The Elusive Muse

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“Often the muse will not respond to direct and logical requests.  She must be lured in with the playful and the gentle.”  Jill Badonsky (from The Painter’s Keys)

One of the most painful issues for anyone in the arts is the feeling that the muse has gone.  All inspiration has dried up.  The art is continuing but with a lack of passion.  Only the motions are taking place.  Creativity is proceeding on automatic pilot.  This is the moment when many artists ponder succumbing to panic.  Will art remain forever in a state of mechanical practice?  Will those exhilarating feelings of profound inspiration ever return?  Can the muse be lured back?

Point one is not to panic.  Panic will only compound everything.  Waiting for Fairies.com says, “My muse is a fickle creature.  She dresses in moonlight and shadows and lives quietly in a forest glade, far from the reach of mortal thought.”  Waiting for Fairies suggests that on occasion the muse “can be lured out with the promise of chocolate, or a new toy to play with.”  Chocolate relieves many problems, including panic.   Muses probably crave chocolate as much as the rest of us.  Definitely, worth a try if all else fails.

The author of SpillingInk.com suggests those moments of heady oneness with the muse are the rarity and states that  for her, writing is “as much business as it is art.”  “None of that luring the muse nonsense,” will work.  Art as business does not stop and start on the whims of a fickle muse.  Art must carry on with or without the muse.  When muse is present, rejoice and enjoy the moment.  The rest of the time, continue making art.  The show must go on, with or without the muse.

When feeling the lack of the elusive muse, there are two possible options to be tried.  First, go for bribery.  Chocolate is an appealing allurement.  It is a well-known fact that much fickleness is cured with chocolate.  However if the muse is particularly stubborn, and you aren’t in the mood for bribery, forget the muse.  Drive the train without her.  Like Spring, she’ll come back when she’s ready.  In the meantime, eat the chocolate yourself.  If nothing else, you’ll feel better.

Missing the Muse Point

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“O! For a muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.”  William Shakespeare (from The Painter’s Keys)

Much has been written and will continue to be written on what the muse is or isn’t.  Do all artists have one?  Is it a person?  A place? A thing?  An idea?  Many writers on art, who do not think of themselves as artists, tend to view the muse as a person.  This or that person is the muse for this or that artist.  If an artist has a love interest, the love interest is thought to be the muse.  Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  The muse is far more and far less defined than anything physically describable.

The Wall Street Journal has an article titled, “Where have all the muses gone?” by Lee Siegel with a detailed account of the “so-called” muses of many famous artists through out the centuries.  Siegel makes a very enlightening statement midway through the article, “The original muse could not of been further from an exemplar of style.  Her function was not to inspire imitation but to create new insights and new artistic forms.  She was effectively invisible, a gust of divine wind that blew through the human vessel lucky enough to be graced by her attention.”

Perhaps, the muse is not the actual person, place, thing or idea.  Perhaps, the muse is the “Divine Wind” blowing through what is the designated muse.  The real muse is the inspiration itself.  The Divine Wind has highlighted the object with an aura of inspiration that draws like a magnet.  The Divine Wind is an amorphous thing explaining why some artists seem to flit from muse to muse gaining a reputation of fickleness.  What appears to be fickleness may merely be the following of the Divine Wind.

The Divine Wind for some artists may stay in one place or on one person for a lifetime.  To others it may blow steady in many directions.  The important point for artists is to remain open and aware.  The muse can’t be pinned down.  To place the muse label on any physical form is to miss the point.  The nebulous muse is everywhere.  All that’s needed is a bit of a windcatcher.

Week-End Inspiration–Slogging through the Wasteland

Screen shot 2013-10-26 at 10.11.24 AMThe Muse visits during the act of creation., not before  Don’t wait for her. Start alone.”  Roger Ebert

It’s been a long week and you are counting on having some time to create art this week-end.  You are pumped, you are ready, all your supplies out, then… nothing.  A big fat nothing!  The Muse has left the building.  Major bummer!   All the planning to have this time and the inspiration has dried up.  All dressed up and nowhere to go.  What now?

In Twelve Steps to Stay Inspired the authors have some great ideas such as get outside, go looking for inspiration.  If the Muse is gone, go looking for where she went.  Do some searching in a park or the shopping mall.  Drop in to a local tourist site and mingle with the tourists.  Seeing things through the eyes of the tourists may change your perspective.

Listening to dreams is on Artpromotivate’s list of 20 Art Inspiration Ideas for Creativity.  That is an interesting one.  Can you remember what dreams you had last night?  Were you too tired from the week before to even have dreams?  If not what was the last memorable dream you did have?  Write it down.  Sketch it.  Think about its meaning.  See if there might be some sparks lurking down in your dreams ready to light some fire.  Hopefully, you haven’t had any nightmares recently.  Or maybe you have!

Smashing Magazine says if you have a regular “go to” place for inspiration, change it up.  Go somewhere different.  ArtistsInspireArtists.com suggests a look into what other artists are doing.  Find inspiration from your peers.  See what is inspiring them.

If all else fails, go to the studio and make some marks.  Any marks.  Taking the steps may bring out the rest. The effort will, hopefully, start to take shape.  Sometimes the best things happen when feeling lost in the drought.  The defenses are down and feelings dejected.   You never know.  There just might be a pleasant surprise waiting to show up on the canvas, paper, etc.   Something wonderful may grow out of the wasteland!

To Muse or Not to Muse

Opinions on whom and what is a muse abound.  There are differing opinions on the origins of muse, though all accounts attribute the muse to the ancient Greeks.  Some accounts say the muses are the nine daughters of Zeus. Others say the muses are the three daughters of Apollo.  All accounts state the muse is artistic inspiration of some form.

Many people tend to think of a muse as a woman or mistress.  Picasso is said to have had several.  Other artists frequently had the same woman appear over and over in paintings. Historians attribute the appearance of these women as the artist’s muse, mistress, lover, etc.  As the Ancient Greek muses were women, this is likely why, along with the artist’s penchant for painting certain females regularly.  But for a large number of artists, muse is place or nature.

Places associated with artists frequently become as popular as the paintings.  Monet’s Givenchy is a much sought after tourist destination.  Monet’s garden at Givenchy was his muse later in his life.  And Monet is most known for his Water Lily paintings inspired by the water lilies in the pond in his garden.   Monet’s greatest success can possibly be attributed to these paintings from his later years at the garden of his inspiration.

California artist, Rod Jones states of the muse, “you can’t necessarily pick one, they often pick you.”  He has more on the muse in a wonderful blog post titled, “Every Artist needs a Muse.”  The blog is well worth a thorough read.  This blog post can be found here. 

One of my favorite artists is Paul Cezanne.  Cezanne started out in Paris with the Impressionists and painted there for many years before returning to his native home of Aix-en-Provence where he painted many paintings of the countryside.  Cezanne’s still life and figurative paintings are quite beautiful but the landscapes come to life in a truly dramatic way.  The colors are so varied and vivid in his landscapes that it sets them quite above the others, in my opinion.  Provence was Cezanne’s muse and his greatest success came after his return to his hometown.

I agree with Rod Jones that you can’t pick muse, muse picks you, whether it is human or nature.  The issue for many artists is to pay attention when the muse makes her pick.

A slide show of Cezanne’s works is here.

The movie “In Search of Cezanne” can be found here.

The life that comes through in Cezanne’s Provence work is so vivid:

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For more on Cezanne go here and here.