I know this is really obvious in my work but I am completely inspired by nature. The being obvious part is straight up sarcasm—just so we’re clear. I am so inspired by scenery that one of my dearest friends wants to know the current count of photos I have on my phone just of the sky. From time to time, I send her a picture of something like a cactus…which she doesn’t understand. We behold the beauty of a cactus differently. My picture taking went to a whole new level on a cross-country road trip. I gave a friendly heads up on Twitter that if the cloud broke, it was because of me, as the photo album count crossed from the hundreds to a thousand with two states left to go. The cloud didn’t break—so how about a shout out to technology. Sweet.

Somehow—in spite of what I just described—it took me a minute to realize what exactly inspired me. Now I know that when I see a top with a busy print that is extra shiny, that attraction is to be interpreted on canvas…as opposed to being worn by me. Or the graphic I love on a restaurant menu does not mean I should learn Photoshop. (Been there, done that, didn’t work.) What clued me in was when I noticed I was studying the arrangement of the landscaping in the backyard one day wondering how it translated to use of colors and layers when I paint.

It may sound funny, but from there, I caught myself studying the lines of trees. And then clouds. And sunsets as the colors blended and where they blended. And if I could layer that type of streak in a piece, and have it carry the same drama as it did in the sky. Then I started using my camera as my eye to really try to see more detail and learn new perspectives that I wasn’t readily noticing as I walked by. It’s such a different view zooming in on a subject.

I tried this experiment at my desk on day at work, and the take-aways were entirely different. I noticed that white seems much brighter in context. There is nothing different about my phone, no matter what the view is. My pen cup is not at all photogenic. My office lacks color. And my ear buds need cleaning. That was my successful test. I know for sure indoors is not at all inspiring. It’s disgusting. Outdoors is where you will find me—with my phone, so I can document the inspiration. It’s why only understanding friends are willing to go on a hike with me. Everywhere you look is amazing.

Ironically, I recently came upon some roses and stopped to take a picture (naturally). Unusually, I took the time to literally smell them before posting. It felt amazing to do something that I say flippantly and take a few extra seconds to notice the shape of the petals, the shade of green of its leaves, the extreme points of the thorns that protect it. At least that’s what they seem to be doing. It is why I don’t try to grow any. I happily enjoy my neighbor’s rose garden…she certainly has a knack. I should send my friend a picture of the rose garden.

Through all of this, I noticed something began to change. I used to be afraid that if I pursued painting, I would hit a dry spot that turned out to be a dead end. I was scared to find that the dry spot was evidence of a creek that used to be and was now completely dried up. I have noticed that I am not afraid of this scenario anymore, and I think it’s at least in part due to knowing what inspires me. It keeps the creek flowing. I find now I have more ideas than time, and as a result, when I paint, I just really enjoy it. For this I am grateful. There is no reason to be afraid.