“The experience of unexpectedly seeing something that sets you off – a color, a relationship, an event – isn’t necessarily the sudden occurrence you think it is.. It may have actually taken a long time for the idea to sift through your consciousness. Few people are aware that, for an artist, the gestation period for a particular idea may be many years. Georgia O’Keefe first looked at bones in 1916 but they did not show up as a subject in her paintings until 1930. When he was 20 Claude Monet spent two years of military service in Africa and was greatly impressed by the light and color he observed there. This impression contained, as he put it, ” the germ” of his later work. Many artists experience the flash of a new idea, followed by a slowly dawning awareness that they’ve known about it vaguely for a long time. They just weren’t ready to recognize it.
In short , what will end up “inspiring” you are those things that satisfy some powerful internal visual need, which only time and much work will reveal.
When this happens, you may find you are having what seems to be a slightly odd experience. An object, for example, ceases to be defined as we commonly understand it. A pepper is not a vegetable that is good in salads. It is a remarkably complex, undulating green surface vaguely suggestive of the human form. This is part of what is meant when people say that artists see “differently”. It leads some artists to maintain that the subject of a work of art is not just the thing depicted.