By Melissa Whitaker

Archive for the ‘emotions’ Category

Finding Inspiration

The herringbone brick walkway that is lined with cypress trees at Rowan Oak.  The home of William Faulkner.
The front walkway of Rowan Oak Photo by Melissa Whitaker

“Wonder. Go on and wonder.”

The Sound and the Fury William Faulkner

According to Oxford Dictionary: inspiration(to do something)inspiration(for something) the process that takes place when someone sees or hears something that causes them to have exciting new ideas or makes them want to create something, especially in art, music, or literature

Most artists at one time or another are asked; where do you get your inspiration? Where does this piece of artwork come from? How do you get inspired?


Life. Life is where inspiration comes from. It is not something that can be grabbed off the shelf at the local convenience store. Inspiration often happens spontaneously when we least expect it and it is the recognizing and applying that inspiration that makes it come to life. Sometimes it’s standing in the shower and watching a water drop slide down the wall, a phrase in a book being read, a song being played on Spotify, or a painting hanging in a museum. Too often we are so preoccupied with our lives that we fail to see what truly inspires us, but it is in the small things that help innovate and create something new.

Personally, I find inspiration in almost everything from interactions with other people to taking a hike in the woods. Observing my environment or the events occurring in my life is what helps the creative process. Every now and then, I get caught up in the stress of things that I have no control over and I fail to see what is happening around me and this is when I must go look for inspiration. I find it is the inspiration that calms my soul.

The past few months have been highly stressful with many life-altering changes happening, so this past weekend I took a road trip. Road trips have a way of wiping off the stress of everyday life. I turn the music up and head on down the highway singing at the top of my lungs. It is a 4+ hour concert that would have most music critics cringing for their earplugs. This trip I went to New Orleans, Louisiana. I filled up on Louisiana cooking and people watching in the French Quarter. It was adventurous and fun, but still lacking in inspiration, so on the way home I took a detour to Oxford, Mississippi. I was on a quest to find my inspiration and what better place than Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner, one of America’s greatest authors.

The front of the house at Rowan Oak.
Rowan Oak in Oxford, Mississippi. Photo by Melissa Whitaker
Magnolia branch reaching to the ground.
Magnolia Tree. Photo by Melissa Whitaker

I could feel the excitement stirring inside of me as I walked up to the home. The uneven paths of bricks, covered in the moss from ages ago, were laid out in concentric circles around the magnolia trees. Whose branches swept the ground and created its own treehouse that invoked my childhood memories of chasing fairies. I sat down in the crevice of the roots in the tree and watched the sun’s rays piercing through the leaves and I thought, “This is it. I found it.” I was anxious to explore more and to soak up all the inspiration that I could. I ventured into the house to discover a bit of the life of Faulkner. What inspired him? What made this creative soul tick?

One of the first things I noticed was the number of books that he had. Not just the books that he wrote, but the books by authors he admired. Inspiration often comes from studying the work of others.

William Faulkners' bookshelf with Charles Dickens's Works in the center.
William Faulkners’ library shelf. Photo by Melissa Whitaker

The house was filled with things to inspire. The litany of phone numbers written on the wall tells a story of friends, family, and acquaintances in the Faulkners’ home. The outline of A Fable written on William Faulkners’ office wall shows an impulse to make that moment of inspiration permanent so that he does not lose sight of it.

Then I took a walk around the property and noticed the shadows making paintings on the walls and ground.

This is just a part of where inspiration comes from. It is all around us even when you may lose sight of it. Road trips are nice, but they are not for everyone. Take the time to get lost in a book. Take a stroll down to the local art gallery and see what the local artists are doing. Go to the grocery store and pick up that unusual looking fruit that you were afraid to try because it’s different. Sit down at a coffee shop and watch the other people or simply take a look at the swirling cream in your latte. Take a bubble bath and observe the swirling colors in the bubbles.

Inspiration is a lot like the elusive fairies that I hunted for when I was a child. It hides in the crevices of the mind and it is when the mind is quiet that it can be recognized.

Between Two Elephants

“Heebie Jeebies” Digital art by Melissa Whitaker

The above artwork is strange and bizarre, but an anxiety attack can be just as strange and bizarre. For as long as I can remember this particular vision would pop up out of nowhere. I say vision because it would happen while fully awake. I would be quietly sitting in math class and then, without any warning, I would be stuck between two elephants boxing. My heart would race and my head would throb with every punch that was thrown. As a child, I had no idea what was happening but I knew the elephants were not real, so I kept quiet about it. It was not real, so I did not have to address it.

The elephants would enter the arena with their satin robes draped over their massive shoulders. The crowd would start cheering and the first punch would be thrown POW!! The crowd would roar with excitement as I would cringe in fear of being trampled. WHAM!! my head would pound with the resonance of a timpani drum. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. My heart would march along to the rhythmic tempo and accelerate as the cheering would get louder. Meanwhile, those sitting around me casually went on with the math lesson not knowing of the battle going inside of me.

These attacks would strike at some of the oddest moments. I could never be sure when the elephants would appear, but the one place they never appeared was when I was drawing, so the art room became my sanctuary and comfort.

Art to me is extremely therapeutic. There is a zen-like quality to immersing oneself into a creative state of mind. Allowing the emotion to ebb through and come out on to the canvas, paper, tablet, or the pixels of digital art, is a release of the anxiety that can get bottled up within. When my life gets chaotic or stressful and I don’t make time for my creativity to flow, that is when the elephants make their appearance and can stampede through my mind. Exercising the inner muse is my way of calming the herd of judgment and self-doubt that can accompany the anxiety.

I have a friend who is always scolding me for putting others before myself. He sees the destruction that happens to my soul and ultimately my art when I neglect myself. The anxiety builds up to the point where I feel trapped between two boxing elephants. That is the time to stop, take a moment, breathe, and realize that I am in control and not the elephants. I have the choice of crouching in fear or standing up and proclaiming myself as the champion in the ring.

I choose.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18-54 have anxiety disorders. 54% woman and 46% of men experience anxiety in some form. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) sites that 7.1% of children aged 3-17 have diagnosed anxiety.

Inspire Your Heart

Today is Inspire Your Heart with Art day. It happens every year on January 31st. It has become my new favorite HOLIDAY.

“Tangled” Digital Drawing by Melissa Whitaker

Take a moment today and feel some art. What kind of emotions does it evoke? Art surrounds us even when we do not realize it. It is the music we listen to, the packaging on the products we buy, the painting hanging in the museum, the car driving too slow in front of you, the book or the article you just read, the icicle hanging from the gutter. Today is the day to examine that artwork and think about what it makes you feel.

An owl woven out of cords and ropes using the art of macrame


I’m one of those people who sings to the songs in my car while driving down the road. You may even spot me doing some crazy arm gestures while dancing in the driver’s seat. No worries, I am not having a seizure, I am just feeling the music. I find it relaxing and liberating. It is my time to be “ME.” Too often the stress of everyday life can make me feel like a macrame owl, a little bit wise but entirely made up of knots, and art helps untie those knots. Today on your way home crank up the music and dance. Instead of yelling at the guy in front of you going too slow, look at his car and the design of it. Those brake lights may actually impress you with the engineering of them. For dinner tonight, play with your food, you might create a forest out of that broccoli.

Art is made to inspire and make you feel. It can transport you to other worlds and take you back in time with memories and the playfulness of childhood. It can help you understand other cultures and see other perspectives on life. Art can transform people, places, and things.

Today is Inspire Your Heart With ART Day, it could transform you.

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