The Ramblings of a Creative Soul

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Inspiration Series - Part 12

When I was a little girl, I somehow got it in my head that ants opened up peony buds. My backyard had rows of peonies, and I loved to watch the buds gradually open into big, beautiful white flowers. There were always ants crawling all over the buds. I thought it was their job to help push each of the petals from the tightly closed buds. Years later I learned they were there for the sticky substance that was on the buds. I have peonies in my garden now. I love to watch the progress of the buds opening up each day. And yes, there are always ants.

Today's featured artist, Helen Klebesadel’s paintings of flowers are amazing. They look more like photographs. The featured painting is entitled; Ants Love Peonies, and can be found at The title made me smile. I decided to ask Helen the question,

What inspires you?

Careful looking inspires me.

Painting has given me permission to spend a long time looking carefully at how a flower or leaf is constructed. The same is true when I decide to consider a social or cultural issue. My art gives me permission to look a little closer and spend all the time I need contemplating.

I don’t know what I am going to find when I start a painting. For me it is always a process of discovery, whether I am contemplating how a poppy is constructed, how we learn to value certain things over others, or to examine the effects of global warming. I plant the question and then pursue it through a series of studies that lead to larger paintings layered with meaning.

I think art making is intellectual, spiritual, and emotional work. Art can help society see and feel things with new clarity, and provides opportunities to re-examine what we thought we knew.

While I do art about subjects that appeal to me or concern me personally, I have learned to trust that if I put the artworks out in the world they will find their audience. I have also learned that the paintings I have created that I was most afraid to share with the world were the ones that had the most impact on others. They were the most important works for me to share.

I’ve learned to recognize fear as a guide that lets me know when I am addressing a subject worth spending time with. These artworks are usually breaking some convention in art or exploring a subject I’ve been taught is taboo.

My subject matter has run the gamut from mythical self-portraits as Medusa, to works that celebrate women’s traditional arts, to nature and environmental subjects. In each series I had some element of doubt that I had to overcome to move forward.

I guess you could also say I’ve been inspired by fear, fear of telling my truths.

Fear based questions I asked that turned out to be important:

* Is it too beautiful, too decorative, too emotional?
* Is it too feminist, too political, too personal?
* Is watercolor an important enough medium? Are quilts and lace important enough subjects? Am I good enough?

I’ve learned to drop the ‘too’ and embrace the beautiful, decorative and emotional, the feminist, political, and personal, and to paint the subjects I’ve been drawn to with the medium I love. I have learned that my art making is not about the products but about the process of discovery. I have learned that only I can make my art, and that if I do it might inspire others to make theirs…too.

Helen’s work can be found at her Etsy shop, Niceharpy:

Thanks for inspiring me, Helen.


michelle said...

Beautiful blog! She is so correct about showing the world what you create and having to embrace the fear and use it in a different way in order to allow yourself full access to your talents. I loved what she said about trusting your work and it finding the right audience. I never thought of it that way. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Kathy~Sweet Bird Designs said...

Beautiful paintings ~ I enjoyed browsing her shop!

Simple Elements Design said...

@Michelle - I loved, too, what she said about trusting your work and embracing the fear. I found her to be inspiring.

LazyTcrochet said...

Inspired by fear...I never thought of it that way. Great interview. I watched the ants on the peonies also.

Ken Kokjer said...

Great blog. Thanks for doing it. As to Helen's interview, I loved her simple removal of the word "too," changing all of the negative messages into productive ones. Thank you for sharing, and it gives me permission to paint what I'm interested in, even if it is just beauty.

Simple Elements Design said...

Ken, thanks for the comments.