Have you ever watched the hit show Project Runway , and more specifically the episode on "inspiration" where Heidi Klum asks the would-be designers "What drives your creativity as a fashion designer?" If you do remember, try to block a few of those inspirational "gems" out of your mind for now. Inspiration isn't all graffiti, gutter water and hazard tape, ya know.
I can't decide if this Project Runway lingerie creation was inspired by Cats or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Either way, she doesn't look very enthusiastic.
Artists and gardeners share the desire to observe colors, shapes, and textures which spark the imagination....the desire to search for ideas and inspiration. Whether it is experimenting with a new plant or developing a unique color palette, the joy of discovery is a frequent occurrence. Nature, incidentally, is one of the best sources in which to study the elements of design (I imagine hazard tape runs a close second ).
A new style of gardening was developed as a result of the Impressionist's revolutionary approach to painting. Inspired by the art and gardens of Japan, the Impressionist's captured the fleeting play of light on color in the open air. They not only revolutionized the art of painting, but they also introduced innovative ways of looking at gardens. Many gardeners have been inspired by the rich images of Monet's shimmering acres at Giverny, the most visited garden in the world.
Many wonderful gardeners have reinterpreted the Impressionist vision in their contemporary gardens by exploring such themes such as color harmonies, the influence of Japan, wildflower meadows, water reflections, and the importance of light and shade . It is in the beauty of the interpretation that the gardener puts their own unique stamp. Of course a gardener doesn't actually create the gorgeous flowers, but there is an undeniable artistry in the beautiful gardens I have been fortunate enough to visit over the years. The gardeners seem to effortlessly dot and dab the plants across the garden in the way a painter works brushstrokes of color on canvas.
Van Gogh never had a garden himself, but he was deeply interested in gardening and wrote letters to his younger sister describing color schemes he wanted her to try. I am particularly fascinated by the blues, greens and warm yellows of the Van Gogh palette. Van Gogh's Irises (1889) were painted within a week of his arrival at the asylum at Saint-Remy. The complimentary colors in the blue irises and orange calendulas have inspired many gardeners.
Also painted at the asylum, Van Gogh's Tree Trunks with Ivy (1889) reminds me of the faintly dappled light that seeps through to the undergrowth in my own woodland setting. I really dig the simmering energy in this painting.
No one ever accused a gardener of "covering" Monet anymore than they would accuse Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Manet and Van Gogh of "covering" mother nature. What you see in an Impressionist painting is the artist's interpretation of their gardens and their joyous response to color and light. Nature is a powerful influence. Many have painted a flower, but it is great talent that evokes an emotional response. We feel the vibrancy in the brushstrokes. Many have sung a song, but it is great talent that moves and engages the listener. We feel the passion in the music.
Most of the great Impressionists had gardens and in their landscape paintings would manipulate the colors in contrasting hues, blending and harmonizing the colors to evoke the desired "shimmering" effect. I admire vocalists who can manipulate a song in the same way. I can get that same "shimmering" sensation from listening to the voice of Clay Aiken.
Just listen to the rich colors in that voice.
Scenic designers can speak to their influences and to the inspiration behind their stage settings at great length. It can be from personal experience, the colors in a bolt of fabric, the work of another artist or designer, a piece of music, forms in nature, architecture, a location, or for me most recently the romantic etchings of Piranesi. Inspiration can come from anywhere, any experience, any emotion or from any idea. Strange as it may seem, some of my strongest scenic designs have come from projects that I've been reluctant to participate. Several years ago I was assigned an artist's residency to design the musical Grease for a start up theatre, one of my least favorite books/scripts in musical theatre production. Going in I dreaded the work ahead of me, but several months later it turned out to be one of my most innovative and personally rewarding designs. In search of inspiration, sometimes we dig deeper and mine ideas that we might have otherwise overlooked. The same can be said about gardening. I have learned more about gardening living in an area with a challenging landscape than I would have under less difficult conditions. If inspiration is a stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity, then for me, it is nature, art and music that kick that activity into high gear.
I really have no use for the word "cover" outside a row cover or a ground cover. An artist doesn't cover life. They interpret it, they are influenced by it, they are inspired by it. I am anticipating a great summer for inspiration! Bring it on Clay!
What inspires you?