Tag Archives: inspiration

The Pause Button

Matter Remixed 24" x 36" work on canvas/panel ©2017 Deborah T. Colter

Matter Remixed   24″ x 36″   work on canvas/panel     ©2017 Deborah T. Colter

Sometimes life events put you on pause. Unexpected, expected it doesn’t really matter – time seems to stop and then one day you look up. Where was I, what was I thinking, what was I doing, where do I go from here?? These are all questions I was facing this past winter when I was able to return steadily to my studio and my work. How do I get back in touch with my inner soul – my work – my passion? The answer for me was to step a bit outside of my comfort zone and to commit to an online creative visionary program (CVP) with Art2Life that has rocked my world. To give myself up to total immersion in an intensive 12 week program that I knew very little about was a real leap of faith. I will speak a little more about CVP in the next time as I am still processing this amazing experience. Some may believe that artists who seek out workshops are just starting out, my feeling remains that there is always something more to learn. I hope I never stop wanting to learn. Stepping out on a limb was the best gift I could have given to myself at this time.

The good news is, here I am posting to my long sleeping blog and while I can’t commit to future posts. I can say that I am glad to be painting, I am working steadily again and I am totally excited about my new work. I look forward to sharing more thoughts with you all about my creative journey.

“As artists, we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them – to restock the trout pond, so to speak.”
-Julia Cameron 

Painting the Roses Red 12″ x 12″ work on panel


Where do you get your inspiration?

“People who are not artists often feel that artists are inspired. But if you work
at your art you don’t have time to be inspired.”
-John Cage

Earlier in the week I read an interesting blog post by Alison Jardine titled “Inspiration is Irrelevant”. Alison speaks of her experience answering a simple question from a local college student on assignment. The question asked was, “Where do you get your inspiration?” her response was, “I answered immediately with the first words that materialized, and as I said them I knew they were, for me, completely true: ‘Inspiration is irrelevant’” she goes on to explain quite clearly, “Each painting I create is a distillation of my experiences of perceiving and existing, they are my answer and reaction to simply being.”

I too am often asked this question and I usually find myself stumbling over the answer. Where does my inspiration come from?? I agree with Alison’s response that each painting is a distillation of experiences, but is inspiration irrelevant to me?

"Wandering Among Ideas" 48" x 40" work on canvas

"Wandering On" 48" x 40" work on canvas

In the past weeks I feel as though I have been wandering among ideas. I have been looking a lot, trying new tools, new colors, new directions. Looking for a spark of “inspiration” to push my work just a little bit further. Digging deep, simplifying, complicating, pushing, struggling.  I wrote previously that sometimes inspiration comes from the most unexpected places – I still believe this.  Inspiration, motivation, determination, are all a part of the daily process of creating and without the continuous internal dialogue of experiences there can be little room for any creativity. Inspiration may be irrelevant, but without the understanding that it is the continuous collection of experiences stored in our souls that feeds us as artists, it may be a bit difficult to understand the magic. I believe inspiration comes in many forms, it is everywhere, it can often go unnoticed and yes, perhaps it is often irrelevant, but it is also the intangible thing that people who are not artists always seek to understand. It is often that thing that there are no words for. I expect I will continue to stumble over my answer, perhaps inspiration is irrelevant and invaluable at the same time.

Thank you Alison for stating your thoughts so clearly.

“My ‘inspirational’ or creative process feels like a dialogue between the collection of experiences that comprise myself as well as my immutable core, and the lines, form, colors and light in the natural world.”
-Alison Jardine

Painting is available.

An Artist is an Explorer

“An artist is an explorer. He has to begin by self-discovery and by observation of his
own procedure. After that he must not feel under any constraint.”
-Henri Matisse

"Dreaming of Summer" 50" x 50" work on canvas

"Dreaming of Summer" 50" x 50" work on canvas

Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unexpected places. I am back in my studio exploring a number of new directions. I am always interested in looking at other painters work but sometimes I think it is wise to stop looking at what others are doing and pull the focus back in – look, observe, study, and then forget it all and paint. It is not just other painters that inspire me; I can find inspiration just about anywhere. Finding a new source to explore is always a joy. I am having fun studying and incorporating my finds into my work right now – reminding myself, I “must not feel under any constraint”. Just paint, explore, experiment. It becomes too easy to fall into a pattern of working without pushing the limits. I am always looking for that balance of chaos and order – studying and working. Perhaps there will be only subtle changes or perhaps there will be something quite different in my work. It is way too early to tell where my new inspiration is taking me but this is why I paint.

I am looking forward to a feature show of my work at Gallery KH in Chicago opening in July 2010.

“Painting is like childbirth. It’s a precious gift that is labor intensive and
drains one’s energy. A natural high comes with creation.”
– Debbie DeBaun

The Rooms of Our Lives

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
Ellen Goodman

"Without a Doubt" 36" x 48" work on canvas

"Without a Doubt" 36" x 48" work on canvas

As we come to the end of another year it seems only natural to reflect, to walk through the rooms of our lives looking things over. I always like to look back, to acknowledge events of the waning year and make mental notes of it all. In our house there has never been a desire for the crazy partying that seems to accompany this night. Instead, a nice dinner, a bottle of wine or champagne, my husband’s favorite home made clam dip and a fire. I have to admit, I have not seen the midnight hour on New Year’s Eve in quite sometime and that is really fine with me. 2009 has had its ups and downs- this decade has sure had its ups and downs! Making resolutions never worked well for me, it always felt very superficial and forced. I much prefer “not looking for flaws, but for potential”. I don’t expect to wake up in 2010 a different person than I am in 2009 – I can only continue to do the best I can “to rise above the little things”, and trust the journey

As I count my own blessings I want to thank you all for being a part of my world. May the new year bring us all Peace, Prosperity and Paintings!

“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this:
To rise above the little things.”
– John Burroughs

I paint how it feels

“The subtlety of nature is greater many times over than
the subtlety of the senses and understanding.”
-Sir Francis Bacon

I am finding it a bit hard to focus with the time change and the shifting daylight patterns. There is such a chill in the air. All of nature is subtley shifting, whispering change, as the sky is filled with varying spectrums of color. I spoke last time about the beauty of the fall colors – how inspiring it is to see those colors in full force. In the little time that has passed, many of those same colors have faded, changed to brown, or vanished completely through the force of wind, rain and cold. Constant change is a daily occurrence. The “subtlety of nature” as Sir Francis Bacon mentions, “is greater many times over than the subtlety of the senses and understanding”. I am drinking in the subtlety of nature in my own quiet ways – watching, breathing, looking, absorbing – and working on incorporating that understanding into my pieces as I paint an expression of how it feels, not how it looks.

"Change of Seasons"  30" x 40" work on canvas

"Change of Seasons" 30" x 40" work on canvas

“I don’t paint how it looks, I paint how it feels.”-Robert Wade

Painting is available.

My Own Backyard…

“I am interested in making the simple profound, so my own backyard can be inspirational. I just walk out my door and it’s all there.
By painting simply, magic happens.”
-Peter Fiore

fall42It is absolutely stunning outside. The colors of fall are blazing and the sun is shining brightly. A perfect Sunday afternoon and I am drinking in the beauty of it all. Around here we don’t often get treated to the glorious fall colors that others enjoy. Somehow it seems we go right into winter browns, skipping right over the fall oranges and reds. Not this year though, Mother Nature is just singing out there! Ms. Nature is at her very best today. It is as if she is calling to me to get back to work. Speaking to me in a way that says, “Look what I’ve done with all this color, now, how about you? What are you going to do?” It has been a busy month: I have been travelling to festivals; I have been battling the rains and the weather challenges of outdoor shows; I have been shipping work, delivering work and picking up work. Moving, shifting and adjusting to the changing days. Autumn. Transition time. It has been tiring, but rewarding at the same time. With a deep breath, I now look forward to returning to my studio routine. I look forward to the magic that happens. The magic that by painting, simply happens…


“Art combines the best of what is in the mind and in the soul. The mind must be trained and ready for when the soul speaks.”
-Susan F. Greaves

The Habit of Painting

“Habit is more powerful than will. If you get in the habit of painting every day, nothing will keep you from painting.”
-Irwin Greenberg 

"Enduring Dance" 40" x 40" work on canvas

"Enduring Dance" 40" x 40" work on canvas

The change in the weather and the change in the household inhabitants has encouraged me to re-establish my studio habits and focus on the upcoming fall events. Starting with a good scrub down of the space and an inventory of what is needed, I have happily fallen back into my workday habit. I am not sure that habit is really the best word to describe what I do, it is more a passion, drive, need, desire, necessity or all of the above. I have a long established pattern of the workday week. I choose to keep the weekends free for family time. I get a lot done and I allow myself time to regroup and renew on the weekends without the inner voices telling me “I should be painting”. It works for me. I do have to admit, that I did sneak out and go to the beach for a few hours this past week – it is just too beautiful not to catch those last few waning days of summer. I see that beach time as a gift and nourishment for the soul. Hey, isn’t that the beauty of working independently?

I have a lot of exhibitions on the horizon. I just was asked to be a part of an invitational abstract show on Martha’s Vineyard called “Vineyard Artists’ Abstractions: Creating New Perspectives”  will take place at the Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven, MA, October 3 – 18, 2009. I am also slated to be in a show titled “Heavy Metal, Metalwork and Abstractions”  at the Water Street Gallery in Douglas, Michigan. This show opens October 10, and runs through November 11, 2009. There are also 3 festivals that I will be participating in this October; the 48th Annual Armonk Outdoor Art Show, in Armonk, NY, October 3 & 4. The 28th Annual Outdoor Arts Festival of the Bruce Museum, in Greenwich, CT, October 10 & 11 and The Gracie Square Art Show at Carl Schurz Park in New York City, October 17 & 18. Things are busy here and that is always a bit of a motivating factor. More important for me is getting into the habit of painting again. Summer is wonderful, and I do get things done, but real focus time seems to come in the fall. I look forward to the adventure…

“Painting is an adventure to an unknown world. New ideas and concepts develop along the way.”  –Ratindra Das

Painting is available .

More information on shows listed checkout my exhibition schedule.

Different Methods of Expression

“Different themes inevitably require different methods of expression. This does not imply either evolution or progress; it is a matter of following the idea one wants to express and the way in which one wants to express it.”
-Pablo Picasso

I don’t generally participate in a lot of themed shows. Shows that have a specific theme are often a bit tricky for non-representational work. Interestingly enough, I found myself working this past summer on pieces for two such shows – both will open in September.

The Twitter 140 Art Show

I am pleased to be a part of the Twitter 140 show which debuts at Grandon Art Gallery, Flagstaff, Arizona, with a reception this evening September 4, 2009. The Twitter 140 show is a collection of 24 international artists from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. The show was the brainchild of Sheree Rensel whom I met through the twitter network. She has worked tirelessly to pull together this eclectic group of artists for this exciting and unique exhibition. Ms. Rensel states, We have organized a diverse and unique group of artists whose work reflects technology and the use of Twitter. Twitter messages have to be 140 characters or less. Therefore, all works in our show are 140 square inches or less. The same with each artist’s statement and bio. All contain 140 characters or less.” Visit the Grandon Art Gallery site to view the works of this interesting group.

Grandon Art Gallery
20 N Leroux St
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Opening September 4, 2009
Exhibition: 4 – 30 September 2009



Another fascinating show that I am pleased to be a part of is taking place at The Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery in New York City. As stated in the open call for this exhibit: “A BOOK ABOUT DEATH is an open, unbound book produced by artists worldwide. Artists are invited to create a “page” in the form of a postcard about death – any aspect about death. Works can be of any design, personal or conceptual, color or black and white. A BOOK ABOUT DEATH takes its inspiration from the late, underground American artist Ray Johnson (1927 – 1995). Ray Johnson’s unbound “book” of the same title was mailed to his New York Correspondence School “students” and included pages in his idiosyncratic style that were funny, sad and ironic “one-page essays” on death.  With the A BOOK ABOUT DEATH project, artists are invited to plunge into subject in creating their own pages that score the dramatic final dance of death.”

deborah-colter-1Through the process of putting together a piece for this show I found the feelings surrounding the loss of a loved one to be overwhelming and complicated. There are many, many facets of this difficult subject and to create a piece that had the deepth of meaning for me was a huge challenge. The confines of the postcard format and the simplicity of typing his story lead to the piece I am contributing.

There are some amazingly powerful works in this exhibit and they are all on view at the Gallery and online. I hope to be able to get in to New York to see the Show.

Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery
537 Broadway
New York City, New York 10012 USA
Opening, Thursday, 10 September 2009.
Exhibition: 10 – 22 September 2009.

“Selecting a challenge and meeting it creates a sense of self-empowerment that becomes the ground for further successful challenges.”
-Julia Cameron

*Thank you to Moshe Mikanovsky wrote an article mentioning this post! It has been published at EmptyEasel.com and on his Art Blog 9/28/09.

10/7/09 – I just found out that the MoMA (New York) now has a complete set of the works from A Book About Death. The pieces were compiled for the Museum by Deven Marriner.

In Search of a Reality

“In the process of making a painting in an abstract way, the painter is in search of a reality. Not one of realistic objects, but of the complete end result. The painting is experienced as a whole, and must evoke in the painter the absolute conviction that this is how it should be and no other way.”
Paul Burlin

"Making Things Happen"  36" x 40" work on canvas

"Making Things Happen" 36" x 40" work on canvas

“What do you think about while you paint? Or are you transfixed by the process? Do you daydream? If so, does it affect the painting? When you say collage, do you mean you apply objects like paper to the canvas before you paint? I’d also be interested in what inspires you to choose colors each time. I love these colors. The blue is special in this one. Is it cobalt? I think cobalt has special power to affect the emotions.” Diana Maus recently posted these questions in a comment from an early blog post (6/13/08) of mine. Well Diane, here goes… 

What do you think about while you paint? When I paint I think about everything and nothing at the same time. I try desperately to empty my mind of the day to day mundane stuff that piles up (my everything thoughts). To free myself as much as possible from the constant brain chatter (another blog subject) and allow myself to be transfixed on the process. Not easy – as I am sure you know. I don’t believe we can ever truly shut out what is happening in our lives, but when I am painting, the process does consume my being and yes, it is an astonishing experience. 

Do you daydream? If so, does it affect the painting? Daydream – as a verb daydream is “to indulge in a series of thoughts” Yes, I daydream. I believe that I do indulge in allowing my thoughts to wander freely as I work (my nothing thoughts).  I allow myself to transcend to a level of consciousness that frees me to paint without inhibition. I think this level of daydreaming does affect my work in a positive way. There are days when it is easier to reach this consciousness level than others of course!  

When you say collage, do you mean you apply objects like paper to the canvas before you paint? I incorporate paper – cut & torn, canvas, screen, etc. all through the process. Collaging, or applying them into the surfaces as I work. Before during and occasionally at the end. Some are buried and some stay visible – it really depends on the piece and it’s needs. 

I’d also be interested in what inspires you to choose colors each time?  All color is an inspiration to me. What inspires me to choose a color is often a process of challenging myself within the work. I choose colors at random and deliberately. Putting a color next to another color will change the whole balance of a piece. I love that surprise and it offers me the challenge of resolving the work through process of painting with even more color!  I love these colors. (Diane was asking about “On the Edge” shown below)  I too am in love with color and the power that it has to stop me in my tracks. The blue is special in this one. Is it cobalt? I think cobalt has special power to affect the emotions. I believe there is cobalt blue in this painting along with many other colors and shades of blue. I think all colors have that power to affect the emotions.

"On the Edge" 60" x 48" work on canvas

"On the Edge" 60" x 48"

I bet a lot of people would be interested in what goes through your mind in the studio. As I’ve said before, your work has an emotional impact. I’m curious if that comes from you indirectly or if you are purely working in the abstract?  Not really sure where to go on this question Diane. I am flattered that you feel people would be interested in knowing what goes on in my head. Personally, I am not sure I want to know! I am afraid there are somethings that just can not be put into words. I paint; it is what I do. I would like to believe that my work is an extension of my soul. That the paintings  I create, directly or indirectly,  are the experiences of my soul and they will speak of my absolute conviction that this is how they should be and no other way. 

Thanks for asking Diane!

What you do when you paint, you take a brush full of paint, get paint on the picture, and you have faith.” – Willem de Kooning 

Paintings are available.

“I can’t always reach the image in my mind… almost never, in fact… so that the abstract image I create is not quite there, but it gets to the point where I can leave it.”  
-Chuck Close


If you don’t love something…

“I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true – hard work pays off.
If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. 
If you don’t love something, then don’t do it.”
– Ray Bradbury 

Inspired Radiance 30" x 30" work on canvas

"Inspired Radiance" 30" x 30" work on canvas

I love what I do. I paint on a regular basis. I practice, practice, practice and some days it really does pay off. I continually challenge my own sensibilities with new colors, patterns, lines, etc. I paint not because I want to be good – it is more that I  want to be capable. Capable of creating work that is exciting, refreshing and interesting to an enthusiastic audience of at least one ( …or one at a time). Okay, maybe that is the definition of good, but capable sits better with me. 

I received a commission for a large piece that is going to go into a new restaurant opening in the fall. The client really liked one of my paintings but it was not big enough for their space – could I make it bigger? Now, I know that many of you might be offended by this request, but I actually love this kind of thing. It is a challenge to “recreate” on a different scale, different composition, a piece that is equally as exciting as the original the client has fallen in love with. Of course, an original painting is always unique in it’s own right – it has to be. I have to make the work feel the same and yet uniquely stand on it’s own. The same but different. There is something about painting a piece again that takes the work to another level for me. I can hear somewhere in the recesses of my mind the words “now you have painted it well, so paint it again.” I wish I could share with you where those words are coming from but it is lost to me.  Perhaps all that practice, practice, practice really does pay off. Yes, I have heard it a thousand times before, and when a project like this presents itself and I am capable of rising to the challenge, I am grateful for all that perseverance and practice.

“For any artist to persevere, they must have an enthusiastic audience of at least one.”
-Stuart Davis

Work is available.