Inspiracy of One

I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration. I rarely find it in pithy quotes or speechifying designed to “inspire” (there have been exceptions), but I do find it in the attention I choose to give to details that give me pause and then get me moving toward incorporating a little of that (whatever it is) into my own existence. I can be inspired by a technique, a color, a re-telling, something accidentally eavesdropped, a random act of something, a song, an argument, a photo… when I take the time to notice, I’m often overwhelmed by inspiration. (In that moment.) My thinking gets changed. (In that moment.) I’m spurred to a different way of seeing the world. (In that moment.) In the last few years I’ve rarely been spurred to a different long-term action or plan thereof. It’s like my ability to act on inspiration has become like my attention span while browsing the web, i.e., not very good. This disappoints me.

It’s a big world, which means inspiration often strikes from sources that are completely NOT ME… if I let them. It’s really easy in 2016 to filter out everything that isn’t “me” (see comment about attention span above), so I’m subconsciously trying to derive inspiration from not just the same sources over and over again, but any new sources seem to look suspiciously the same as me. BARF. I recently looked at the Pinterest boards I keep (several of which have done little to inspire anything in me except envy and acquisitiveness) with a fresh set of eyeballs and saw the same bloody ideas, the same way of looking at the world. This is not how I want middle age to go.

Enter Molly Crabapple.

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One of my favorite podcasts is She Does. It’s geared toward and about women who make media, but I think it’d make fascinating listening for anyone interested in the creative process. Anyway, I’m a devoted listener, and have discovered the work of some amazing women by listening every week, but I was not prepared to be so bowled over by Molly Crabapple’s episode.

Ms. Crabapple and I are nothing alike. On the purely superficial front, she looks like and has the story of someone who would have their own awesomely complicated and fantastic fragrance named after them at BPAL. (They should really get on that.). We have completely different backstories, we’re of different generations, we work in different media, she’s plied her craft (illustration/painting/visual art) for decades. This lack of obvious commonality doesn’t matter to me now, when so often it has mattered. I love her memoir, Drawing Blood, and her work so much. I love it not because I can relate to it… but because I can’t. It forces me to look at her subject matter (protest, war, politics, burlesque, the internet, gentrification) through a completely different lens, and her artwork is beautiful, colorful, disturbing, opulent, raw.

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It’s a striking book, both in illustration and narrative; this book and Patti Smith’s M Train (which I’ve written about) have deeply affected me this fall/winter season. Ms. Smith’s book got me interested in taking more photos, embracing who I can feel myself trying to become in middle age, and immersing myself in reading NYC punk retrospectives. Ms. Crabapple’s book got me interested in the seemingly-small-but-actually-huge idea of… not traveling to France alone, though that appeals… not pitching ideas to VICE, though I’m much more interested in their work now than I was… but learning how to draw. I’ve done other types of art, but have avoided learning how to draw.

Learning how to draw feels inexplicably important and terrifying to me. If I do this thing, a thing that I have been very specifically avoiding for decades out of fear and maybe even superstition, what will happen? What could it lead to?

Exactly.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs, Saved Aggressively)

I haven’t even written about Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet

This PDF about emotional labor (a condensation of a thread on Metafilter) has been a tough read

A friend’s open letter to Oprah… and the rest of us

Inspiration, the BPAL way

4 thoughts on “Inspiracy of One

  1. Jeanne

    Looking forward to checking her out. Drawing came in to my life via the book Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks which broke open my vision and perspective and allowed me to draw for the first time and feel good about it. So much of the book is based on the very premise of your post which is we need to learn to see, and be open to, things in a different way and it really worked. Look forward to hearing more!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Post author

      I’ll have to see if that book is still in the homeschooling bookpile, Jeanne… I know we had it. Thanks for the reminder! xo

      Reply
  2. Jane

    Envy and acquisitiveness sent me running a mile from Pinterest, but that’s my problem. I loved Molly Crabapple’s posts about the war zone first aid course for journalists! Her notebook was stunning. My tattooist recommended Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain for home-schooling; I have no aspirations to learn to draw – it would seem more natural for me to breathe out of my eyeballs! Inspired by your inspiration though…

    Reply
    1. Lisa Post author

      Jane! Lovely to see you! <3

      As for Pinterest: Entirely my problem, a situation where the tool used me. As for drawing, I love taking photos but I've always wished I could sketch what I see in the moment. Her description of being at Guantánamo and her illustrations from that really struck me. One can always draw what one sees; one can't always take a photo. I'm also curious to see how I would see the world in this way. What would I choose to highlight? I have no idea.

      Reply

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