Inspiration vs Perspiration in Art

Kelly L Kendrickson: It's About Time. Mixed Media Textile Art

I am proud to present Guest Blog writer, Mixed Media Textile artist Kelly L Hendrickson.  Kelly began experimenting with textile art after dyeing her  first piece of fabric. From that start she discovered the challenge and joy of mixed media.  She writes on “Inspiration Vs. Perspiration in Art”.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the famous quote from Tomas Edison, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Several online posts about “where do you get your inspiration?” started me thinking about just that…and how it fits in with Edison’s quote.  Or does it fit? Is it different in the art world?

Being sure we all have a very definite opinion on this subject, I’ll still venture into the waters and share how it is for me…at least currently.  Hey, I plan to continue to learn until there is “soil in my ears.”  (A quote from a recent movie. Loved the quote but can’t remember the name of the movie.)

1. First let’s tackle that ubiquitous question, “Where do you get your inspiration?”  My immediate thought is, “The easier question to answer is where do I NOT get inspiration!”  It is absolutely everywhere it seems to me. Nature, of course. How could one not be inspired by intricate flowers, panoramic landscapes, or a lone fall tree amongst the still green ones? Here is just a short list of where I have found inspiration in the past and currently:

  • My family
  • Song lyrics
  • Poetry
  • A play on words
  • Just a feeling or desire to play with a color or texture
  • Other art disciplines

My photos of my favorite subjects

So, my challenge to other artists is to at least sometimes venture outside your “comfort zone” and look for inspiration where you’ve perhaps never looked before.  You just might be surprised what you will find!

2. Once inspired, what next? I now have this “perfect” image in my head. Often it takes a conscious effort to actually begin the piece. What if it doesn’t live up to my vision?  Of course, the only way to find out is just to begin.  It will either become what I envisioned or a few times it has morphed into something different that I like it just as much…sometimes even more!  Fear has no place in the studio!

Kelly L Kendrickson: Rust and Found, Mixed Media Textile Art3. Now the completed piece is ready to meet the world! Often it feels like sending an innocent child out into the melee alone! Or is that just me? …I didn’t think so.  The acceptance is euphoric!  The rejections…not so much. How could the jury not like this?  It is wonderful!  I was blessed to learn early on that art is perhaps one of the most subjective arenas out there. So many things can cause a piece not to be accepted.  What the judges like, think, hate, had for breakfast, etc.  But, despite the rejections, the art needs to be out there. You never know when a piece might truly touch someone and they will adore it just as much as you do, even if for a different reason.  A friend recently told me of a piece she did in memory of a mentor of hers.  It was later purchased by a person who didn’t even relate to the subject matter at all, but LOVED the quiet, comforting feel of the piece.  You just never know!

4. So, why do I follow the inspirations as they arrive? Which are really worth the perspiration? Truthfully, I make art that I like. I have tried several times to participate in the theme of an exhibit that is perhaps a bit interesting.  But if the inspiration is not there, to me it is not worth that 99% of perspiration.  The nice part of making art I love, is that if it is at a show but doesn’t sell…I’m always thrilled to have it return home. (The sales are nice though…money for supplies for new art!)  Life is way too short to do stuff you don’t like if you don’t have to.

5. Now…what about that perspiration part. I have to admit, I have so much fun bringing an inspiration to life that I seldom feel like it is “work” at all. OK, sometimes finishing it up with the hanging hardware is not all that exciting. And I find that I even love keeping track of shows, ordering new supplies, etc.  Most often, inspiration builds on inspiration as the piece grows and becomes art.  So, sorry Mr. Edison but for me as an artist, the equation is backwards.

Finally then, I wish to change the quote for artists.  Let’s just say, “ART is ninety-nine percent inspiration and one percent perspiration.”  And there’s nothing wrong with a little perspiration when doing what you love.  That is my world, and I hope many of you share that world with me.

Top Image: It’s About Time, Textile Mixed Media, 22″ X 18″
Bottom Image: Rust and Found , Textile Mixed Media, 10″ X 20″

For information about Kelly L Hendrickson, please visit:

2 thoughts on “Inspiration vs Perspiration in Art

  1. Kelly:

    Awesome. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your art. It is beautiful… Never give it up!

    Chrissie Arnaert

  2. I always prefer the shortest route to the marks I leave. They are destined, I think, to be the most honest, and least contrived. Although this said, discipline (whether conciously learnt or inherent) plays a large part in understanding and appreciating what one has done. Creative leaps, of course are necessary, otherwise stagnation results, but if one is to learn, one has to teach the hand and eye what has, and what has not been achieved. As regards the original quote and premise of your thoughts, a writer’s mind has only one vocabulary (words) whereas we lucky people are only restricted by our imaginations. But regarding art particularly, a friend of mine summed up the creative journey with brevity; ‘you haven’t truely appreciated the experience until you have beaten the crap out of it.’ Like the illustrated work, by the way.

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