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I is for Inspiration

“It’s not what you look at but what you see”.

So said Henry David Thoreau and never has this statement been more accurate than when you are thinking about inspiration.

What I really need to be inspired is time - time and stillness to really ‘see’. Cezanne inspires me here. He painted Monte Sainte Victoire in southern France nearly 80 times! Each one is subtly different but all speak of his ongoing captivation with the mountain.

As a child I went with my family to Perranporth in Cornwall. There is a huge rock on the beach called Chapel Rock. Every time I photographed it the weather or the time of year or the light were different. It was my ‘Monte Saint Victoire’. What is yours?

Painters tell me they see so much more as they try to capture the scene before them on a canvas than what they can actually paint.

How do you feel about music? It is not uncommon for people who practise one art form (in my case photography) to have a love of another, and I can still remember hearing Simon and Garfunkel’s song ‘So long to Frank LLoyd Wright’. This sent me on a happy path finding out more about this highly influential architect. I still come across YouTube clips of his buildings which are new to me. His influence can be seen in many buildings but there is a huge diversity of design because of the locations. For him, the location must have been the key to his inspiration.

Last year as I wrote this, the Chelsea Flower Show was taking place. Who inspires the gardeners? In 2023 (somewhat controversially) there was an emphasis on narrative e.g. a garden that represents homelessness, and another representing bereavement. On a more local scale I recently visited a quirky open garden in Tonbridge raising funds in aid of the local hospice. There were ‘gardens within gardens’, plants on old wooden step ladders, a huge hanging seat, signposts that would not have been out of place in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and even a shark lurking in the pond, all with delicious and relaxed planting suitable for their young family. They had thoughtfully included plenty of places to sit and be inspired. Where did their inspiration come from … books? Other people? Experiences?

To return to Cezanne, he is said to have declared ‘I will astonish Paris with an apple’. Whatever Paris thought, he certainly astonished me! I left the exhibition feeling hungry.

Finally, I have taken part in Forest Bathing, a form of ecotherapy originating in Japan as a response to tech-boom burnout. The aim was to inspire residents to reconnect with and therefore protect the country’s forests. This immersive and meditative experience can be enjoyed with a trained guide. I find it inspiring, both from the well-being angle and from an artistic point of view. It is lovely being in that environment, the forest canopy above you with its many hues of green.

For others, the inspiration for creativity might come from a more urban environment. A friend tells me that Libby Page, in her book ‘The Lido’, affectionately recreates the sounds and smells of her native Brixton: the markets, its multi-ethnic jumble of influences and, of course, the Lido - a much-loved community space.

I usually keep an eye out for shadows. Yes, shadows which are made from a lack of light which in itself is not a bad thing. Shadows mean that there is a source of directional lighting. I think this adds depth to an image, and that often inspires me.

I hope this blog also inspires you and that you find time and stillness to see as Thoreau saw and to discover your own Monte Sainte Victoire.

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