Monday, February 27, 2012


If you have taken my classes or read my blog, you will know that I am very passionate about seeking inspiration off the computer and in my world. In my opinion, before you can develop a consistent creative routine, you really need to identify the things that inspire you, that catch your eye, that get you excited about making art, that will motivate you to be consistent and keep your work authentic. I call this "finding my Muse" and it has become the most important part of my creative process. In a world full of the internet, t.v., social media and LOTS OF SHARING- my brain is often overloaded and I need to get back to basics when I create. I want my work to be authentic and to speak to my life and my experiences- the only way I can do this is by seeking my Muse in my everyday moments, in my community and off the computer. I have put together this free mini class to share with you my own philosophy and the process that I go through when I am looking for my Muse. My hope is that you will find inspiration to get off the computer (once in a while) look closely at the world around you, find joy and beauty in your life and set out to seek your own Muse. WELCOME TO FINDING YOUR MUSE!
please note that this is an inspiration class- not a techniques class


You will notice that this site looks a lot like my public blog- with posts in the middle and columns on each side.

The right hand column is where you will find all of the business related stuff and most importantly the blog archives- this is what you will need to navigate the posts.

Posts will start with the welcome and run down the page working through 6 postings. Since all 6 posts will not fit on the main page you will need to use the blog archive to find the post you are looking for.



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Apollo Dancing with the Muses by Francesco Bartolozzi (1725-1815)

The Muses are an ancient concept: a divine goddess of Greek myth that fills humanity with artistic inspiration. What I love about the concept is that the Muse does not discriminate. Some unexplainable creative inspiration can visit both the richest and the poorest of us. From the most powerful to the most insignificant, from the charismatic to the ordinary, from the interesting to the annoying, from the saint to the criminal: we are all voices, all potential mouthpieces for some unexplainable and mysterious creative source.

Our inner Muse speaks to us all in unique places. People, places, dreams, fears, relationships, hopes, all have the ability to inspire us in completely different ways. When I was fifteen, my family made a big decision to pack up the kids and move to a small town frozen in time on the Oregon coast. I was a typical gawky teenager (with braces recently removed!) with all of the insecurities, self-doubts, and emotional whirlwinds that are a part of the youthful package. I remember that first day in a new high school, sitting bewildered in a cold and crowded cafeteria: entirely new, entirely self-conscious, entirely alone.


It wasn’t long before I got my feelings hurt: some popular girl said my hair was frizzy (which it was!) and the smallest most insignificant things could cut deep. But, strangely enough, it was at this time that my creative output skyrocketed.


At the time when I felt the most alone, the most vulnerable, it was as if the world became more alive. The forests and ocean seemed like magical places where anything could happen, the wonders of the natural world revealed themselves in all their color and creativity.


In the midst of turbulent teenage emotions, like a girl possessed- I turned everything I could find into art. Beachcombing, wandering through the forest, gathering anything I could that represented my new environment – I would paint, build, nail, glue, and sew the artifacts of my environment and emotional life to create anything I could


Though I had been making art long before my high school years- what clicked in my creative experience was that our Muse can be found in any situation- positive or negative- in the light and in the dark- in beautiful places and also in the ordinary. Mining our emotions, our experiences and our daily lives for inspiration is what gives our creativity its flavor. This realization has stuck with me over time and been such an important part of how I find inspiration and how I make art.

start by unplugging!


There’s no doubt that the Muse can speak to us through others. But what makes your work original is knowing which influences to use and which to tune out. It’s an interesting life these days: TV (yay!), internet, IPhones, US Weekly (double yay!), check your email, check your texts, voicemail, multi-tasking (boo!), news, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, “Like”, “Unlike”, post, delete, upload, download . . . . .repeat! This constant snowstorm of information clouds my brain. I wake up in the middle of the night wondering about my inbox (I know, it’s totally obsessive!) Where does it end?! Is there an end?

In the middle if this madness, where does our Muse get a chance to speak to us? Can our inspiration sing if its voice is drowned out by all of these digital voices and influences? I mean, it’s great, this new communication, but every blessing brings its own kind of curse! How do we manage this flood without drowning in it? I guess an awareness of the problem is the first step. One thing that I have learned is that the Muse sings to us. . . . . . quietly. As artists, we need to carve out moments to unplug. With one eye on the Kardashians, the other eye on an ipad, and both ears divided between a husband, baby, and itunes, how can the voice of inspiration be heard?!

Finding our Muse doesn’t have to mean ignoring our families or not listening to husbands or embracing complete solitude. But one thing we can do is minimize the clamor just a little bit. I encourage everyone looking for inspiration to cut the wire. If we are constantly looking for inspiration from other sources (online, from TV, from music) it’s almost as if we become a kind of collector. Sewing together ideas we have processed without reflection. By doing this, we miss out on the totally unique ways we create by looking both inward and outward to the things that define our lives. I encourage directness! Engage with your world directly, without screens and speakers, at least a portion of the day and the quiet inspiration of our personal Muse will be heard with clarity.

seeking your muse


Being a new mother, exotic travel is pretty much not an option at the moment, but there are countless examples of the Muse rewarding those who stayed put. Emily Dickinson, a pretty extreme example, moved back home to live in Amherst, Massachusetts and spent the bulk of her creative years living with her family in an upstairs bedroom. Not a very romantic idea! What most of us would call a boring or stifled life, she was able to find her Muse amidst the ordinary. But the truth is: no place is ordinary! Wherever we are, in the darkest city street, the most quiet country town, living with our parents in the upstairs bedroom, or in bright and shining Paris itself: we can find a unique way to draw inspiration and seek out our muse.

To begin it is important to identify and take time to visit the places that inspire you- and again these places don't have to be exotic- in fact the easier and more accessible they are in your daily life the better! To start this process of seeking your muse, select a few places that you enjoy going to. This is going to be entirely up to you and the environment that you live in and remember these places can always be evolving and changing.

Here are a few of my own favorite places right now-

The beach, the zoo, park, art museum, Sunday farmers market, construction site in our neighborhood, a street with historical houses, downtown city street

Once you identify the places that inspire you- you can begin seeking your muse in those places and opening your eyes to things that can be used in your creative projects. I've narrowed it down to a few large categories-


Nature will always be one of my personal favorite places to seek inspiration. You can find all sorts of beautiful color combinations, a multitude of shapes and SO MUCH pattern!

While it is easy to get wrapped up in thinking that inspiration pulled from nature needs to be big, picturesque and beautiful- often I find the best inspiration in simple things that could typically get overlooked-

1. bare and dead leaves provide great ideas for interesting shapes 2. fall leaves are a wonderful place to find color 3. berries provide inspiration for color and shapes 4. thistles are a great subject matter for sketching practice 5. dandelions and flowers that have gone to seed make for great shape inspiration 6. a bouquet of store bought flowers is a perfect place to find color 7. use the inside of a flower for inspiration 8. stalks and stems are an easy subject matter for sketching


Regardless of where you live you can ALWAYS find architectural details. From fancy precast detail on buildings to metal work to weathered wood- there are details in all kinds of houses and buildings that can be put to use in your creative projects.

The next time you are out and about try looking for architectural details. Pay attention to shapes and designs that "speak to you" or catch your eye. So many different architectural details could be turned into pattern or used for color inspiration and texture.

Snap a photo, jot down some notes or sketch the details that catch your eye. Challenge yourself to come up with ways that you can incorporate this inspiration into you different creative projects.

Not only do I LOVE eating food but it has also turned into one of my favorite places to find inspiration. In my opinion food is one of the most accessible and easy places to find inspiration when it comes to color, shapes and even subject matter. All you have to do is open the fridge or look down when you are eating a meal!

Look for food with bright colors or interesting color combos.

Pay attention to the shape of food on a plate, in a cup or on the cutting board.

The next time you are in the grocery store, pull out your camera phone and snap photos of colorful produce that catches your eye.


Industrial details are perfect to pull ideas for texture and pattern. From peeling paint to rusted metal to numbers and letters on signs- there is an endless supply of inspiration to be found on construction sites, rundown buildings and on city street corners.

1. look for objects with repeating shapes 2. lots of pipes lined up together turn into pattern 3. text and details on equipment can be used as inspiration in journaling projects. 4. bright colors found on a construction site are perfect for using in bold paintings. 5. Numbers are a fun element to add to graffiti inspired art. 6. more details on equipment can be used as interesting subject matter for photography.

If you are like me, it can be challenging to fit lots of outings into my busy schedule so when I'm in a pinch I go hunting around the house or my surroundings for interesting subject matter that can be used as inspiration in my creative projects.


Look for color and color combos around the house.

Zoom in on details of things that would otherwise get overlooked.

Dig through the trash- you NEVER know what you might find!

Keep your eyes peeled for interesting shadows and light that change throughout the day in your home.

Explore your environment. Take walks! Whether it’s in your back yard, a park, a line in the grocery store, the neighborhood, a quiet coffee shop- examine your environment with your creative eye.

Take your sketchbook or notebook on your daily errands. Jot down what you see, what strikes you with appreciation, beauty, simplicity, frustration, even scorn!

Keep a journal or sketchbook of your journey through daily life.

Be the creative detective or the journalist for your environment wherever you are. Often the most important and beautiful things are right under our noses. Our Muse rewards awareness!

I encourage you go forth and explore and embrace your environment! Too often we are easily lulled by the “grass is greener” mentality when it comes to our present locations. Remember, your Muse does not discriminate. If we all felt like we had to go to Paris to become inspired, our creative output would all be the same!

putting it into action

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The process of seeking inspiration and then putting it into action in your work will look a little different for everyone. But for me this is what my process looks like (see above).

I start by getting off the computer! If I know when I am starting a project I make it a point to get off the computer and into my world. When I am in "seeking mode" I always have my camera on hand and a sketchbook. Sometimes I have time to sit and sketch while other times I can only snap a few photos or take quick notes. I bring my inspiration home and will either put it to use right away or file it for a time when I am able to sit down and create. Sometimes my inspiration is used in very literal ways- like drawing my subject matter or taking beautiful photographs while other times my inspiration is not so literal- like pulling colors, pattern and texture and turning them into something else.


A beautiful photo of pussy willow stems can be used to pull all sorts of inspiration for a variety of projects!

Use the colors in your inspiration to build a color palette for your creative projects.

Pussy Willow Branch from Alisa Burke on Vimeo.

Use your inspiration as the subject matter for sketching. This is a great way to practice your sketching skills!


Turn your subject matter into doodles or simple drawings and then repeat them over and over again to begin building pattern. This is a great process for surface design projects.













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