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Kind readers: Please point me toward inspiring images

I sat down to draw something yesterday and found all my art muscles rusty. Once again.

Early last year I was beginning to hit my stride and determined (with a lot of help from my friends) to keep up with drawing and painting this time. But I allowed a nine-month home-improvement binge to distract me.

Yesterday, with big projects done and construction chaos cleared, I determined to sit down to the art table again. When I did, though, my work was stiff and clunky and my attitude worse.

So. Help me out here, if you’re inclined. Point me to some image online that might inspire and kickstart me.

I don’t know what exactly that might be so I can’t give you much in the way of guidelines. (The unexpected might be the most inspiring of all; who knows?)

It should probably NOT be a photo of your favorite human or four-legged critter that you’d like to see beautifully drawn. Because the purpose of this exercise is merely to apply artistic WD-40 to rusty parts. It COULD be such a photo if you don’t have high expectations.

Something easy might work. A rolling landscape, a woman’s face, an interesting dog. It doesn’t have to be simple, but it has to be something I don’t need to take Vastly, Deeply Seriously. No Grand Statement of Freedom or Meaning of Life thing, please.

Something that will enable colors, patterns, and shapes carry me away. Yeah, that would be wonderful.

So, dear people … link away. Inspire me!


  1. brew
    brew February 14, 2018 8:46 am

    Being at work I can’t really go looking for something, but I can describe it to you… besides, it’s not what *I* see but what *you* see that’s important….

    Pretty much my fave thing in the world to do is sit around a campfire, let myself nod off with my hat pulled down across my brow, legs stretched out… if I had a dog, have Fido laying at my feet taking a snooze as well… surrounded by trees, perhaps a babbling brook nearby… whatever social media site it is that has pictures (Pinterest?) a search for ‘man asleep by campfire’ might do it…

    Sorry that’s about the best I gots at the moment.

    However, tonight I could dig up some photos I saved off – they were mostly dramatic scenes or pictures of how I live my life and enjoy it. They were for a woman I had never met who was dying, and asked the community to send her pictures to look at on how they enjoy the gift of life…

  2. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2018 8:55 am

    Since I was so vague in the original post, I’ll use responses to help narrow what I have no idea what I’m looking for. 😉

    “Man sleeping by campfire” is a wonderfully evocative image … but very, very complicated. Not a good image to use as WD-40.

    “Gift of life” images may (or may not be) Too Deep. It depends in part on the specific image; but if it looks as if it’s supposed to be loaded with Profound Meaning … I’ll choke.

    I’m not trying to be negative here. Just to refine my own thinking based on people’s suggestions and to maybe help narrow things down for helpful Commentariat members.

  3. brew
    brew February 14, 2018 8:57 am

    Fair enough….

    How about this… close your eyes… turn around… open them… paint what you see…

  4. Pat
    Pat February 14, 2018 9:31 am

    “How about this… close your eyes… turn around… open them… paint what you see…”

    brew’s idea is a good one. Or paint what you WANT to see, how you want the finished house to look.

    Or speaking of Sophia, how about this?

  5. Shel
    Shel February 14, 2018 10:15 am

    I’m sure there are better descriptive terms, but I’ll just use what I can think of now. I don’t believe it’s a question of finding the right images, it’s a question of mindset. For nine months you’ve been absolutely focused and driven. One can’t really use this attitude to flip a switch and transfer to another mode of choice. The driven mode has served its purpose wonderfully but it can’t produce art. I believe if you allow yourself to relax, take walks with Ava, and do other enjoyable things of choice, the artistic creativity will come back to you. The specifics of its appearance likely will come as a surprise if you will simply permit your unconscious to do its thing.

  6. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2018 10:23 am

    “I don’t believe it’s a question of finding the right images, it’s a question of mindset.”

    Beautifully said and well-observed, Shel. There’s truth to that.

    There’s also truth in the idea that finding a non-scary, but inspiring image can help get the kinks out.

  7. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2018 10:30 am

    Some key words that come to mind as I read everyone’s suggestions:

    (Not necessarily ALL of the above!)

    Totally from my imagination

    If I were do draw something connected with the house (I’m seeing a theme here in the comments …), it would be some tiny detail. Wood grain. The texture of a wall. The edge of a woolly sweater lying against the smoothness of a table.

    Keep ’em coming, keep ’em coming.

  8. ~Qjay
    ~Qjay February 14, 2018 10:39 am

    I’d like to see your take on Hylas and the Nymphs, done Hardyville style. I’d really like to see the statue of the drunken cowboy in the background. Just a thumbnail sketch, or a caricature would be the way to start, I think.

  9. Stryder
    Stryder February 14, 2018 10:45 am

    I’m a great admirer of creeks, go sit and listen to the creek telling you what it wants to say. They tell stories, give lessons and sometimes just laugh.

  10. Shel
    Shel February 14, 2018 10:47 am

    I think the smaller is better approach is a good one. Robert M. Pirsig taught rhetoric. In his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance he observed that if he asked students to write about a town, they couldn’t come up with much. He gradually reduced the physical size of the suggested topic. It wasn’t until he got down to a single brick that the students could write anything worthwhile, and at that point they wrote profusely. As you surmise, the same analogy may work for painting. A wild stab: a single egg with light and shadow?

  11. firstdouglas
    firstdouglas February 14, 2018 10:54 am

    I tend to collect images that catch my eye, so naturally, after sorting out what might be meant by WD-40 art, I had to go spend some time peering through batches of mine. But we’re limited to posting links at this site, right? Or have I missed the means we’d use to post pictures here?

  12. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2018 10:56 am

    Ellendra — How strange you should choose that image. I used to have a poster of it on a wall at the flatlands house! I believe I may still have it rolled up in a tube somewhere. Truly an incredible image — and from what I know of the backstory, the expression on that lighthouse keeper’s face was (believe it or not) calm.

    Now I see another theme in the comments. Water. Water is good. Both for visual patterns and for real-life inspiration.

  13. david
    david February 14, 2018 11:01 am

    I used to have a very entertaining original painting based on the song I believe is titled ‘The Teddy Bears Picnic’. It was black bears dancing and lounging by a campfire with picnic baskets & such. It was destroyed when a drunk drove into (literally) my second wife’s condo.

    If it isn’t too cute and anthropomorphic, it may be ‘evocative’ enough?

  14. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2018 11:04 am

    firstdouglas — It’s true you can’t post images here. Sorry. But you can post them at a site like Photobucket, Imgur, or Pinterest and link to them here. (I don’t know much about the individual image sites, sorry; I’ve never used them.) I’d love to see what you’ve got.

    Shel — Great story re Pirsig and the brick. That is so true.

  15. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2018 11:06 am

    david — Oh boy, now “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” will be playing in my head all day. I don’t think I’ve heard that since I was five years old.

    That type of image is too complicated. The “WD40” version might be a single bear paw in the grass. Something like that.

    Oh, and what a bizarre way for a painting to go!

  16. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2018 12:24 pm

    I love Edward Gorey! Thanks for that link.

    Another incredible pen-and-ink artist, in an entirely different style, was Aubrey Beardsley.

    He was weak and sick and knew he’d die young (he made it to 25, IIRC). A “small” medium like pen and ink was all he could physically manage. But he made the most of his time, startling fin de siecle audiences with his sweeping style and grotesque eroticism.

    I did some (non-erotic, but grotesque) Beardsley-style pen & inks when I was young and particularly loved the way he combined ornate textures with solid swaths of black or white. Like this:

  17. Tahn
    Tahn February 14, 2018 4:29 pm

    Maybe just to get your pencil moving, sketch a quick picture of one of the nailed joints the guys who built your house used.

  18. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2018 4:41 pm

    Myself — Now that’s different. And definitely qualifies as mysterious.

  19. MP
    MP February 15, 2018 2:13 am

    Thinking about the kinds of things I would (and probably should) look at to blow the cobwebs out of the artistic machinery, I definitely could use something like these as a starting point:

    There is a great book on watercolor called Painting More Than the Eye Can See that first made me realize that I don’t have to paint exactly what is in front of me, but can rather capture the essence (and the essence of a lot of the pictures on that page is joy) and modify the scene to bring that essence to the fore. Some of those photos would be great starting points, for me at least, for that kind of work. Maybe you, too?

  20. firstdouglas
    firstdouglas February 15, 2018 9:08 am

    I could sift pictures all day and not get through half of what I have–and I would still be wanting to look a little further for just the one for the purpose. And I didn’t spend that much time looking into WD-40 art, beyond seeing that people really do this, and the results seem to be sort of impressionistic, water color-y. But I have no grasp of how WD-40 is used in the process, and kind of suspected my image choices could be too complex. After seeing your examples, maybe not necessarily. And in any case, some random pictures:

    I was using flickr for a few years about a decade ago, too far past for me to remember what I ended up not liking about it. So thought I’d try a different site–this time, photobucket–and once I noticed that a single link could connect a viewer to an image library, I realized that I really could show even hundreds of shots pretty easily if I wanted to spend the browsing and sorting time. But I had been thinking it would be way too clunky for any of us to bother looking at more than one or two if from individual links in this comment, so, with the single link above, this is more than one or two..

    The first one fell into the category that I was calling maybe way too complicated. But as I sensed I might have stumbled across a shot of an iconic doggie in a lighter moment, I’d intended to include that first one even before seeing your examples.

  21. Claire
    Claire February 15, 2018 9:57 am

    Oh, firstdouglas! Those are marvelous. They are exactly the thing to get my brain in gear. Symphonies of light and color and form. Thank you for taking the time to find and post them. I hope anybody who loves beauty will take the time to look at them.

    As to actual WD40, I’ll leave that for household repairs. What you supplied is WD40 for the creative imagination.

  22. firstdouglas
    firstdouglas February 15, 2018 2:26 pm

    Aside from developing a reputation around here, I suppose it doesn’t matter much, but boy I can be slow sometimes. Just as well I took the time to jabber on a bit though–at least now I’ll no longer need keep my eyes open for info about WD-40 painting. 🙂

  23. Claire
    Claire February 15, 2018 6:50 pm

    “at least now I’ll no longer need keep my eyes open for info about WD-40 painting.”

    Now watch. WD-40 painting will become the next “latest thing.” 😉

  24. lairdminor
    lairdminor February 15, 2018 7:36 pm

    Claire, I agree that Beardsley was great. Your “revolting woman” is gorgeous, and perfectly in his style. You should do more of that!

  25. Claire
    Claire February 16, 2018 6:44 am

    lairdminor — I should clarify that “revolting woman” was Beardsley’s, not mine! I no longer have my long-ago Beardsley imitations for comparison. But I can assure you they were at best okay, and nowhere near as gorgeous and perfect as that.

  26. Comrade X
    Comrade X February 16, 2018 8:46 am

    In Oregon every year there is an event that happens the 2nd week of July near Eugene OR, it is called the Oregon Country Fair.

    They have a parade there to call the kids to the circus;

    And one year they did it in the nude.

    I’m sure there’s some kind of picture there somewhere.

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