Seeking Inspiration and Finding It

sites/default/files/Ti Leaf & Ballbearings_2.jpgI see a great number of images. I make a few myself, and I subscribe to remarkable journals put out by the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, LensWork, others devoted to the image, and those made by many artists, some of whom I know. I see works exhibited in museums, galleries and websites all over the world. The work is stunning. The variety is as great as the huge population in pursuit of this calling, and the ingenuity of many of the images is almost beyond belief. I can’t think of a finer way of getting my daily inspiration, not to plagiarize, but to aspire. It is impossible to be a writer without being a reader. It’s just as impossible to be an artist without voraciously consuming art. 

I have something in common with Georg Friedrich Handel and Wynn Bullock, probably many hundreds, perhaps thousands of others. Handel, born in 1685, the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach, was consumed with music. His father, Georg Sr., banned musical instruments from the house and insisted that his son study a respectable profession, law. Wynn Bullock’s mother was the first female Superior Court judge in California. Wynn was pressed to attend law school, but abandoned his books on his classroom desk and fled to art school.

My elementary school art teacher gave each student a lump of clay, and ordered us to copy a small horse sculpture on a shelf in the back of the room. I suppose even then at the age of 10 or so, I had acquired a nonconformist, surrealist gene. My horse had shorter front legs so he wouldn’t have to bend as far for his food, something I’ve always thought important; and longer rear legs so he could propel himself with great speed. Shading into marsupial. Mr. Strever was so annoyed with my unnatural equine re-creation that he smashed it with his fist and said “You’ll never understand anything about art.” I’ve since learned to disagree.

sites/default/files/REQUIEM_0.jpgMy father, like Herr Handel’s attitude to his son, was horrified by my interest in art, cut off access to supplies, and insisted I attend law school. It was a sympathetic Dean, a family acquaintance, who got me off the hook. I compromised by becoming an academic political scientist. The social status suited my father, though emphatically not my political analyses. It was years after my father’s death that I felt the freedom to pursue this career of art and writing, strongly supported by my brilliant wife’s encouragement. I was far along in my forties when it all began in earnest. Needing to learn quickly, I decided to teach. I can’t imagine another way of accelerating the process. So I reached for some native chutzpah, and talked my way into lecturing in arts organizations and colleges. I have loved every moment, and almost certainly learned more than my students, to whom I remain grateful.

Inspiration comes from many sources, experience, learning, relationships, and for me, perhaps above all, music, the Empress of all the arts. Each day I conduct some of the world’s great orchestras. This morning I led the Bavarian State Radio Orchestra in a particularly beautiful rendition (if I may say so) of Mozart’s Requiem from my podium, the saddle of my stationary exercise bike.

Many people have expressed their views of what constitutes a creative life. Most recently, Brooks Jensen, Editor/Publisher of LensWork, recorded a podcast on this subject. It is worth the listening:

Two years ago, an internationally renowned constitutional lawyer, whom I first encountered when she was the infant daughter of one of my own professors, was at my home for dinner. We had decades to catch up on. During our conversation, she said, “You would have made a fine lawyer.” 

I wish she hadn’t said that!


© Raphael Shevelev. All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint is granted provided the article, copyright and byline are printed intact, with all links visible and made live if distributed in electronic form. 

Raphael Shevelev is a California based fine art photographer, digital artist and writer on photography and the creative process. He is known for the wide and experimental range of his art, and an aesthetic that emphasizes strong design, metaphor and story. His photographic images can be seen and purchased at


Excellent piece. Thanks for the inspiration.

I loved your piece -- such an insightful exploration of the individual's struggle to achieve a means of expression suited to his or her nature. In short, ignore convention and social respectability! Yes!! And I treasure your observation that teaching is learning...Thank you for the gift of your thoughts!

I am delighted to comment on your writing. It is my joy and privilege to read your colorful and thoughtful comments about the fine life you have led. I am particularly impressed with your way of bringing the past to life with the special way you craft your writing. You have so much that is important to share and such a rich life to give it context. I look forward always to reading your offerings and look forward to many more.

This is gorgeous. One of your best!!

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