Thoughts on inspiration

After a prolific blogging period on the quest for Jan van Boeckel at the end of last year I am lying low now, anticipating a next move. All I know is that I am not finished with Jan van Boeckel’s story. The moment I force my way forward however, inspiration dries up. I can only move forward when everything clicks together and feels right. While I am waiting, let me at this point at least share some thoughts on my creative approach with you.

zeven1When I paint, I do not think about what I’m going to paint, I put lines and colour on canvas and the inspiration comes as I work, the creation creates itself. This process is much more complex than it sounds and can be pretty frustrating. I have to be able to discern very subtle prods of inspiration. A similar thing happens when I write. And when taking photographs.

Delving into a story is a journey into the unknown. I do not know where it will take me, what I will learn, and who I will meet. I do not control the story, the story controls me. As I listen to its heartbeat it shows me the way.

Forest with gateway

And so it is with photography. The scenes are not thought out in detail beforehand. I photograph as inspiration leads me. There are always photos on my camera that fit seamlessly into the story I am telling. The images seem to carry the story, a silent witness to events.

In fact, one of my readers sent me a reaction in which he refers to “Guilty Landscapes”, a phrase coined by the Dutch artist Armando. Where Armando very anthropocentrically, pins a ‘guilty’ label on nature, a photographer from The South of the U.S.A. named Sally Mann, describes this phenomenon differently:

 “The earth doesn’t care where death occurs, it’s job is to efface and renew itself.  It’s the artist who by coming in and writing about it or painting it or taking a photograph of it makes that earth powerful and creates death’s memory because the land isn’t going to remember itself, but the artist will.”

Interesting points of reflection. One way of looking at it is that trees, or even man-made fences, only bear witness to time, they probably do not even notice our human follies or the stories taking shape in their vicinity. It is you and I, with our human perspectives, who brand the landscape with an emotion.


My photographs look quite innocent until I frame them with a story. They then take on a different meaning and offer the story an added dimension. I actually turn them into ‘guilty’ landscapes even if they are nowhere near the place, as if they were witness to, or even  participated in the events described.

While I wait for inspiration, I will be mulling over this phenomenon …



13 thoughts on “Thoughts on inspiration

  1. Thanks for your thoughts on inspiration. I was really interested to read how you begin a painting. I am reviving an interest in painting after many decades but I stall before I start. Using your technique might be a way to overcome this.

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