I'm currently reading a great book called Sketches of America Past by author/illustrator Eric Sloane. It's a fascinating book about life in the early 1800s in America. I picked it up a while ago, but only recently started reading it. This book is a collection of other stories by Eric Sloane. I've learned a huge amount and recommend it to anyone interested in history with great illustrations to accompany the text.
*A lot of this applies to painting as well
One thing I think about a lot is how I started doing the things that I love. What are the crucial moments where I said, "I want to do that". I think about these moments as windows of inspiration; they are basically times in my life, people and other experience that have really influenced me.
For instance, I started drawing as a kid and really felt my first burst of excitement for drawing when I watched Dragon Ball Z. I vividly remember being 9/10 years old and desperately wanting to draw like Akira Toriyama (the creator of Dragon Ball Z). I was really influenced by some early drawing books that I had and that I got at the elementary school library. I remember having one drawing book that showed you how to draw Yoda from Star Wars and I drew it and felt completely addicted. I'm not really into Star Wars, but that drawing book changed my life. A few years later I remember watching a PBS documentary about John Singer Sargent and they showed a portrait that Sargent painted of John D. Rockefeller; I was blown away by this also--I can't even really explain the feeling of intense fascination.
Flash forward to when I was at the Pennsylvania Academy and I met my friend, Asem Ahmed, and he introduced me to the work of William Bouguereau. I was subsequently obsessed with Bouguereau for the next 5 years. I still love Bouguereau, but I've become more interested in other painting styles.
Later, I worked at Sotheby's auction house in 2013. They had an exhibition space on their upper level floor so I went upstairs and was looking at an exhibition of works for sale and they had one painting by an artist that I had never heard of: Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. This is the painting that was in the exhibition sale. The photo doesn't do it justice, but I was completely blown away by it. The light and color hit me so hard and I still haven't shaken the feeling. I later visited the Museo Sorolla in 2018 and came back with an urge to paint en plein air in bright sunlight. Those plein air paintings became the basis for my application portfolio to apply for the Munn Fellowship Award. I think a part of my interest in impressionist painters is also because of my colorblindness. Maybe I should have been more of a tonalist painter, but I can't help but having a love affair with the impressionist palette of colors.
My art is also influenced by the work of Hayao Miyazaki. While I was in college, I had a writing teacher at PENN who introduced me to Miyazaki. I've become a complete Studio Ghibli fanboy since then. The narratives, artwork and style of Miyazaki films have left a deep impression on me.
Another thing I love to do is skateboarding. I was interested in skateboarding at a young age and one memory that is burned into my mind is seeing a guy who lived down the street skateboarding, I saw him skating and was enamored. All I know is his name was Bill and he had really long hair, but I want to thank him for that brief window of inspiration.
A larger window of inspiration was from my Opa. I'm continually inspired by him because he loved Motorcycles, engines and he also was good at drawing; my Mom says I have the same sense of humor and I look like him also. (He was colorblind too). I still remember the smell of his motorcycles in his garage.
I also feel thankful that I grew up in the early internet and pre-cellphone days because you often had to get inspiration first hand or hear things through the grapevine instead of seeing them on youtube or wherever; it has more power and impact when you get the first hand experience. I could go on and on, but I just want to keep my eyes and ears open and try to keep cool people around me, read good books and most importantly to just keep doing what I love.
I've been working on a series of florals from this group of fresh flowers that I picked up last week. The flowers are absolutely beautiful and have been really inspiring me a lot. I've painted 5 paintings so far and just did one today that I'm very proud of. I painted it very quickly because I saw some rain clouds gathering and I finished it right before it started raining.
I was telling my students this past week that there's really nothing more important than inspiration. If you want to paint something that inspires you then you will enjoy it more and it will turn out better. I encourage everyone to seek your own inspiration, whatever that might be.