On Inspiration…and Instagram

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I absolutely love when I hear that people enjoy this blog!  I’ve been artsy & craftsy for years, but pretty much kept it in my own little world. I kept hearing friends say, “Oh, you just do all those fun projects because you’re crafty…I could never do anything like that.”  But you know what?  You CAN.  That’s part of why I started the blog: to share all the projects I do, to share ideas and hopefully to encourage creativity.

I’ll tell you a secret about the stuff I do:  I don’t know what I’m doing.  Embroidery?  I make it up.  Clay sculpture?  Just messing around.  The thing is, I have a FURIOUS CURIOUSITY about handmade things.  I find inspiration, I research a little bit about it, and then I just jump in and give it a try.

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Like with the collaborations with our daughter, it’s not so much the END result as the process.  That’s where the magic is; that’s where you learn.  You want to try sculpture?  Read a little about it, and TRY IT YOURSELF!

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I have found inspiration in a wide variety of things.  I like to look closely at the work other artists do, and see if I can figure out how to do them myself.  At first glance, you might think, “MAN!  I could never do that!”  But if you erase those voices of doubt and just listen to the curious, excited voice, the “work” that goes into figuring out how to do something is not work at all!  The result of my experiments with embroidery isn’t as immaculate as the work that inspired it, but I learned so much, I gained an appreciation for the beauty and detail in what other people do, and as an afterthought, it sort of turned out cool in its own sort of way.

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Recently, I joined Instagram, thanks to some encouragement from the host of an interview I did on Design Recharge.  I was quite resistant to it at first, because I’m already involved in Twitter and Facebook and blogging and a separate email account—the last thing I need is another social media, right?  And isn’t it all selfies and cats and posing and food pictures anyway?

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Well, I was wrong.  BOY was I wrong.  As an artist, I’m going give you a quick intro to Instagram and tell you why it’s awesome.  (Those of you already on it—sit tight, I’m ‘bout to spread the love…)

Take or leave all the other social media, but for me, Instagram has been the single most exciting form of artistic inspiration I’ve had in YEARS.  (Yes, even more than Pinterest.)  Why?  Because I forgot HOW MUCH I enjoy and learn from other artists.  Not only just by looking at art, but behind the scenes.  Artists on Instagram often post in-progress shots on their pieces.  People ask them questions, and they usually respond.  And unlike FB, where your newsfeed is often bogged down by all sorts of random things, you can find EVERYTHING you follow in your feed.  “Liking” them is easy peasy.  And the good thing about “liking” them is that later, someone can see what YOU liked, and find new artists that way.

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I chose to mostly follow only those pages that belong to artists.  Most of my friends & family already keep me up-to-date on their lives through Facebook, so I chose to keep Instagram for the arts.  So I see the pictures that other artists post, and it’s so AWESOME seeing them working on new things, trying new things, and showing everyone else.  People often ask them what tools they use, so artists will often list them.

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You can’t use it from your computer.  It’s meant to be “on the go.”  So you can snap something from your smart phone and put it right up there in the moment.

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Posted pictures are done only in a square format, so that is a little odd to deal with, for those of us who work more…”rectangularly.”

There are no links.  So you can’t just link to something and have someone be able to click on it, except for one link in your own profile.  This seems frustrating sometimes, but I think it’s there for a reason.

I didn’t realize until AFTER college what a positive thing it is to be around so many other artists and be able to see THEIR way of doing things, being able to try new things yourself, and being able to ASK other artists how they did something.  You sort of take that for granted when you’re busy learning yourself.  But once you grow up & move on (unless you’re in a creative group of some sort), you don’t get to see that anymore!  Artists either keep their process to themselves, or you just don’t get the opportunity to SEE that side.  So for me, in Instagram, I found a way to see that again, and I love it.  And I’m inspired by it.  And encouraged by it to try new things.

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As an artist, inspiration is key.  Learning is key.  Practicing is key.  As is trying new things.  For me, I’ve never understood why artists would hide their knowledge from anyone else.  Tattooists are notorious for this—they’ve spent a long time mastering their technique, and have gone through the paces, sometimes with YEARS of grunt work before finally getting to even touch the equipment.  So they guard what they’ve known from aspiring up-and-comers who they think might be trying to take the easy way out..  Other tattooists worry that they’ll take the time to teach someone, and that person will take that knowledge and open a competitive shop, which might eventually steal work from their own shop.

I get that.  I really do.  But if guarding your technique exists only in the spirit of ensuring that you are the only one who can dominate your field?  That I don’t understand.  I propose this idea:  share the knowledge, share the skills, share what you know.  It’s a guarantee that the person you teach isn’t going to have the exact same vision as you.  So why not put more good artwork out into the world?  If they are awful, then it most likely won’t survive.

Suzy Hotrod is a roller derby rockstar, and she said something once in an interview that stuck with me.  Something to the effect of “I can tell you exactly what kind of skates I use, what kind of plates, what kind of wheels.  But that won’t make you skate like me.”  Sounds a little harsh, but what Suzy was saying is that even if you have all the “right” tools, you won’t get better without PRACTICE.  Without TRYING new things.  Without that furious curiosity to improve and learn.

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I have often wondered if people are born with artistic talent, or with the right encouragement, if people could be taught.  My opinion varies, but often I think that even if I was taught by the best, the end result will NEVER look the same as someone else’s.  People have their own point of view, and teaching them might help them find a way to express it.  The key to it all is DESIRE.  Do you WANT to get better?  Do you WANT to improve?  Then get out there!  Look at what other people are doing, and instead of getting discouraged, be encouraged by it, and motivated by it to improve.  Share your art with other people!

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You can ALWAYS learn new things.  No matter HOW good an artist you are.  Ask questions.  Give answers when people ask you.  You can have all the art supplies you need, but unless you have the DESIRE to create and try new things and change and grow and improve, then you just won’t go anywhere.  You’ll never improve.

So wherever you are, whatever stage of your life you’re in, find that inspiration, and don’t be afraid of messing up!  I’ve taught our daughter when rollerskating that FALLING IS GOOD.  If we don’t fall, we can’t learn how to get better.  Whenever she falls, I applaud her for a “good fall,” but what I’m really applauding is her having the courage to try.  And that’s what’s important.

I post a lot of different kinds of artsy art that I don’t always share on Facebook and Twitter over on my Instagram page, so if you’ve got an account, please come check it out!  I’m @busymockingbird.  Look around you–whatever’s around you, and get inspired!

19 responses

  1. I’m not on instagram but maybe I should be!

    1. I know! I was VERY reluctant at first, but it’s been AWESOME! I love seeing all the art on there!

  2. This is awesome information and helpful to all those other artists out there trying to find their way and how to connect with their audiences. It’s always inspiring to see WIP and have a chance to engage our own creativity with what the finished work will be. Thanks for sharing your insight!

    1. Thanks, Jen! And even once you find your way, sometimes you question your own skills, so it’s fun to take a look around & try new things. It’s all about creating!

  3. Followed you immediately on Instagram! Now I don’t have to wait for email updates, yay!

  4. Oh boy….i am a FB and Pinterest junkie….and now, you may have just talked me into Instagram! Lol…I better get rigid about actually making time for art!
    I do thoroughly enjoy your blog!

  5. I agree totally on the Instagram comments. Not too long ago I joined and use it primarily for my art as well….I’m finding some awesome video postings. Now I’m following you too! Love your work!

  6. This is a very inspirational post and expresses the fundamentals of not just being an artist or an illustrator, but being a creative individual overall. Not only that, but it’s promoting positive human nature. A great post.

  7. This is EXACTLY what I love about Instagram, too. I love how easy it is to talk with others, and seeing how other artists work. Since I’ve started sharing my own art on this platform, I’ve found my creative energy has gone way up. I’m drawing much more often and sharing it more frequently. No scanning, cropping, editing, etc. 🙂 It sounds almost silly, but I think using Instagram is shaping me into a better artist. Thanks for writing this post!

  8. You really are an amazing person, and a great artist too! Your daughter is lucky to have you to encourage her, I love your “good fall” comment to her, I could have used that growing up.

  9. I love following your blog and now your Instagram. Your creative process with yourdaughter is amazing and you’re just plain awesomely creative all around 🙂

  10. I love following your blog and now your Instagram. Your work with your daughter is amazing and I love see the other creative projects that you do, especially work in progress. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I’m glad that you love hearing that you inspire people, because I LOVE reading what you have to say about creativity, and seeing your creations. I adore what you’re doing here! And agree with so much of it. Thanks again for sharing. :]

  12. I am so so so glad you were willing to try. I love keeping up with you on instagram! This post was full of great tips for someone new to instagram. AND encouraging artists no matter how “good” they think a piece to share and grow and learn and build from others.

    p.s. and thanks for the plug for the show. 🙂

    1. My pleasure, Diane! It was an awesome show and I am so glad you talked me through IG!

  13. Thanks for this superb post. I think you’ve persuaded me about Instagram, but I’m kind of in the dark ages when it comes to hardware – no smartphone etc. so is there really no way to use a computer to share images?

  14. Ph and the best thing is hearing artists talk and their reasoning. You made my day!

  15. Could you write a post about your favorite instagrams to follow? Would love more art inspiration!

    1. That’s a great idea! Might be a fun one to do! Also, if you enjoy someone’s work, you can go to their profile and click on the number of people they’re following, scroll through them, and see if there’s anything you like. But YES! That sounds like a really fun post idea!

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