The Elusive Muse

I am often asked how I find inspriation and once found, how I hold onto it.The creative process is a mysterious thing and everyone has their own personal relationship with their “muse”. I myself have suffered through many setbacks and  time periods barren of creativity. I find these times to be profoundly challenging so over the years I have developped some habits and practices to fend off those dark days and I thought it might be helpful to share them One thing I have always done is maintain a sketchbook. It is a great place to keep your thoughts organized and to have a visual record of your creative evolution. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even neat; it is after all for your benefit so don’t worry about making it pretty. Just get a blank unlined sketchbook and start filling it up with ideas, sketches, clippings of inspiration. I even put in postage stamps that I find particularly beautiful and lists of things I hope to accomplish. These are all mixed in with sketches of ideas, sometimes different versions of the same concept.

lisa zador-sketchbook

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I take a smaller version with me when I travel and fill it with sketches done on the spot or notes about something I found inspiring, all for future reference. So many things will come to mind when I am away from the studio which I would never remember if I didn’t jot them down.

lisa zador-travel sketchbook

I also keep pen and paper by my bed as I tend to come up with some of my best ideas during the night or in those magical moments in the morning when I am just waking up.

lisa zador-sketches

Another thing I do is to keep a wall of inspiration. Mine is actually the 2 sliding doors of my closet which are flat white and just begging to be filled up. I’ve heard other people say they keep a clothesline in their studio and clip pages to that .The idea is to keep your ideas in front of you for focus and to keep you moving forward. I usually have sketches of the different projects I am involved in and those I haven’t gotten to yet as well as any inspiration I have collected pertaining to them.

lisa zador-inspriation wall

In my studio I have a library of reference books including artists biographies, how-to books and clip art. I don’t know where I would be without Dover Publications and their exhaustive collection of reference books including early advertising engravings of everything under the sun including old wood type, engravers ornaments, historic textile design, period fashion and costumes, animals, it is just endless. I go back to those books on a daily basis for ideas.

lisa zador-reference books

lisa zador-reference books

I also keep an extensive collection of reference files. These days they are digital but I still go back to my paper files on a regular basis as well. Keeping them organized is very important so that they will be easily located when needed. For example I will have “Textiles” as the main folder, then “Vintage”, “Damask”, “tablecloths”, “Christmas” etc. Another good habit is to re-name the photos when you drag them into a file. For example instead of using the given name which is usually just a number, I will re-name it in simple terms that I can easily search for no matter where it ends up on my computer. So instead of "DC2257666" I’ll call it "mouse-umbrella-victorian".

I am often involved in several projects at once so I find it helpful to keep individual files for each project that will have printouts of reference and sketches all together instead of in one pile on my table or scattered around the studio.

lisa zador-project folder

So now when I find myself in a dry spell or stuck in a project and not knowing in what direction to take it I can relax with a cup of tea and flip through my sketchbook or my paper files or sit down at the computer and browse through my reference files. Something always pops out at me unexpectedly and provides the missing piece of the current design puzzle.

mr peanut - lisa zador

Finally, one thing I have learned is to stop myself from second guessing an idea. It is easy to talk yourself out of doing a new painting or project because it sounds unusual or you tell yourself no one else could possibly be interested in it. I had sketches for my Mr. Peanut portrait on my inspiration board for nearly a year before I finally started the painting and it is now a popular favorite in my Curious Portraits shop. If I believed that voice in my head telling me that no one would want to buy anthropomorphic food prints The Curious Kitchen shop wouldn't exist. Trust your instincts, it is your creative self trying to get your attention! I hope you find this helpful and I would love to hear about your own personal ways of fighting off “artists block”!

anthropomorphic breakfast - lisa zador