How Travelling Inspires Art

How Travelling Inspires Art, Vancouver Island

New Places, New Ideas.

I’ve been feeling a bit stuck lately. Like writers, artists also suffer from creative dips and often what is needed is a new experience and time.

Just before the holidays last year, that’s exactly what happened to me. I would pick up a brush and everything that I painted felt so passionless and just frustrating, really. And each time I tried, that feeling would expand. When we went away over the holidays last month, I was hopeful that stepping away from my studio into new travel adventures and beautiful places with a new perspective would spark a new creative burst but it hasn’t, at least not yet or in the way I thought it would.

And it’s not the first time. And I know after a long time painting that this too shall pass. I wanted to write this post in the middle of one of these creative work blocks because I promised myself that I wanted this blog to be honest and useful and serve others in whatever way it can and I believe that starts with honesty. I thought I’d be through the block by now but I’m not, so I’m writing this post because it might reignite the enthusiasm I felt for the places we visited and how I wished to capture it on canvas. 

New Landscapes and Personal Experiences

Artistic inspiration comes from the most unexpected of places. I remember sitting on the ferry ride from Seattle to Victoria, Canada. We had just spent a beautiful week in San Diego and now we were on a journey to explore a part of Canada that I had not yet seen before but had spent months and months obsessing over,  the beautiful Vancouver Island. I yearned for the tall forest trees, the ocean, the wildlife and the ruggedness that I so deeply missed for the last few years. 

I stepped out onto the boat’s observation deck, a cool wind gusting as we travelled about 36 knots/hour on the Victoria Clipper. We were gently sailing up the Puget Sound and then alongside the San Juan Islands. Little islands to the left and right of us, there is something so beautiful here. It’s a quiet place, letting you slowly take it all in as we passed each island only to be greeted by another, and another. My eyes settled gently on the distant coasts of each one and I knew I’d never forget this moment.

Little did I know that this was just the beginning and preparing me for what would feel like falling in love for the first time again. 

How Travelling Inspires Art

Crossing from Vancouver Island to Salt Spring Island

And it was love at first sight. The ferry ride from Vancouver Island to Salt Spring Island was life changing for me. I felt something that resonated so deeply in me that I think I became a different person in that moment. I know that sounds dramatic but I don’t know how to write that more accurately.

It’s hard to describe exactly why but I think I was so humbled by the beauty that exists here that I simply fell in love. It really felt like that for me. And like a girl in love, I wanted to spend all my time just staring and being there, infatuated by how both humble and stunning these islands sat in the ocean, allowing you to rest in them and find your footing.

As an artist and art historian, I had seen these places in paintings by great Canadian painters many times before. No surprise here, the Canadian West Coast is a gold mine for painters and artists alike. And once the love-struck feeling settled in, I began to collect all the creative inspiration and ideas that surrounded me. I even worried it was too much and would feel overwhelmed with where to start once I’d be back in my studio. The week that followed was filled with days exploring the forests, coasts, mountains and getting to know people that were equally enamoured with the place as they were polite and open. I firmly set my boots into the same beautiful earth and promised myself to dream of and paint this place after I left.

Except that I still haven’t been able to.

The creative process is a fickle one, friends. It comes and goes without warning, leaving you wondering what you did to make it go away…

How Travelling Inspires Art

As an artist, travel has been an incredible wellspring of inspiration for me. The exposure to new experieinces, different places and new cultures cultures has added layers of depth to my creative palette as well as a fresh perspective on how to represent something. Being immersed in different ways of life, traditions, and customs has sparked fresh perspectives and had a significant impact on the ideas that I’ve woven into my art.

lighthouse park vancouver canada

The visual stimulation from diverse landscapes has had a profound impact on my work. The colors, textures, and compositions of the places I’ve visited find their way into my brushstrokes and tiny details that define a piece for me. Each new location becomes a canvas, influencing the choices I make. Vancouver Island was immensely powerful in this influence. The ocean in winter is so captivating to me. While we wait for the summer to appreciate it, underneath the surface it’s frigid waters continue to nourish and create the possibility for new life. Migration, hiberation, reproduction and much more is happening in these months that make it essential for many species to sustain life. That profound consistency and determination is not visible in winter yet we know it’s there and we’re drawn to the force of it.

Great Source of Inspiration

Similarly, cultural exchange is like a treasure trove for inspiration. Interacting with people from various backgrounds introduces me to a myriad of stories, emotions, and perspective. These interactions become the heartbeat of my artwork, adding a richness and authenticity that comes from the shared human experience.

Exploring historical sites and architectural wonders has fueled my fascination with themes related to time and the built environment. The stories embedded in these places often find their way into the narratives of my art, creating a bridge between the past and the present.

On a personal level, travel has become a journey of self-discovery. Stepping out of my comfort zone and experiencing the unfamiliar has led to significant personal growth. Living abroad in Mexico these past two years is no exception. These moments of reflection on myself and my place in the world become tiny threads of my creative expression.

And no surprise here, nature, in its various forms, has become a muse over the years. It’s where I’m happiest and most calm. The beauty and ever-changing moods of natural landscapes inspire me to capture those moments in my art, whether it’s the grandeur of mountains or the mystique of forests. 

seaplane near an vancouver island
?How Travelling Inspires Art

What To Do When You’re Stuck Creatively

I wish there was a clear answer to this, as I’d certainly be doing it, but there really isn’t. In most cases, it’ll find you again. But one thing you shouldn’t do is to stop. 

Through all my creative blocks, the one thing I did was continue, regardless of the outcome. No doubt you’ll end up with a stack of new artwork that will slowly drive you mad but they’ll also lead you back to your creativity.

Take a day, a few days or a week and go somewhere new. This doesn’t need to be an elaborate trip if that’s feasible – but a hike or a walk somewhere you’ve never been before or head into a local coffee shop and start a conversation with a stranger. A new place, perspective or opinion will help you see things and reignite your creativity.

Another great way to spark some creativity is to go to your favourite place. Nostalgia has a powerful impact on our creativity and gives way to a lot of inspiration on an emotional level. It has a similar effect to the memory of a family holiday or a warm dinner with a friend. I’m always warmed by these memories and that often leads to a really emotionally charged piece of art.

Something else that I like to do is visit small towns and make new connections. It may sound odd but the small, local communities have a way of opening up to others and being very genuine to who they are. Candid, honest and down-to-earth, small towns are humbling and soothing for the soul. You’ll also discover all kinds of local crafts and meet new people, which is a bonus!

For me, I think I’m struggling because I miss Vancouver Island, the stunning landscapes and the overwhelming sense of calm I felt there. Since having left, I’ve struggled to get into the same mindset to paint again. But I keep trying and I know it’ll come back as I discover what I love most the most about painting, which is the unpredictability and emotional connection needed to create something I love. And I’m ok waiting for it because it’s worth it.

Much Love,

Donata

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