The Blank Canvas Part 3 – Inherence

The Blank Canvas by Leah Jay

In this series, my goal is to help you get inspired – even when you feel creatively “stuck”.  Last month I wrote about figuring out what rules apply to your creative output, and then purposefully removing (breaking, ignoring) those rules and seeing what happens.

This month I had another idea, relating to how I sometimes find ideas closer to home than I had originally suspected.   I just couldn’t come up with that perfect word for that.  The closest I could finally get was “inherence.”  (Thank you Jenna!)   I think this is the closest I can get.  I want to invent a new word, though…something with the definition: Something or someone familiar who is hidden in plain sight through the thing’s own obfuscating familiarity.  (Let me know if you can come with a better name for this concept…heck, let’s invent that word together, okay?)

Ice Cream Headache by Leah Jay

I’ve noticed a very human tendency to always search for something better.  People go out of their way to travel to distant locales to photograph mountains to inspire their paintings, only to miss the beautiful landscapes in their own town.  Often an art student might approach me with a sketchbook full of beautiful doodles of their cat, and then ask me how to find the perfect subject for an art piece to enter into a contest.  (Um… I know this sounds silly, but your “perfect subject” is your cat.)  One minor, yet common example in my own life, is that I will go searching endlessly for just the right reference book in the library to inspire a drawing.  I often realize at some point that I already had something saved in my files or bookcases that would work just fine.  I just needed to stay home and look.

Gingko by Leah JayExample: very common subject—Ginkgo leaf

Fertile Soil by Leah JayExample: Very common subject – pair of gloves and trowel

Just because something is ordinary in your life, doesn’t mean it lacks interest or power.  Some of the best, most inspiring subjects are probably right under your nose.  This is common advice in writing: “Write what you know”.  If you draw people, look to your family and ask one of them to sit for you.  If you paint still life, look in your backyard for an ordinary stack of terra cotta pots to paint.  If you paint more loosely, think about the images, colors, and symbols you already surround yourself with at home.  In a pinch, you can always rely on the tried and true exercise of sketching your non-dominant hand.

If you normally spend time searching far afield for inspiration, try switching things up – by staying right where you are.  Like the bluebird of happiness, the bird of inspiration can sometimes be found right on your home branch.


Leah JLeah Jay (Jakusovszky) has been an artist and illustrator in San Jose for 25 years. She creates using a variety of media including watercolor, acrylic, pastel, ink, and collage. Her illustrative work has been featured in many books, and highlights from her career include directing 2001’s WTC Memorial Art Project to facilitate artist’s responses to 9/11 and successfully crowdfunding her artbook “Amphibian Love” to benefit Save the Frogs in 2015.

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