I always enjoy the episodes of shows like “Project Runway” when they send the contestants out somewhere, usually with a camera, to find extraordinary visual inspiration. Especially by using a camera, the artists are essentially forced to look at things differently and to notice details.
In past Blasts I’ve written about the idea of taking a walk to jump start creativity when stuck, and I’ve written elsewhere about getting organized and how cameras can help you see things (like clutter) that the eye passes over.
It’s easy when you live somewhere gorgeous to find inspiration in your landscape. When I studied Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong, every painter was initially inspired by two things. First the overwhelming presence of the escarpment, where the cliffs met the coast covered in lush temperate rainforest, was a feature in many first works. Second the prominent industrial landscape of the Port Kembla steelworks, an overt disruption to the skyline and an endless source of new shapes and textures, influenced painters, printmakers and sculptors alike.
These are “macro” inspiration – taking motifs from the wider environment. What about looking closer and finding inspiration in the “micro” visual.
For example consider the beautiful slices of agate and similar stones in the Mineral Hall at pretty much any Natural History Museum. They can be used as inspiration for abstract paintings or textile designs. Crystalline structures form the foundation of many a science fiction story.
Geology is the study of minerals and the earth.
It is a huge area of study full of specialty disciplines including microscopic studies of elements through to global systems, and beyond.
Here are some useful sites.
Geology entails investigating landscapes, studying stones and gems, and the formation of soils. It means considering the origin of pebbles, and the movement of tectonic plates. It encompasses paleontology, volcanology and oil drilling. Any of these investigations in the search for new insights would require the kind of creative thinking that allows people to make connections and formulate new theories.
One of the key concepts in geology is the “rock cycle”. The cycle shows the constant flow between different kinds of rock. The processes of erosion, deposits, pressure and heat continually change rocks to sediment to magma to rock. Soil erosion and catastrophes like mud slides or volcanic eruptions happen quickly and visibly. Other changes happen on a grandiose time scale. It takes eons to compress sediments and silts to become sedimentary rock.
In human terms, inspiration or insights may happen in sudden jumps, perhaps impelled by changes in our circumstances. However it takes time and practice for our mindful creativity to grow, spurred by our intentions and desires.
Change, transformation, metamorphosis and cycles – these are the bases of narratives and poetry.
Rock and earth metaphors in language
Metaphors taken from the language of geology abound. The very name we gave our planet is from geology.
Consider “between a rock and a hard place” means stuck between two equally unpleasant alternatives.
Rock and roll may have started considering movement, but geology had to get into the act with the idea of “hard rock”.
People may be “grounded” when they seem sensible or phlegmatic. A person with a short temper may be said to “erupt”.
To “travel a rocky path” speaks to having difficulties in life; to “move mountains” is to achieve that which seems impossible (yet the earth itself moves mountains constantly).
Another movement metaphor: avoid building on “shifting sands” can mean more than just a literal construction but to create a solid “foundation” before moving forward in life – of faith for some; of concept or knowledge in business situations.
We call someone we like “a gem”. A reliable person is “solid as a rock”. Someone inflexible may “stonewall” the discussion.
Irrelevant issues “muddy the waters”. Small instances of poor behavior cumulatively “erode trust”. An overwhelming majority is a “landslide”. A dangerous precedent can lead to a “slippery slope”.
Someone old fashioned may be laughingly a “fossil”, while their attitudes may be “petrified”.
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