This question is the most asked and the most difficult to answer.
My reply is probably quite unsatisfying. Maybe people expect that I can give them 1 trick, a secret or a recipe. Some people may think an artist is suddenly frozen by a beam of light, called inspiration …
Well no, none of them all. My ideas are the results of my development and never thrown to me for free.
Getting a potential image in my mind is a different way of looking at the things around me. And I think it happens in any profession.
When I started painting in my late twenties I noticed that my way of observing things was slowly changing. For example; I realized that while I was looking at a color, at the same time I dissected the color. For example; if I saw a particular kind of brown, than somewhere in the back of my brain -and initially unconsciously- I parted them in a certain amount blue and red … a pinch of white, and maybe some magenta.
“Ok, but colors are still not ideas, eh?”
Let me try to explain how I think ideas creeping up in your mind.
Sometimes, during a milli-second, you think you see something that doesn’t match reality. Like seeing a sleeping black cat in the corner of your dusky room. But wait … you don’t have a cat! The second milli-second you know that it is just your cardigan, that has fallen from the chair on the floor.
Those days I just started painting, I very much hung on to that first milli-second. A sleeping cat is quite common, but sometimes a shadow may look like an airplane flying into your room. Or the garbage bags can look like a baby elephant sitting on the verge. My oldest paintings were called magic realism; ‘Things that could be possible in reality, but are quite unlikely to happen.’ I really like that definition.
After that first period in my career, I started to transform everyday materials in other materials. Like the folds and bumps in my duvet became a landscape of hills. The pins of a hairbrush became trees on a hill. The papery husk with the tiny nerves of a gooseberry became a tree in itself. And there you can see my my first series of landscapes. With the made-up stories about species that don’t exist (or half-exist).
Times went by. In the meantime I learned some lessons in life. Experiences settled. And some stories stayed with me, meant to be told.
I still loved painting trees. But from then on the trees were no pieces of decoration any more. They got a role. They became the leading actors in what I wanted to say. And there … you get the second series of landscapes. This time with non-fictional stories.
But these stories are not only my views on life … they are the views on life of millions out there. The stories are connections between your experience and mine. Different experiences of the same core.
The weird thing always has been, is that the image is there before I figure out the meaning. So, in thàt perspective you can say inspiration is coming from something I don’t have control over. But then, the stories are still coming from a source inside me.
After all, most of my ideas are more realistic than they look like at first sight. For example; On the way to Rotorua in New Zealnd where I lived for a while, there is a hill with trees at the left side of the road and one lonely tree at the right side. However, in reality that lonely tree is a different type, so probably driving on that road nobody sees the link like I created in a painting called ‘The brave one’. To transform the lonely tree in the same type of trees at the other side of the road, was just that image of that first milli-second I talked about earlier.