NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Inspiration vs imitation: Learning when to detach oneself: Why taking a step back is just as crucial as moving forward.

Inspiration is key. It’s something that I need around me constantly, and it’s what drives me to create.

 But I have to know when to detach.

Not that long ago I wrote a piece about what some local artists are doing to find inspiration during these trying times, as it sure hasn’t been easy to pick up that paintbrush (or camera, in my case) and do what we love. Most of the people that I interviewed had the same problem that I did when it comes to inspiration, and it’s something that I am now starting to realize is a bad thing.

 All of our inspiration comes externally.

Because our inspiration comes externally, we all find the need to have it around us constantly. Whether that be magazines, photobooks, or saved photos on Instagram, we all heavily rely on having it readily available to us when needed.

The problem with getting so attached to external inspiration is that we get fixated on these certain things.

We form habits of looking at other artist’s work and using that as our main drive to create. “If they can do that, why can’t I?”

Habits can be productive. Habits can give us meaning, structure, motivation through life. Some habits, however, can easily and dangerously slip themselves into the world of complacency. Here’s an example: admiring your favorite photographer’s work. It is natural to gravitate towards what you know you already like. To a certain extent, you want your work to somewhat resemble their work, as that is the kind of work you enjoy, and strive to create one day.

But what can you learn from doing the same things and limiting yourself to only the things you like?

If we only strive to create things that resemble our sources of inspiration, we will never make anything new. If we only strive to create things that resemble our sources of inspiration, we will never grow.

To challenge habits is to grow, and growth in itself can be art.

 Adriel Jimenez is a creative director, photographer, and stylist based out of Lawrence, MA. Having dealt with this same issue, Adriel spoke a few words about being an artist during these times, acknowledging your relationship with inspiration, being sure of yourself, and more.

“It’s funny because I feel like I take in so many different kinds of inspirations, that I never even asked myself this question. I feel like there’s different kinds of inspiration. Those tangible inspirations like other people doing their specific craft, like you, Jamal Shabazz, Elissa, Sean Brown.

And then there’s another form of inspiration, which I guess can be considered motivation, but I feel like they kinda go hand in hand: it’s where the self-drive comes from, you know what I’m saying? Always trynna be better than my last sh*t, or being so hard on myself that I gotta create some ill sh*t.

But I would say the biggest inspiration (whether it sound cliche or not) is self, you know what I’m saying? Because everything that comes from that is just the reflection of it.

If we talking about external inspiration, I can see us having too much of an attachment on it being problematic if it’s not regulated, because there’s a fine line between being inspired by something, and copying it. I feel like that’s the main downfall of even looking at things outside of yourself, really. You know what I’m saying? It’s very easy to fall into the habit of mimicking others, almost on the identical level.

So yea, I guess … I kind of want to say that maybe those attachments to those external inspirations should be limited but the attachment is one thing, then it’s like, what you do with that attachment, feel me?

You can be somebody’s biggest fan, and not mimic what they do. It’s really dependent on who you are, and how secure you are with yourself. I feel like the more you know yourself, the less you’re going to try and mimic things that aren’t you. Even if you’re a fan of that work.

 “It’s not about detaching. It’s about being more secure in yourself, so you don’t need to detach. Your art is unaffected.”

I feel like it may not even be necessarily about ‘letting go’ of your relationship to the inspiration, but not letting it consume you, to the point where your creation IS your inspiration.

Like I said, I feel like it’s not about detaching yourself from it. It’s more about going back to being secure in yourself and what you bring to the table, amongst all these different artists you might look to for inspo. It’s not about detaching. It’s about being more secure in yourself so you don’t need to detach. Your art is unaffected.”

Not all artists look externally for inspiration though. Some artists are lucky (or unlucky) enough to have their inspiration come internally, regardless of outside stimulation. I sat down with Susan Elias, a Lawrence artist/creative, who also deals with similar issues.

Susan is a graphic designer, and studio artist who focuses mostly on painting and drawing. She spoke about how her inspiration comes from her emotions, and how it can stunt your growth.

“Something that tends to inspire me the most is emotion. My state of mind.

“I think that can have a negative effect on my work if I tend to have the same emotion, or if my mental state hasn’t changed much. I guess that’s when it can be negative; if I’m stuck in the same mind state for a while. If my emotions haven’t changed in a while, then whatever I create will be derived from one place: my negative emotions.

“I think a time to let go is when I have a specific idea in my head, and I can’t recreate it physically in a piece, and then it frustrates me to the point where I don’t want to make anything. I had that one thing in my head, and it didn’t come out the way I imagined, and now the rest of the piece is birthed from frustration.

“Your art might not come out as good as it could have, because you were so fixated on it coming out a certain way.”

I think that the way to get myself out of that funk is to detach myself from that idea. Or for next time, be open to the idea of the outcome being different than how I wanted it to. Using what I had in mind as a starting point, then letting myself branch off and work in the moment. I think it’s very important to work in the moment, because you might limit yourself when you’re so tied to an idea. Your art might not come out as good as it could have, because you were so fixated on it coming out a certain way.

“We have to be open to change.”