Inspiration - where does it come from?

Posted by: Toni1

Tagged in: wildlife , Painting , inspiration , birds , art


I'm often asked where I get the inspiration for my paintings. Well, that's an interesting one, because almost anything can trigger an idea, some of which are more achievable than others. I always seem to want to paint things that are just slightly out of my comfort zone, and am a sucker for trying new techniques (usually when I'm most short of time!).

This one

©Toni Watts 2011, Grey Wagtail, Acrylic on board, 38 x 51cm

Grey Wagtail - detail

was inspired by the water running off this old wall by the horse trough after heavy rain. It's a scene from the Lake District in the UK, on a footpath which runs from Rydal to Grasmere. Actually, the path is called the 'Coffin Route', due to the fact that, before there was a church in Rydal village, bodies had to be carried to the next village. Anyway, in spite of its name, it actually makes for beautiful walk, with great views over Rydal Water and a historic pub at one end. What could be better?

The Grey Wagtail wasn't there, but it might have been, so in it went - a lovely dapper bird which looks, I hope, at home in its surroundings.

My next painting will feature a raven. In fact, maybe the next two will. We did a lot of walking in the Lakes, and one of our highlights was seeing (and hearing) the ravens flying around us. They are big, impressive birds with massive bills and bags of character. So I have in mind a painting of a raven in flight, maybe featuring the landscape around High Spy - a great Lakeland look-out point. Here I am on my way up to that point, with a bit of climbing still to do. You can just make out our starting point, the town of Keswick, in the far distance.

The raven also features in Edgar Allan Poe's poem of the same name and I'm just working out how I might create a piece of artwork around that. I've been mulling over several ideas and am almost ready to go with that one. It will involve techniques I've never tried before, so I'll be interested to see how it goes. There may be the occasional blog post full of grumbles - be warned!

The painting of the car

©Toni Watts 2011, Shiny Pretty Things, Acrylic on board

was basically a product of my fiftieth birthday present - a day driving one of these....

Wow! What a day! We were dead lucky with the weather (it was last October). I'd never driven a sports car before: it growled in the most satisfying way!! I have to admit, it was a bit difficult to place on the road....and OK, maybe I did drive round some of the tighter corners with my eyes shut, hoping I didn't hit the stone wall which seemed about an inch away. And the handbrake was more of a 'pull towards you' rather than a 'lift up' (there's probably some technical term for that), so I dreaded having to stop on a hill. But overall, I loved it! In fact, we loved it so much that, for a little while afterwards, we dreamed of owning a classic car....not that we've got anywhere to keep it, or the money to buy it....but it didn't stop us going to a local car show. And it was there that we saw the Austin, complete with a magpie hopping around on the floor. We all know that magpies love shiny things - and so the idea was born. Reference sketches for the magpies came from Potteric Carr nature reserve in Doncaster.

So inspiration can come from seeing birds, or animals - from landscapes - from the small things, like the way light plays on a bit of lichen - and sometimes even from poetry. I have to say that, as a wildlife artist, if I don't get out into the great outdoors, I lose the enthusiasm to paint. I have to be out there, in all weathers, with a pair of binoculars and a sketchbook.

We're off to Cornwall in the summer, so expect paintings of tin mines and fishing boats!


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