Inspiration can be a fickle thing. It seems that when you need it most it’s nowhere to be seen, but it will assault you when you’re carelessly walking down the street and not let you go until you give it expression. You can sometimes try to force it through habit or obligation, as most art students like me had to do. In high school I took higher level I.B. Art for two years, which helped me to become more prolific than I had ever been. We had to create at least one new piece every three weeks – a requirement which set up a good rhythm and routine to conjure up inspiration. Our thought process and historical stimulus had to be explained in our sketchbooks, which helped us to be more conscious of the sources of our inspiration. For me, these were usually photorealism, bright colours and interesting textures, combined with a social or political message that appealed to me. Included here are images and descriptions of four of my works that illustrate these ideas.
The first is an oil painting from 2007 entitled “Candy Lips,” based on a photograph by Gail Hadani. A friend first showed me this image on her mobile phone in 2006 and I immediately knew that I wanted to paint it. It appealed to me so strongly, visually and in terms of the message it conveyed, I could not get it out of my head. While my friend said it reminded her of the famous Skittles slogan “taste the rainbow,” to me it had a deeper meaning. Cosmetics and candy, apart from both being brightly colored, have in common a synthetic quality – they are chemically produced, the latter for the enjoyment of the palate and the former for the pleasure of the eye. This inherent artificiality can be considered a reflection of the superficiality found in our day-to-day lives.
The second oil painting, “Utility,” also from 2007, was inspired more directly by my surroundings. I attended secondary school in Portugal, and at that time we were studying the Carnation Revolution of 1974. This was a military coup during which no shots were fired, which is why the most emblematic images of the revolution depict soldiers with carnations protruding from the barrels of their guns. This idea fascinated me: how individuals can have the power to create peace without actually firing weapons, using them only as a deterrent. So starting with stock photographs of a hand holding a gun and another one of a Gerber daisy.
My third work, “Shattered” (2007) started as a kitchen experiment. I had only drawn glass a couple of times but I love the challenge of depicting its texture and consistency by only using highlights and shadows. So I laid out some paper on my kitchen floor, took an empty bottle of Cachaça (a Brazilian liqueur) and smashed it on the floor. I then photographed the outcome and used the photo as the basis for my work. Some have found it to be an aggressive work, or one that conveys an anti-alcohol message. One of the beauties of art is that, what was simply a visual experiment for me carried a deeper meaning for someone else.
Some of my works are simply reproductions of pieces by some of my favorite artists, such as Tamara de Lempicka or Jack Vettriano. In the case of my last featured work, I fell in love with one print by Alfonse Mucha after having seen an exposition of his work in Madrid. I was so struck by the grace and serenity he infused into every one of his majestic female subjects, I just had to try to emulate his technique. So I bought a calendar of his works on the way out of the museum and used one of the images to create this reproduction using watercolors and markers for the outlines.
So, while it was sometimes difficult to force myself to sit down and paint or draw when inspiration was lacking, looking back, I am glad I did. Focusing on the visual aspects that appeal to me most, or on a message that speaks to me helped me through the struggle of finding that inspiration.
For more examples of my work, visit http://estrellita7.deviantart.com/, or contact me at email@example.com.
Olivia Oberle Ruiz
Images – Olivia Oberle Ruiz