Creative Inspiration

Through the years I have been creatively inspired by many things: a beautiful sunset, a tender human moment, a work of art, a song on the radio, a passing comment by a stranger or a passage in a book or newspaper. During my sophomore year of film school I received the creative inspiration for my film Gun, while I was listening to the Beatles' Happiness is a Warm Gun on the stereo and reading a newspaper article about handgun violence. Suddenly, I saw a series of images in my mind's eye, which then unfolded into a series of stories. The rest of the story solidified when I rented a Magnum 44 prop gun and held it in my hand. I felt a powerful force inherent in the gun, which further inspired me to attempt to capture this presence on film. Throughout the entire process of making the film I felt guided by a creative spirit, receiving inspiration at each step along the way.

The word inspiration can be used to describe many things, including the drawing in of breath; a sudden brilliant, creative or timely idea; a creative influence or force that stimulates thoughts and/or ideas; or a divine influence or force that leads to wisdom, understanding, and/or revelation. Besides being inspired to create, I have also had the experience of receiving inspiration in the form of seemingly divine influence and guidance from the creative expression of others.

Rembrandt’s The Night Watch
One of these creative divine inspiration experiences happened to me at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I remember walking into the room where Rembrandt’s The Night Watch was hung. I froze in my tracks and softly gasped (inspired). The painting’s presence was so powerful that it felt as though I had entered the presence of some great force. The painting seemed alive, as though Rembrandt had captured the life energy of himself, the people he was painting and the presence of the divine, and fused it all into the paint and canvas. I sat in front of the paintings for hours, while it spoke to me through image, character, story, color and light about human struggle and divine yearnings within myself and within all of humanity. The messages I was receiving from the painting seemed to be answering some of the inner questions that had been on my mind just before I entered the museum. That night I lay in bed feeling a deep sense of gratitude for the gifts of the inspiration and guidance I had received at the foot of that giant wondrous canvas.

Art is contemplation.
It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature
and which there divines the spirit
of which Nature Herself is animated.
- Auguste Rodin

Months later, I had a similar inspirational guidance experience at the foot of Michelangelo’s David in Florence, Italy. Again, I felt a powerful presence in the work of art. Michelangelo and his David were alive in the stone. As I circled the towering figure, every angle revealed another emotional reality, from great courage to hidden fears. I spent the entire day with David; walking around him; sitting and gazing at him from different angles; and meandering through the gallery of Michelangelo’s other sculptures.

Michelangelo’s David and unfinished sculptures
At one point, I felt an inner prompting to go into the gallery by Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures. I followed my inner guidance and found myself in the middle of an art class. The instructor was explaining to the students that Michelangelo believed that each piece of stone had an image within it waiting to be released and that the Divine revealed these images to him and his job was merely to release them from their stone encasements.

I saw the angel in the marble 
and carved until I set him free.
- Michelangelo Buonarroti

The instructor went on to say that Michelangelo also felt that a work was complete when he had learned the lesson he needed to learn, so sometimes he would leave a piece physically unfinished because he was finished with it internally. This, he added was a blessing for humanity, because without these unfinished works we wouldn’t understand how he created his masterpieces. Somehow, this information was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. The lecture combined with the visceral experience of the sculptures gave me guidance for my life as an artist and my journey of the spirit.

Excerpt from the book The Search for a Divinely Guided Life by Mark Allan Kaplan, Ph.D.

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