How I am collecting inspiration and growing as an artist

colorfu abstract paintings

People often ask me what inspires me. For years – a decade? – the answer was pretty straightforward and my paintings were a direct translation of my inspiration. I was very inspired by gorgeous, everyday scenes: A sunset near my home, the lines in a field made by a combine harvesting wheat, big puffy clouds on a summer day. I would photograph those scenes and paint a painting that matched the scene.

In the past couple of years, I have pushed myself as an artist and I feel like I have really grown. I have always been in awe of little details in nature and had a strong appreciation for good product and graphic design (think magazine layouts, a fun print on a dress, gorgeous font on a menu at a nice restaurant), but it’s only recently that I have been learning how to bring these little flashes of inspiration into my art.

For instance, my husband and I took a vacation took two summers ago to a little resort (that’s a euphemism) on Hood Canal in Washington. I loved the reflections in the smooth water and the colors of the water paired with my husband’s swim trunks.

Painting this scene would be have been so far out of my wheelhouse, so I didn’t know what to do with this source of inspiration. I knew there was something there, though, so I did the sketch you see below and saved the scene and memory in my collection of inspiration bits.

Sketchbook inspiration by catherine freshley

I absolutely love the showy rhododendrons that bloom in the Pacific Northwest in the spring. There is a giant rhodie on my neighborhood running route and I love the shape of it against the sky. But, I don’t paint big bushes or neighborhood yard scenes, so for a long time, I didn’t know what to do with this bit of inspiration.

Now, the curve of the big plant has found it’s way into the painting below. So, the shape/design inspiration comes from a rhododendron and the color inspiration comes from a special vacation.

abstract painting by catherine freshley

This painting is part of a collection of seven new paintings. The paintings will be available on my website starting Wednesday, June 21, and will be on display at Arden, a restaurant in Portland’s Pearl District, starting June 22. The show will hang for approximately three months. Sign up for my email list for early access to the paintings.

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