Guest Post: Do the Work, Dispel the Myth of Creative Inspiration

Today we’re featuring a guest post from accomplished visual artist Amy Buchheit. Amy was one of the creatives I interviewed on my cross-country U.S. road trip last year; a profile of her and a short video was posted recently to this blog. Enjoy her post below:

When Patrick asked me to write a guest blog, I had no idea what I was going to write about.  “Any topic you want” is a pretty broad scope!  I went to my Facebook page and asked my friends, family and fans what they would like to hear about.  The one request I received was to write about creative inspiration.

I’ll admit, I avoided writing for days.  Why?  Because inspiration hadn’t struck.  The topic seemed too big to tackle in one guest blog … until I thought about where inspiration comes from.  That was easy to explain – it comes from being in action.  In other words, it comes from work.

"Wasp in the Lotus", digital photography, copyright 2010 Amy Buchheit. All Rights Reserved.

I’ll admit there are times when inspiration seems to strike at random.  I am grateful for those moments, where an idea seems to float down from the sky on golden sunbeams, or appears in a sudden burst like a beautiful firework display.  But if I look to what occurred in the hours and days before, I realize that I had been in action.  That, rather than some divine revelation, had been the source of the inspiration.

One thing is sure:  If I waited to work until I was inspired, I would never do it.  Frank Tibolt said, “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”  I find this to be one of the most accurate descriptions of the creative process I have heard to date.

For example, here is what a day in the studio looks like:  I pull out cleaning rags, put water in a container for my brushes and make sure the spray bottle has distilled water in it.  I light scented candles in my Nightmare Before Christmas candelabra and put CDs in the player or put on a Pandora Quick Mix.  I prepare my Stay-wet palate by soaking the sponge and paper, placing them inside their container, selecting paint colors and squirting or scooping out appropriate amounts.  When needed I pull out reference photos and/or sketches I will use to guide my work.  Then and only then do I set brush to canvas.

"All the World's a Stage". Digital photography, copyright 2010 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved.

If I am lucky, inspiration comes early on.  Time seems to disappear and I am guided as if by some unseen force.  Some would say that God is there while others would claim the Universe is providing.  Whatever label we give it, it is a blessing.  It makes the work far easier and much more pleasurable.  And, it is still work.

When I’m not so lucky, I can work all day without that creative spark.  I do the exact same rituals to start my day, and work just as I would on days where inspiration strikes.  I do everything “right” … and yet, the results can go so wrong!  Those days, I remind myself to be grateful for the ability to do the work, even when it doesn’t come out the way my ego wants it to.

I can’t speak to exactly what creative inspiration is.  People have used God and Universe, among other things, to explain it throughout the centuries.  Over the years I have discovered what is behind inspiration, though.  I have learned to trust that if I put myself in front of the canvas, those smooth, delicious, inspired moments will come if I let them.  But first, I have to do the work.

Amy Buchheit is a painter and photographer living in Vancouver, Washington.  As a Signature Member of the International Society of Acrylic Painters, her work has been shown on local, regional, national and international levels for more than a decade.  Amy is “committed that the viewer connects with [her] work on a deep, healing level, taking something valuable away in the process.”

About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

6 Responses to “Guest Post: Do the Work, Dispel the Myth of Creative Inspiration”

  1. Thanks for an inspiring post! I agree–inspiration doesn’t often come when I sit around waiting for it. I like to think of those uninspired times as paying dues for those times when inspiration *does* strike.

  2. Amy, I was fascinated to read a description of your work ritual; the way you set yourself up for inspiration to find you. I would love to be there watching!

    I also enjoyed seeing pictures of some of your artwork, and I’ve seen those on your site too. I was looking at your blog the other day and, wow, you have such diversity in your work. I love the vivid colors you use.

    It *is* hard to define inspiration. I love that you wrote about the action side of it.

    Thanks for the enjoyable journey into your studio.

    ~ Milli

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Guest Post: Do the Work, Dispel the Myth of Creative Inspiration | The Artist's Road -- Topsy.com - February 9, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dan Blank, Melanie. Melanie said: RT @on_creativity "Do the Work, Dispel the Myth of Creative Inspiration" guest post by @amybuchheit http://bit.ly/gQe97j #creativity […]

  2. Do the Work | Fantastic Voyage - February 9, 2011

    […] Although I doubt Dr. Suess wrote that line in anticipation of my guest blog, “Do the Work, Dispel the Myth of Creative Inspiration“, those few elegently simple words capture the idea behind it […]

  3. Creativity Tweets of the Week — 6/10/11 « The Artist's Road - June 10, 2011

    […] “Nature as Creativity Booster,” Melissa Crytzer Fry, guest post on Sheri Lopatin: Rogue Writer: Emerson isn’t the only writer who’s been inspired by nature. Melissa is inspired by the state where I grew up, Arizona (you’ll love her photos). (Related: Do the Work, Dispel the Myth of Creative Inspiration) […]

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