Although I’ve written about ”hidden” inspirations (eg: forgotten things that have shaped or influenced your art style, writing style etc..) before, I thought that I’d revisit the topic again since I found another one. In short, after having a random conversation about television regions with someone, I happened to stumble across a mention of an old mid-late 1990s TV show called “It’s A Mystery” online and was suddenly swamped by a flood of childhood nostalgia.
“It’s A Mystery” was an early-mid afternoon TV show on ITV that investigated accounts of strange and bizarre events (eg: ghost sightings, UFO sightings etc..). It was the sort of intriguingly weird program that could only exist before smartphone cameras became ubiquitous, back when mystery and rumour could still still exist within the world. It was kind of like “The X-Files“, but aimed at a younger audience. And, when I was a lot younger, this show both fascinated and scared the hell out of me at least a few times.
So, filled with nostalgia about something I’d almost forgotten about, I decided to look on Youtube for clips of it. When I watched one and eventually stopped laughing at the gloriously terrible acting in the show’s reconstructions of strange events, I suddenly noticed something very surprising about the design of the show’s main studio. It featured bold, contrasting colours (eg: bold green, orange and blue question marks placed on a dark background, a checkerboard floor etc…).
If you’re a regular reader of this site, you can probably see where I’m going with this. One of the central features of my art style is high-contrast lighting/colours (eg: Tenebrism, chiaroscuro, bright colours against dark backgrounds etc..) and I also like to include checkerboard patterns when I’m in a bit of a gothic mood too. Here are a few examples:
Of course, if you’d asked me what inspired these elements of my art style before I rediscovered “It’s A Mystery”, I’d have reeled off a long list of things like the movie “Blade Runner“, old 1980s horror novel covers, old heavy metal album covers/T-shirts, these “Doom II” levels, an old computer game called “American McGee’s Alice” etc… And all of these things did play a major role in the development of my art style. Yet, I’d seen an example of this type of high-contrast lighting and checkerboard patterns years before I found any of those things… And I’d almost forgotten about it.
So, yes, hidden inspirations are absolutely fascinating things and they can often be an explanation for all sorts of interesting quirks, themes, stylistic elements etc… in the things that you create. In short, if something turns up in your art or writing and you can’t quite explain why it’s there or why you think that it’s interesting, cool etc… then a hidden, almost-forgotten inspiration possibly has something to do with it.
But, why? At a guess, it is probably because a lot of hidden inspirations will usually tend to be from the earlier parts of your life, mostly because you probably weren’t looking at the world from the perspective of an artist or a writer back then. You probably weren’t trying to learn more about art or writing from the things you watched/read/played/ listened to for fun back then. They were just enjoyable distractions.
So, you absorbed them without really studying them consciously and they either helped to shape your artistic/literary sensibilities or lingered at the back of your memory for some reason or another. They became part of your personal definition of “good writing”, “cool art” etc….
However, one of the interesting things about hidden inspirations is that they only seem obvious in retrospect. In other words, they are something that you’ll only discover by accident.
Sorry for such a short and rambling article (I was fairly tired when I wrote it), but I hope that it was interesting 🙂