I had a professor in college who loved to quote at me, "Art is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." He was basically telling me to get to work drawing. I can, and will do the work of drawing, but it seems a waste of time drawing something that doesn't even have 1% of inspiration. I'm basically a copy machine at that point.
For years I have worked off and on trying to draw a messy child's room for a blog that I illustrate. The writer had the story written, I just couldn't put the image together in a way that worked for me or my client. I asked friends to send me photos of their messy rooms and scoured images online. All the photos were missing something? I attempted several drawings on the messy room concept, hoping I'd figure it out as I went. But, no luck. I don't know how or when I realized it, but I decided I would have to stage the tragedy.
Good friends had me and my husband over for a delicious dinner of smoked ribs. When dinner was over I asked their son if he would like to make a mess in his room with me. He ran to his mom and asked, "Can Auntie Sherry and I make a teeny, tiny mess in my room?" His Mom graciously gave us permission to trash his room. I brought over lighting, a step ladder, and some of my own "messy items" to get a certain look. My helper enthusiastically threw everything off his bed onto the floor to add authenticity to the situation. It was fun to make the mess and it took about 35 seconds.
I climbed my step ladder and took some reference photos with my phone. I called in my actors as I pulled out my freshly charged Olympus DSLR. Dang it! I forgot to reinstall the memory card. I know I have an extra but don't want to waste time formatting it. No fears, I have my Canon point and shoot that does pretty well. I also remembered my I-Pad pro has a great camera so I took some photos with that. We took dozens of photos with variations of Mom, Dad, and child here and there. I learned that when working with a 5 year old you need to make decisions and take the photos quickly. Fun as the mess was to make, the picture taking is boring. Also, it's hard on Mom and Dad to be down on their knees. So, I didn't drag out the photo session trying to get the perfect shot. I took lots of photos from various angles: high, low, behind, in front, and from the side trusting I could cobble something together at the end; or, at least know how to go back and do it right.
I narrowed down the options to about 10 for my client to go through and low and behold, the client chose one of the reference photos of the mess that I took early on with my phone. No acting or staging or coaching or coaxing required. My young assistant nailed it in the background just being a kid doing what kids do in a messy situation. We finally found the inspiration we needed and that project was published by the end of the week.
I don't know why some images take so long to find? Maybe they're not ready to be born yet? Maybe I'm not ready to parent them? I don't know, but, I find the drawing comes so much easier for me when I start with that 1% inspiration.
Sherry Barrett is an active artist who takes inspiration from great works of literature, historical figures, and wise people.