Normally, I’m quite sceptical about the whole concept of a “muse”. This is mostly because the absence of said muse is often used by artists as an excuse not to make art (and, no, being suddenly and mysteriously inspired doesn’t happen to artists often. It’s cool when it does, but don’t rely on it if you actually want to make art regularly.). Likewise, there’s also something vaguely creepy about the idea of a real person being a “muse” too.
But, saying that, many artists will have something that fills the role of the muses of antiquity. But, it usually won’t be some kind of unseen mythical creature or a beautiful lover. No, real-life muses are often a lot more random than that.
I was reminded of this topic recently when I suddenly found myself preparing what is turning out to be an art series of some kind. This will be a series of gothic paintings that revolve around one of my muses – the town of Aberystwyth or, more accurately, my memories of it. Here’s a preview of a couple of the stylised gothic paintings:
Yes, muses can be places. In fact, a place is often the perfect thing to use as a muse for a number of reasons.
The first is that it is something of a “blank canvas” that can be host to literally any type of painting. You can focus on one part of a large place in each of your paintings (allowing you to come up with lots of different ideas quickly). You can change the lighting to make a familiar place look different. You can interpret a place in all sorts of ways. I could go on, but places are an awesome type of “muse”.
But, real life muses can also be other creative works too (eg: films, comics, games, novels, songs etc..). Yes, you’ll need to know the difference between taking inspiration and plagiarism, but other creative works can often be excellent “muses”. This is especially true with creative works that leave a lot to the imagination or which hint at a much larger fictional “world”. But, it can happen with literally anything. In fact, it often seems like these highly-inspirational creative works choose you, rather than the other way round.
For example, one of my other long-standing “muses” is the film “Blade Runner“. Although it wasn’t the only thing that introduced me to the idea of high-contrast lighting, the lighting in this film had a huge impact on my imagination. For starters, the film’s complex, but mysterious, locations are the kind of thing that will linger in your imagination for the rest of your life. It’s also the kind of film where you’ll notice something new every time you watch it. Needless to say, it is one of my largest influences.
But, muses can be much more than this. They can be a particular season (eg: autumn/winter), they can be a particular type of weather (eg: gloomy and rainy), they can be a particular part of history (eg: the 1990s) etc… they can be a lot of things, but “muses” aren’t mystical creatures or real people.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂