Inspiration in Unusual Places: Creating Art from Strange Habits

Salvador Dali 

Salvador Dali used to gain inspiration from his dreams.

Image Credit: Flickr

Inspiration can come in many forms. It can be a deliberate act or come in a flash without any effort or warning. Musicians, writers, thinkers, and artists from all walks of life need the inspiration to create their masterpieces. After all, art is an expression, and therefore, there needs to be something to express — an idea must arise and incubate before it can come to fruition.

At times, creative impulses build up until they are ready to explode out of the artist in a process that they sometimes barely have any control over. But the notion that great artists are consistently bathing in the golden waters of creativity is a false one. Every artist must seek stimulation to fuel their mind. Everyone needs a bit of inspiration.

There are many ways to gain this inspiration. It can be as simple as taking a break to clear your mind, enjoying a long stroll in the woods, sitting by a waterfall, reading books and watching videos to find new concepts and angles of debate. Athletes and poker players often draw on the community for inspiration. Artists also tend to draw on whatever is around them at the time. His spiritual beliefs and by political events that were occurring around him inspired the poet William Blake.

There are thousands of ways to find inspiration, but today, we’re interested in those exceptional individuals who found it in the most unlikely places. These are the visionaries of the world, and they all seem to be borderline mad. Perhaps breaking societal norms and standards is what makes a great artist?


Salvador Dali 

Salvador Dali 

If there was ever a peculiar artist, Salvador Dali was it. His surrealist style is a delight for the senses, a merging of reality and illusion that is as striking as his personality. Dali was known for his eccentricity and excessive behavior. So much so that he tended to receive a lot of attention, not always positive.

The Catalonian’s most famous piece is perhaps “The Persistence of Memory.” It’s the one with the melting clocks. Dali’s painting seems to illustrate Einstein’s theory of relativity, but Dali got his inspiration for this piece from staring at a piece of Camembert cheese on a hot day.

Salvador Dali was also well-known for painting his dreams. He used to deliberately put himself in a state of hypnogogic or that strange place in between sleep and waking where a person can easily experience visual and audio hallucinations and lucid cognition. Dali would fall asleep holding a metal key over a plate. When the key dropped, it would wake him up, and he would paint the visuals of his dreams.


Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo’s “The Broken Column.”

Image Credit: Daily Art Magazine

Kahlo’s tragic backstory is nearly as famous as her artwork. She had a rough life, developing polio at a young age and then finding herself struck down in a traffic accident at the age of 18, leaving her severely disabled and in pain. Frida Kahlo is the perfect example of an artist who drew inspiration from events in her life, turning tragedy into creativity.

Kahlo found inspiration in Mexican pop culture and used a naive folk-art style to express feelings about gender, identify, class and race in the country. She was also highly inspired by the female form and painted a lot of portraits and self-portraits, most of which she painted after the accident, which left her immobile in a full-body cast. She was lonely and had only herself and her body to use as inspiration.

Several of Frida Kahlo’s paintings that followed depicted her disabilities. “The Broken Column” showed her with a medical rod running down her spine. The “Tree of Hope, Keep Firm” depicted her laid on her front with a huge open gash down her back. “Without Hope” shows Kahlo violently rejecting hospital food. She also drew inspiration from the macabre, from stories of murders and suicide to her suffering and inability to be a mother.


Andy Warhol 

Andy Warhol 

Andy Warhol also published a book on his philosophy.

Infographic Credit: Pinimg

Known as one of the most influential pop artists of the time, Andy Warhol was a strange artistic soul. He drew on themes as varied as celebrity culture, commercialism, and death. Paintings such as “Electric Chair” and “Skulls” show that his mind was not afraid of the dark while his iconic depictions of brands are now recognizable to the masses.

Warhol had a way of commercializing his art while simultaneously satirizing commercialism and is pretty much a household name to this day. His first moments of fame came in July 1962 during an early exhibition in Los Angeles. One of the pieces on display was a 32-canvas print of Campbell’s Soup, one for each variety, created with a mass-produced look and style. Warhol had drawn inspiration from the increasingly commercial world that he was living in, which continued through much of his life.

He was also an obsessive collector of all manner of junk. His hoarding habits led to him filling entire houses with objects, but also, the creation of his “time capsules.” In other words, Andy Warhol stuffed all his useless junk into boxes, one box at a time, sealing them with a date or title. His inspiration here was his hoarding habit, and over the course of his life, he filled 610 of these boxes with everyday items and unusual trinkets. After his death, these “time capsules” gave a unique and personal glimpse into his life.

Artists find inspiration in the most unusual places. So, the next time you get writer’s block, or you can’t visualize your next painting, you could take a stroll or try out Salvador Dali’s trick and see if you can paint your dreams.  You could be one of the lucky artists who get to travel to the moon for inspiration, but ultimately, you have to work with what you have around you and with the places and times that you live. The best artists show us that they can draw inspiration from even the darkest corners of society and turn the shadowy recesses of their mind into valuable art that speaks to the masses.

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