As an artist inspiration comes from everywhere. It comes when your having a conversation, it comes when your walking your dog, when your driving to work or having lunch. It can also come from a more constructed place like when your researching new works of art or new artists from blogs or gallery websites.
I was brainstorming about the series I wanted to create for the residency show in March. Usually I start with a vague idea of what I want to visually express. It normally starts out with an idea of something I want to say. In this case it started with, "I want to create a piece that references the disappearance of cultures in the age of globalization". I had a vague idea of what I wanted to create. In South Africa, while I was studying at Stellenbosch University, I created a series titled "Botany Colonized" it was a series of a combination of watercolour and ink prints that referenced the westernization of South Africa (you can read more in-depth about it on the website). I wanted to create something similar but with North America as the focus. I knew I wanted to use botany as the vehicle for portraying this idea of the disappearance of cultures in the age of globalization.
If I am feeling stuck or just want to procrastinate for a while I research different artist via blogs, gallery websites, different Google searches, etc. So while I was in this abyss, similar to the Youtube pit (the one where you look up one video and keep clicking on links until you realize it's 2am and you can't remember what video you started with), I discovered a new artist Cristina Troufa. She paints playful self portraits of herself playing, fighting and discovering. The most interesting aspect of her painting for me was the negative space, the space she left unpainted. I was instantly drawn to the combination of oil paint and natural colour of the canvas she used. I was also very inspired by the use of line to outline the figure.
After looking at Troufa's paintings I had a pretty solid idea of what I wanted to paint and how I wanted the final piece to look. I usually work in a square format, meaning I work with canvases that are the same width as length, and with multiples of similar images but different subjects.
My subjects for this series of paintings is endangered plants of Canada. I started with a basic search, "endangered plants of Canada", and ended up on the Wikipedia website. I went through this list one by one looking for the most aesthetically pleasing images of the plants I found most attractive. I then made a list of them along with the images and very basic reasons for the plants to be on the list (eg. Actaea Elata - threatened because of deforestation, fire suppression, logging, and disappearance of natural habitat).
After researching I began making sketches of the paintings I wished to create. I feel the most comfortable painting in watercolours so I began drawing some plants out, deciding which parts of the plant I wanted to outline and keep blank. Every final painting will have a watercolour sketch that will determine the composition and palette of the final painting. These final paintings are not always exact replicas of the watercolour sketches because they are different mediums and sizes so when I find myself painting them on the linen canvas I allow myself some freedom in terms of what parts of the plant I want to show and which ones I want to outline with thick pencil.
This series would have never come into existence without the discovery of Cristina Troufa; I encourage everyone to explore new artist and images online, in libraries, galleries or anywhere else, as much as possible. It is a great way to get new ideas and to be inspired.