The Lightning Strike of Inspiration | Behind the Canvas with Jim Klein

Disruptor by Jim Klein

“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.”
– Julia Cameron, teacher, artist, and author of The Artist’s Way

Many professional artists advise developing habits and disciplining ourselves to show up to work- whether that be the canvas, the keyboard, the sketchbook- without something as potentially fleeting as inspiration to drive us to create. However, sometimes inspiration hits us like a bolt of lightning and we are compelled into a creative mode. Oftentimes, an artist may find themselves directed by inspiration separate from themselves: the paints, the brushes, even the canvas itself seems to be calling the shots. Contemporary artist Jim Klein shares his experiences with sudden inspiration on his creative process on the following three paintings.


Why is the title for Disruptor so fitting?
Jim: Disruptor sat on the wall unfinished for quite some time. I had simply hit a roadblock with the piece and didn’t know where to go with it. Any attempts I made to finish the painting were met with frustration for months.

One evening, I was getting ready for a lovely dinner with my wife when, out of nowhere, I was struck with inspiration. I had to paint. I made my way to the studio, grabbed my brushes and paints, and set to work. A final streak of red paint both completed Disruptor and stained my nice shirt.

Regarding the title, the red streak comes from out of nowhere. It disrupts the nice peaceful scene of greens and blues. It’s hard to explain, which is very abstract, but it fits. Disruptor has since found a home.

Sometimes you just have to listen to that bolt of inspiration when it hits and get to work. (Even if it might cost you a nice shirt in the process.)

CuO by Jim Klein

Did you start painting CuO with the intention to use metallic paints?
Jim: No, I was not planning on creating a metallic abstract painting that day. The paints seemed to speak to me at the time; the paint will sometimes choose and then it’s no longer up to me.

I remember there was a group of paints in my studio being especially vocal: a bronze, copper, and silver palette that just came together wonderfully. You will notice a little splash of white was added but overall that bronze/copper palette was the theme of the day and I followed along. CuO has also since sold.

Sky by Jim Klein

Sky by Jim Klein

How was Sky painted? Were you planning on this composition?
Jim: Sky was very spontaneous. My art is often this way but I was particularly surprised by this painting.

I can’t exactly pinpoint why this painting took me by such surprise. The process is so subconscious; it’s one of the reasons why I enjoy painting late at night. At times I’ll step out, paint for a while, then head to bed, and in the morning I’ll be pleasantly surprised when I see what progress I have made.

When painting an abstract piece, you never know how the finished product will go over. While I have my opinions, the public will always have their own.


If folks aren’t feeling the creative bolt of spontaneity, do you have advice for getting the artistic flow going?
Jim: I have three creative tips I like to share. The first tip is “Do not listen to the voice that says ‘I can’t do it.’”

There are too many folks who tell themselves they are unable to be artistic or their creative projects are not worth showing the world. These lies we tell ourselves are based on concepts we have been told by the Moose. They should be ignored.

Discover and listen to your inner teacher instead.

The second tip is “Be original.”

My friend and fellow artist Jeff shared with me the following piece of wisdom: “People look for original art. One of the worst things you can hear is how your art looks like someone else’s art.” It is very important to experiment and discover what sets you apart from the next artist.

With abstract painting, this is what I learned in my experience. Discover for yourself how to use the tools you have in front of you.

The third tip I have for you is “Pick up the pencil.”

It doesn’t matter if you have to place pencil to paper and make a scribble, brush to canvas and sweep the paint, or hit any random key to type lines of gibberish on your keyboard; sometimes all it takes is the action itself.

Sky is available for purchase!