Richard K Blades is an artist from the UK. Working in the English Romantic Tradition of Landscape painting, his work is very much focused on the emotional impression that the landscape creates. Often capturing fleeting moments in time, the ephemeral and sublime nature of light is a key inspiration for his Oil Paintings. Richard is also a teacher and works with artists to help them find inspiration and carve their own creative path.
In this Q&A Richard talks about Inspiration and what first inspired him to paint, how inspiration informs his work now and offers advice on how artists can make the most of inspiration.
What first inspired you to paint? Is there a particular painting, Artist or movement that inspired you the most?
I always enjoyed art when I was younger, however, I didn’t become truly inspired to become an artist until I was in my mid 20’s. I had seen some paintings in a magazine whilst waiting in a Doctors surgery that created the initial spark. Something about those paintings, the artist whom I can’t remember, had a real impact on me. It was my first moment of true inspiration and in that moment, it opened the door to my urge to learn more.
Living down in Cornwall at the time, I flung myself headfirst into art. The paintings in the magazine I had seen, gave me a reference point and soon I was becoming obsessed with painters such as Turner, Rothko and some of the St Ives school artists, Peter Lanyon being one.
I was very fortunate to meet two practising artists early in my journey, Heath Hearn and Katy Brown. Both of them helped me to nurture my passion and assist me with how to take painting seriously. Over the years that inspiration grew and evolved, as did my skills and identity as a painter.
I went to Art school, however, it wasn’t until I experienced some difficulties in my life that art became the framework through which I was able to heal and redirect my life. I began painting every day and taught myself to paint in a way that brought me a great deal of focus and growth.
What are your thoughts on inspiration and how does it influence your work? Is inspiration essential to paint or start a painting?
For me, inspiration works in a couple of ways. There is the inspiration that may arise from something I see from being out and about, or from a picture I find online, such as a landscape – or the way the clouds are moving and thus affecting the light of a particular scene.
Then there is also the inspiration that is at the core of my creativity which serves as the motivation for becoming the artist that I am today.
These two manifestations of inspiration are intrinsically linked and are the fuel for my practice.
Sometimes I will see something that just captivates me and I will take a photograph or screenshot. I never copy the photograph, the inspiration I derive is always much more about the essence of the scene and not the details. I find that focusing on copying a photograph can lead to bypassing my inspiration. My philosophy has always been to let photography be photography and paint be paint. However, visual resources for inspiration are key to my practice. I have thousands of photographs, sometimes multiples of the same scene. I will never work from them but instead, have them there for reference. When painting I will keep these photos out of my line of sight, usually behind me as I paint.
I am also a big fan of utilising technology and have used my iPad and iPhone for many years. I use them not only for photography, but also to work on ideas for paintings. The ‘Procreate’ app gives me the space to play whilst on a train or away from my studio. The ability to ‘paint’ quickly on my device when inspiration arises, is now integral to my process. Most of my Oil Paintings begin as sketches created on my iPad.
What advice would you give other Artists on finding inspiration?
Inspiration is such a subjective thing so every artist is completely different and having worked with many artists in the groups I run, I have found that their sources of inspiration are as varied and diverse as their personalities and life experiences. I am a big believer in intuition and being able to recognise inspiration on a visceral level. Like love, you will know it when you feel it. There is no right or wrong way to be inspired. It is what you do with it that matters.
Inspiration is the spark that can ignite a fire but for me, painting is the fuel that sustains that fire. The spark is only part of the process and creative action is the fuel. Practising artists often understand this early on as the initial inspirational aspect of the creative process can evaporate quite quickly. Starting to model that inspiration into reality on the canvas really helps you anchor it within reality. This means that even though the initial inspiration has long since vanished from your mind, you have taken control and begun to make it something material, something that now exists in this world.
I also think that other people’s art is also a very important aspect for artists to draw inspiration from. I will often ask artists what kind of art, or which artists speak to them the most? With whose style do you most identify? I often make a list of artists with whom I most identify, such as;
Gustave Courbet (Sea)
Having these Artists as inspiration can help you see yourself as part of that style, genre or tradition. Being in a studio or out in the landscape can be a lonely experience, but knowing you are in good company can help inspire you, especially when one is feeling a little lacking in the inspiration department.
To finish, I would like to say that inspiration is, in many ways, a frame of mind.
Creative skills are learned and whilst inspiration occurs naturally, learning how to use it can also be a part of the learning process. I have worked with all kinds of people, from 8-year-olds to people in their 90’s. Age and lack of creative experience doesn’t disqualify anyone, as inspiration is a frame of mind and is accessible to anyone and everyone