First of all, it goes without saying, but all artists and/or writers should have more than just one thing that inspires them.
If you only have one major inspiration, then your creative works will just end up being an inferior copy of that one thing. So, although I’ll be talking about how to find your “main inspiration” or “largest influence”, this should only be one inspiration out of many.
Whether you want to or not, you’re probably going to end up having one influence or inspiration that has a slightly larger effect on the things that you produce than any of your other inspirations. If you’ve been making art and/or writing for a while, then you probably already know what this is. In fact, when it comes to main inspirations, they tend to find you rather than the other way round.
Generally, it will be something that – when you see or read it at the right time – will literally seem better than everything else. It will be something that will seem uniquely wonderful or fascinating. It’ll be something that will make you think “I wish I’d made that!“. It’ll be something that will linger in your imagination for a long time. Your largest inspiration is one of those things where you’ll know it when you see it. Well, most of the time anyway….
Sometimes, it will be something that you already know about or have encountered before, but which doesn’t really become influential until the time is right.
For example, one of my main artistic inspirations is the film “Blade Runner“. I first saw this film when I was fourteen, but foolishly dismissed it as “boring” at the time – only to rediscover it again (and appreciate it properly) about three years later. It’s been my favourite film and one of my main inspirations since then. As I said, your main inspirations often find you.
Not only does this film influence how I draw anything even vaguely science fiction-related, but it’s high-contrast neon-lit settings are one of the many things that influenced how I handle lighting and colour in my art. It’s also prompted my gradual shift towards including more detail in my artwork (although this was also inspired by various comics I’ve read too).
It’s also one of my go-to sources of inspiration when I’m feeling uninspired. If I’m feeling uninspired, I can just think about “Blade Runner” and this will usually give me a jumping-off point for coming up with different and original ideas for sci-fi art. This is an important thing to remember.
There’s a huge difference between inspiration and copying. Being inspired by something involves looking at the generic elements of that thing ( rather than specific details, such as characters, exact settings etc..) and then finding a way to use those general elements in a new piece of art or work of fiction. This is something that all good writers and artists do, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this.
If you don’t know how to do this, then try to find a way to describe your largest influence that doesn’t mention character names, place names, specific events etc…. Now find a way to tell a story or make some art that includes the elements you’ve described, but doesn’t include any characters, backstory, locations etc.. from the thing you’re being inspired by.
Copying highly specific details from something else isn’t inspiration – it’s copying. Using the general and generic elements of something else to create a new work of art or fiction that is clearly different from it’s source material is inspiration!
Going back to “Blade Runner”, the generic elements of this film include things like the cyberpunk genre, 1940s-style fashions, goth/punk fashions, gigantic overcrowded cities, constant rainfall, neon signs, bulky 1980s technology, giant advertising billboards, Aztec-style wall tiles, private detectives, mixtures of old and new things etc… These are the things you use if you want to be inspired properly.
To give you an example, here are details from two of my upcoming paintings that were partially inspired by “Blade Runner”, but which are also original works in their own right:
And -for comparison- here’s a detail from a “Blade Runner” parody/ fan art cartoon that I’ll be posting here in December.
As you can see, this picture uses characters (eg: Deckard and Rachel) and settings (eg: The Bradbury Building) from the film – albeit with a lot of additional artistic interpretation. It’s a fan art/parody picture that is based on “Blade Runner”, but not “inspired” by it.
So, yes, finding your largest influence isn’t as difficult as you might think – just make sure that you are only inspired by it and don’t just copy it verbatim (unless you’re making fan art, parodies etc…).
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂