Online chat forums for artists always seem to have a section on what it is that gets people inspired to make work. Nature is, inevitably, nearly always mentioned, and why not? There’s enough to keep anybody occupied for a lifetime and beyond, and despite, or perhaps because of, the repeating ritual of the seasonal cycle, there is a continual supply of new things to get people going and an almost infinite range of subjects that can be looked at in new ways.
Nature does seem thin on the ground around here though. Our inner city back garden, about 15 feet square, has for a long time been surrounded with a variety of foliage, mostly growing in other people’s gardens, giving us privacy and a therapeutic dose of greenery to temper the brickwork, cement and things manmade. There is bamboo, some white flowering climber related to the potato, a willow tree, clematis, and something similar to the hawthorn that lean over the fence to join the visual splendour of our own potted plants. Sparrows, blue tits, blackbirds, a robin and those ornithological thugs magpies and jays put in occasional appearances in an attempt to make things seem more rural than they really are.
Yesterday, though, the sound of a chain saw from our neighbour’s garden heralded the fact that although we may have been enjoying the foliage, their own space had become engulfed and shrouded by it. Now, suddenly, the robin is hopping around the fence where a dense thicket once was, and we can now get a good look in our next door neighbour’s windows where previously we had been separated by greenery.
A good job then that I don’t depend on “nature” for “inspiration”. London is a green city, but not really from where I’m standing. Forests of road signs, street furniture and architecture feature more in what I do. And these are kind of seasonal too, in their own way. Road signs come and go, street lamps change, buildings break through the soil, blossom and then grown into maturity, or get demolished if they are 1960s social housing. Urban change is more glacial (I heard recently that glaciers can move metres a day), but it changes nonetheless. Bus stops sprout. Olympic villages take shape. Railway stations to international destinations take root.
I draw the city because that is what I see, not necessarily because it is what I am inspired by. It is not inspiration that I depend upon, it is finding the time to draw. When inspiration has deserted you, you have to keep going. Who can afford to wait for inspiration?