• Carolyn Land

Muse: Noun and Verb

I am my own muse. The subject I know best”.                                                                    Frida Kahlo

According to Daniel Webster, as a noun, muse means a person – especially a woman, who is a source of artistic inspiration. As a verb, muse means to consider something thoughtfully.

In mythology, the Muses were nine goddesses who symbolized the arts and sciences. Today, a muse is a person who serves as an artist’s inspiration. Writers, painters, musicians, and other artists have muses. But, muse can also refer to thinking deeply. If you muse about something, you’re giving it serious thought. You can’t muse in five seconds. People muse on certain ideas for years.

I recently had two encounters with the word muse. In the first, someone asked, “Who is your muse”?  Well, I don’t have one!  Not as defined by Webster anyway. There is no one person, or artist that I can say inspires me; there are too many, and all in different ways.   The second encounter happened at the “Talk Art” I gave.  I said that nature was like a muse for me. For as long as I can remember, I have mused about nature.  A student picked up on that, and said I had never talked about having a muse before, would I expand on that sometime.

Collage by Florida artist Carolyn Land

Through the Fog            Collage


We all need something that inspires us.  Something that puts us in a state of awe, or at least we should.  If something in life doesn’t touch you deeply, then you are missing out on a very special feeling.  What motivates each of us to create, is going to be different for everyone. For me it is: the lines, forms, colors, and textures I see in nature.  The: differential weathering of rock, the drumlin, the exfoliation process, fissures, sand, the moraine, shale spotted with minerals, roots, springs and streams, leaf patterns, branches, bark on a tree, etc. These are patterns and lines that are repeated in all my work, realistic and abstract.

“Those who dwell among the mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life”.                                                            Rachel Carson

Pasrel painting by FL artist Carolyn Land

Misty Afternoon Pastel


So, to be grammatically correct, if I had to pick a muse, I would say …” Mother Nature” is my muse. Look at that! It is female, and as real of a person, as were the mythological goddesses in history. 🙂  I have mused and been fascinated by nature since I made mud pies as a child.  Nature is what brings me joy, peace, and motivates my art.

It is going to be different for everyone. Subjects are endless: people, politics, colors, lines, structural shapes, organic shapes, history, architecture, flowers, the ocean, birds, skies, etc.  What is important, is to know what excites us and interests us.  Then we can figure out what story we want to tell, and how we can tell that story in a creative way.  Remember: paint what you love!

Sometimes in the learning process we must work on a lot of things we don’t care for, in order to build skills we need to tell our story.  Learning techniques, composition, color theory, and discovering what medium works best for us, takes time. But, it helps to know what subject is exciting to us, to go through this learning process.  Knowing a subject does not limit us. It gives us a place to start.  It can also change over time.

And…the journey to explore, that which excites you, should be joyous and playful.  What subject excites you?  Go play with that subject.

“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up”. Pablo Picasso

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