13```Being Inspired Around

This week (plus two days) was a lot about finding inspirations in a much more open way. When I was preparing for my Gnomon portfolio, I looked for inspirations in the narrow and concentrated sense of scrolling through Artstation, Archdaily, Instagram and Pinterest to look for pretty specific design elements. But this week, I finally was in the right place to just let myself be completely open for inspirations again. I found myself a much slower walker as I was always busy taking in the sensory information around me. Many ideas popped up when I wandered around in cities or on the internet. It is funny to see how I am a lot more “productive” in generating creative ideas when I am not busy doing things anymore. I’ve heard many times that idleness or boredom is crucial for breeding creativity, and seeing it happen so clearly on myself was convincing and freeing -- I guess it does make sense now why I felt so terribly uncreative at Princeton. I didn’t know how to carve out time for idling around back then. It would be so great if I learn how to do that in the next year.

Sean & Kaycee

I love YouTube. I love that when I find the right people, I can be inspired by them through just going to YouTube and watching videos of them. As I watched more and more JoJo Gomez videos last week, I found Sean Lew and Kaycee Rice, two incredibly talented dancers that make dance much richer than body movements. When they dance together, they are one entity, breathing and moving at the exact same pace. It is magical. Here are three videos I loved in particular. The first one was a dance they did blindfolded a year ago. They are 17 and 16 years old now... The pure passion for dancing that I see in all of their videos is really inspiring too! 


Eli is a music major at Princeton that I met through a mutual friend earlier this year. We called this week and I can’t stress enough how amazing it was for me to hear about their summer studying with experimental musicians -- it made it a lot easier for me to imagine myself being in a similar position for visual art because of our shared academic background. 

But what was really magical was when I listened to two music sketches they made recently. I heard so many movements, environments, scenes, colors, patterns, textures, and characters in the music pieces that were just a few minutes long, because they were so richly composed. For one part I saw super tall, white, religious buildings built into rocky mountains. For another part I heard a conscious creature trapped in a machine. I was shocked to see how much I “saw” in my mind. I scribbled them down in my notebook as I listened and I felt elated. This is dumb but I really just realized, while listening to Eli’s music sketches, that I could be so inspired from experiencing non-visual artists’ works! 

Cammie & Megan

Speaking of fellow artists at Princeton, Cammie and Megan are the kind of friends I didn’t know I could have until I met them. They are both very artistically inclined, and spending time with them was always refreshing creatively and meant so much to me especially during the school year. 

Cammie lives in Portland, Oregon, and Megan and I visited for a few days this week! We went to a lot of vintage and design shops, but I love how we always inspire each other literally everywhere we go. With them, my urge to record interesting things I see is totally supported. But beyond that, when they see what I don’t see, I learn new perspectives to appreciate the smallest things in the world. Like when Megan heard me eat a peach and started recording the sound of my eating. Or when we were in front of a waterfall and Cammie said you can’t follow any drop of water from the start to the end. 

We were talking about creativity today, and I remembered a quite distinct moment from this summer when I pleasantly found out how dumb I had been. For a while this year I was secretly anxious about a personal project that I seemed to have absolutely no creative ideas for. I was supposed to do a lot of illustrations but my mind was just blank whenever I told myself to do a few thumbnail sketches to get the project going. Then one day I decided to watch a docuseries about the ocean, and just a few minutes into watching it I started to get inspirations for the illustration project. I realized that my visual input from daily life has always been the same kind of urban scenes that I don’t even remember what natural habitats could look like anymore. No wonder I couldn’t think of anything creative earlier. I just needed a wider range of input to have more raw materials to play with in my imagination! 

For testing creativity, there is the common task of asking individuals to come up with creative uses of a given object. Part of my research internship this summer was to organize data for a creativity research that asked participants to generate alternative uses of a lot of given objects. My job was to organize the answers into loose categories for the team to do analysis. After going through almost 500 answers for each of the 10 items I organized data for, I felt I got significantly better at this kind of divergent thinking. There are different ways of generating new uses of an object: you may scale the object up or down, only look at the general shape or part of the form, push one part of the object’s normal functions to the extreme, etc. Each of these directions could help generate a few ideas. My experience with organizing the data convinced me that my insecurity with my creativity probably largely comes from a lack of input. I would feel a lot more creative if I just take in things more. 

And honestly everything I’ve written on this page so far is about taking things in, in different ways. It’s just letting my mind be open to be inspired by even very small things. And it is certainly slowing down and taking more time to notice what is around me and how I intuitively react to them

I feel very grateful for Cammie, Megan, Eli, and other artist friends I made in my freshman year. Princeton was truly powerful in shaping who I was, in ways I desired or not, and these people help me to really remember that being creative is an important part of myself that I should always take the time and effort to cherish, as dumb and simple as this may sound...