willing to wade through failures and embrace them. It’s a necessary – and humbling – part of the process.” – Sarah Trundle

Everything Else!

Artist Kristin Try and her Muses!

The thing that really sets your creative heart alight may be ever changing. That’s to your advantage. The key is to let yourself be inspired by anything and everything. Life throws out more curve balls than a Major League pitcher. You can only hit a home run if you take a swing at them. Focus on what makes you, you. That’s when your art really comes alive.

“Everything (inspires me)! It could be the clouds, a sunset, a house, little moments with my girls.” – Kristin Try

Framing Inspiration

An Artist-curated presentation from our Muse gallery.

Did you know that our company was founded by Artists for Creatives of all types? Yep. And our team is full of joyful Makers from every artistic background. Framing is our specialty, and we know it’s not always easy to know where to start when looking for the perfect presentation for your work. That’s why we created our Muse gallery. It’s full of Artist-curated galleries and presentations guaranteed to look fabulous. You can upload a print, see it in a variety of different styles, and let your imagination go from there.

What inspires you? How do you use your muse? Show us! Tag us on social with #framingjoy and #useyourmuse and you can help encourage and inspire the Creative Community.

Want to learn more about the Artists featured in this article? Check out all of our Artist Spotlights on the blog!

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