I'm not really a woman of words, images are more my thing but felt I wanted to write a piece about inspiration and influences after being made aware recently of a brand creating prints that feel very "inspired" by my own work. It doesn't matter who the brand is, rather than moan to them or call them out I thought it would be more productive to write a piece that I hope will encourage us all as creative people to think a little more deeply about what inspires us and how it filters into our own creative practices. There is a huge difference between influence and simply copying the work of others but it can be a very nuanced area.

The past few talks I have done have often centred around the part inspiration and influence plays in my creative life, and, full disclosure, for me, its a big one.  I got off stage once, and someone called me brave for revealing the inspirations (note the plural) behind several projects. This is because we often hide these wanting to be perceived as completely original. I've linked this article before but if you aren't aware of combinatorial creativity its well worth a read,

For me to create something, I look both within myself but also around me. Who heard of a writer that didn't read? As artists and designers we should be professional observers, but it is how we use what we see that differentiates us from each other.

2 years ago I took a whole month off to make personal work for an exhibition. It was a time for me to reflect on what truly inspired me. I think it was this period in time that really helped me discover a way of working that felt true to myself. Several things aided this process and I thought I would share them.

In the internet age its becoming increasingly difficult to find a voice amongst the visual noise, I can't help but feel it is encouraging a homogenised look and feel to so many areas touched by creativity, I personally don't want to live in a world where everything looks the same ... we've all sat in a Pinterest board somewhere.

Things that helped me find my visual language when creating a personal body of work.

1. I looked back to a time when I wasn't creating for an audience. What did I enjoy drawing as a child? what books did i enjoy looking at? My obsessions then were completely uninhibited by trends and norms, I wished to be back there, dancing like no one was watching. 

2. I went through photographs of trips I had been on looking for patterns in what resonated with me. The iphone has enabled us all to easily have a bank of imagery to mine and explore, plus, its one that no one else is referencing. We all need to be discovering what resonates with us on a personal level and nurture it.

3. I followed my own curiosity and genuine passions. This is ever more important in the internet age where ‘inspiration’ is so accessible. I believe your curiosity provides you with a guide to where you want to take your creativity. I make it my goal to always be led by my curiosity. For me I naturally lean towards the 3 dimensional so although I am trained in illustration and graphic design my love of interiors, product design and architecture is a huge source of inspiration.

4. I got away from the internet and my own algorithms. I love the internet as much as the next women but feel it should be used with caution. You only get out what you put in… so I make it my mission to break my own algorithm. Only you can tailor your own curiosity not a machine. Don’t look where everyone else is looking. Go to the library... at least you may find something else to put into your google search.

5. Look outside of your own discipline and when you research within your discipline its good to have an understanding of the history of the field , be it typeface design or product design. Its important to look back and not just at your neighbour. Who wants to keep up with the Jones, not me!

I believe that all of the above and a lot of time experimenting ( I graduated in 2004)  helped me build my personal visual universe. I'm not saying my work is original and as a creative individual I'm still a work in progress. I expect my output will constantly evolve as I change and my interests develop in new directions. As this journal illustrates, I'm always chasing the next fix of visual joy that might provide the spring board for an idea or visual route. Lets celebrate the work of others and be honest about our inspirations.  I find it funny that I always aim a little too high with my own inspirations and am constantly falling short, I suppose that way I never stop trying and hope to never have to retire of doing so. Creativity is a journey and we should all be taking different paths. The digital world can feel like a congested motorway at times, its much better to take the route less travelled.






Emily Alston