By Canyon Webb
Have you ever felt a lack of motivation or inspiration? Welcome to the world of an artist. An artist’s biggest battle is to stay inspired and motivated. Outside of the creative world this is a very normal emotion, one we tend to ignore when we’re filling our time with TV or political propaganda, (distractions in general). The most inspiring thing can be the most unexpected...
For example; there was a three-week period in downtown Reno, Nevada where I was walking to work every morning and would have to pass the same group of homeless people. The first few days I ignored the common display. It was a typical sight on the way to see a few panhandlers and people down on their luck. One gentleman stood out though. And I call him a gentlemen out of respect. I didn’t know him personally, nor did I make the effort.
I’m sure my appearance has influenced a few first impressions of my character, so I try not to judge a book by its cover. This man was shrouded in uncountable layers of tattered black fabric. His head down, always with an intense look of despair. It was winter, and Reno's weather is not forgiving that time of year. This man was more than homeless, or cold. He was perspective-less. He spoke only to himself, and out of this muttering you would hear “No... I can't...” I would walk by this guy and my heart would be torn out and smothered in sympathy. My impression was that this man was at his worst moments in life. And this made me grateful. And out of the gratefulness of my own life I felt obligated to paint this man. My inspiration went through the roof everyday I walked by him.
A profound sense of where I was at in my life was reflected. Then there were questions... What did this man used to do? Where was his family? What made his life come to this? His form was burned into my subconscious and I felt that I could use it to push my own artistic feelings. The mood it presented was so cold, from clothing colors, to emotion. All I could think about was contrasting that mood with warm feelings, warm tones. THIS WAS MY OBLIGATION AS AN ARTIST. It sparked motivation, inspiration and a unique vision for me. I spent the next few months painting the homeless men I saw in Reno, and there likenesses took hold of me in that time.
Clients and customers would come in and comment on the paintings placing an identity on these homeless men. These were ignored humans, typical city fixtures, a part of the landscape that not many people paid attention to, and now that they were portraits or pieces of art and were taken seriously. And weirder than that… they took on an identity to the observer. Many viewers made these unknown men into someone they once knew, (or made them relatable) successfully, I think? I took one of the gloomiest images and made it relative to the viewer and on my terms. My paintings gained more perspective than this man’s life because of my motivation and inspiration.
Next time you need that extra motivation, take a walk; open your eyes. If you need inspiration, don’t get bogged down by dissecting other artists' tattoos and paintings. Look outside, look up at the sky, the clouds...
What moves you? What stimulates and forces you to create? You might be surprised...
(Canyon Webb is a tattooer and blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine. Canyon can be found at Off the Map Tattoo in Grants Pass, OR.)
- Definition of Motivation: A force, stimulus, or influence.
- Definition of Inspiration: The action or purpose of moving the intellect or emotions.