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  • Dave Mahan

Overcoming the intimidation of "Inspiration".

“Inspiration is for amateurs—The rest of us just show up and get to work" 

- Chuck Close


“Ummm... what am I going to draw?” 

- Everyone else






Inspiration is an easy scapegoat. We like to step back from our failures and point our fingers at it, but what does “inspiration” actually mean? To me inspiration is a multifaceted concept, but it boils down to trust in myself and my tools. I think it is also important to look at what hinders inspiration. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I have learned that the enemy of my inspiration is intimidation. 


Intimidation is a powerful foe for creators. Every time you pick up a pencil, brush, camera, or musical instrument you have to face a lot of intimidating factors. It isn’t easy to be productive without thinking: Is this piece in my “style”? Will this get as many likes as that one piece I posted? Is this going to be ORIGINAL? When I finish a successful piece, I often stand back and say “I was really tapped into something with that one. I was truly inspired.” After much reflection I have come to realize that “inspiration” really means putting everything else aside and trusting myself.


This is one reason that I love Inktober. I have been participating in Inktober since 2014, and it teaches me new lessons every year. The most valuable lesson I have learned is there are always more ideas inside of me, I just need to get out of my own way and let them out. That thinking has helped me a lot over the last few years. When you are committed to drawing something every day for 31 days in a row you have to let go of a lot of things and trust yourself. One way that I let go is by working with tools that I trust. My favorite medium for that is ink and brush. 


If “inspiration” is another name for trusting your instincts as an artist, then trusting your tools is also a huge part of inspiration. I have a number of brushes that make beautiful crisp lines, and a LOT of brushes that do whatever they like without any regard for deadlines or my credibility as an artist. Those wild brushes are my favorite, and I trust them more than any other tool in my artistic toolbox. Any time I am working on something that feels stale I can always count on my rogue brushes to mix things up. The trust I place in my brushes is reflective of the trust I place in myself as an artist. 


Inspiration might mean something different to you, but to me it will always mean trusting myself and my tools to work through any bumps in the road. I found out how much I trust myself as an artist after a few years of participating in Inktober. If this is something that you struggle with then I recommend setting yourself a daily or weekly challenge. Having a challenge set in front of you is a great way to put aside your missteps at the end of the day and say “I will give it another shot tomorrow.” I have tried to be mindful of this as I work on everything I create, and I hope it helps keep you inspired as well!

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