Sources of artistic inspiration among plein air landscape painters
Shauck, R Barry
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This study reports the stories of ten K–12 studio teachers, ten artist teachers at the higher education level, and twelve practicing artists from the mid-Atlantic and New England states as a means to describe the ways in which each person has been inspired to arrange and structure his or her work to gain joy, pleasure, and purpose from studio teaching and/or plein air landscape painting. Researchers, including Getzels and Csikszentmihalyi (1966; 1968a; 1968b; 1975) have studied creativity in artists, art students, and high achievers across various disciplines. Yet, a vital underpinning about the motivation to engage in artistic practice remains to be defined; hence the research question: What factors may impact sources of artistic inspiration? The significance of the problem, rooted in both the personal and professional interest of the researcher, was to consider factors that shape the training and practices of art teachers and artists who paint directly from the landscape and who shared the belief that observational and perceptive skills provide a foundation for artists who work figuratively or in a realistic tradition. The intent was neither to develop nor refine an existing theory. The study began with a proposed conceptual framework that was applied while interviewing the participants using an a priori protocol adapted from Csikszentmihalyi’s (1996) study of creativity. While the use of predetermined protocols of questions often helps researchers to distinguish respondents’ participation in the interview from any information that is contributed by the interviewer, the presence of an a priori conceptual framework and/or an a priori questioning protocol, may bias answers in predetermined directions. Nonetheless, descriptive responses from the interviews, as well as information gathered from ancillary or enrichment conversations, were also examined for patterns of comparative alignment and contrast. Findings from this research illustrate how and why the artist is interested in the work for its own sake rather than trying to prove a theory or make a name. Though both of these goals may be of interest, results indicate that the artist subjugates them to the discovery and invention of meaningful and personal imagery.