Picasso said "The muse may strike at any time, but she must find you working"
Since turning pro and being a full time artist this has been my mantra. The art world is littered with other beautiful art quotes which still amount to the same thing. Stop faffing about and get on with it!
The thing is that work, consistent work, constant effort, making mistakes, and making discoveries can lead to great inspiration, and great work. Picasso is right.
People still have grand romantic schemes that artists sit around in cafes, drinking wine, and discussing philosophy, politics and art all day. Then suddenly the Muse will strike them and they will head back to the leaky garret and create the next masterpiece ready for the salon to judge next season! Perhaps the modern English reality isn't that artists are sitting about in cafes all day instead life consists of getting up late, taking the dog for a walk, seeing a beautiful tree leaning over a river and heading back to the studio and magically painting it.
The reality is different.
I'm not complaining one bit.
My artistic life is wonderful and I thoroughly enjoy it, but it's definitely hard work. There is a big difference between sauntering along a country lane considering the beauty of the sky while the dog sniffs around in the hedge, compared to lugging your easel and painting equipment, setting up for a day of en plein air painting. Serious concentration is required to really analyse the landscape around you. Sketch after sketch, considering light, colour, composition. The sketches produced on those en plein air days will help you in the studio the next day, the next week or even next year you can work from those sketches.
Here comes the muse, and there you were, working. That's why she came!
Part of the problem with artists' block is thinking that we must find something completely new and original. Modest subject matter won't be enough to sate our artist need. Not true.
While I'm writing this I am listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing "It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it" and she's right too.
There isn't a monopoly on painting landscape, or a beautiful flower, or a still life of fruit. We can choose to paint anything, we can find inspiration anywhere, it's what we bring to the party ourselves that makes our treatment of the subject matter interesting.
That constant work while waiting for the muse is how we find our voice.
It's about our style, it's about how we create that landscape or how we capture that moment.
The artists I know don't magic a masterpiece out of the air.
It comes from graft, and craft.
We have to think about it, study it, experiment with it; we have to let it brew inside our minds and then find the techniques and skills put onto the page what our mind has already seen.