on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Art and Inspiration

A Confusion of Goals and Means?

Guy Tal

Professional photographic artist, author and speaker working primarily in the Western US. Website



Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask “how,” while others of a more curious nature will ask “why.” Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.
~Man Ray

I recently came cross an impassioned account by a young artist boasting his recent successes and proclaiming to impart useful wisdom to up-and-coming artists. In a manner typical of immature writers seeking a shortcut to impact by way of profanity, he proclaimed that artists should not waste their time waiting for inspiration because inspiration is, by his characterisation, “bullshit.” While such puerile attitude may easily be attributed to the foolishness of adolescent bravado, established artists also are known to have expressed a similar sentiment, although usually with the intent of suggesting that inspiration is not something to wait idly for, but rather something that ensues out of doing the work.

di001771

Leaving the realms of speculation and juvenile infatuation with strong language, the truth about inspiration as revealed by scientific studies depends on how we define the term.
Leaving the realms of speculation and juvenile infatuation with strong language, the truth about inspiration as revealed by scientific studies depends on how we define the term. We can think of inspiration as the state of finding profound joy and meaning in the making of our work, in which case it is indeed correlated with what psychologists term flow – a state of great contentment that ensues out of becoming so consumed in an activity that no attention is left over for other concerns. Or, inspiration also can be defined as the stroke of insight leading to new ideas and creative expressions.

Studies suggest that such revelations often are correlated with activity in what is known as the brain’s “default mode network,” which we can think of as what our brains do when not focused on the outside world. This also explains why creative ideas at times present themselves, seemingly out of the blue, when in the shower, or when taking a walk, or when engaged in some other activity that does not require focused attention on a specific task. 



This is a premium article and requires a paid subscription to access. Please take a look at the subscribe page for more information on prices.

On Landscape is part of Landscape Media Limited , a company registered in England and Wales . Registered Number: 07120795. Registered Office: 1, Clarke Hall Farm, Aberford Road, WF1 4AL