Talmont: Lingering inspiration – Martine House


I have agreed to be an occasional contributor to the Ragged Cloth Café. This is my first post and I must admit being a bit nervous, but there it is:

I want to share with you some beautiful photos my son Julien took of a special place: Talmont, a small village at the mouth of the Gironde estuary in France (not too far from Bordeaux). Where is this going? Bear with me for a moment and I hope that you will see my point.           


  Photo by Julien House © 2007   Photo by Julien House © 2007

                                    Photo by Julien House © 2007

I am always in owe of the beauty of the village and its setting, of its charming features and I can’t help thinking of all the wealth of images that could be turned into pieces of art: the setting of the church on the cliff, the pale color of the rock face and the stones of the buildings, the blue shutters and doors (a typical color for the area), the flowers growing wild along the narrow streets and among the graves. In the middle of summer, hollyhocks grow wild all over the place.

                                  Photo by Julien House © 2007  

  Photo by Julien House © 2007                         Photo by Julien House © 2007

                            Photos by Julien House © 2007

Inspiration from architecture or landscapes plays a major role in many people’s compositions and designs, either directly or through their interpretation and I keep intending to bring some of Tamont visual elements into my work and let them be the inspiration for a wonderful new piece but so far it has not happened. …..Or has it? I am aware that when I walk around the village, I am filled with the special energy and peace of the place and with the feeling that I fit in my surroundings. I have come to realize that I may not be directly inspired by what I see in the sense that I am not reproducing images. But I carry what I felt in the village back home with me and those feelings are the force driving my imagination and my hands into creating a new piece with no apparent relationship with what I saw.   


     “Reliquary” by Martine House © 2006     Reliquary, Martine House © 2007

   “Reliquary” by Martine House © 2006      Photos by Tim Barnwell 


I made “Reliquary” several weeks after coming back from a trip to France during which I had taken a walk in Talmont. The piece is about nature and the fears I have about what we are doing to it. I do think that the spirituality and creative energy I felt during my walk was still very much in me as I worked on this. I chose the shape because it was consistent with that of a reliquary and the message I wanted to convey. It had not entered my consciousness until later that I used the same beautiful roman arches as those of the little church.

It is fascinating when we look at a piece of art to try to find out how much of it is the result of direct inspiration (as much as we can tell from what we know of the artist’s life or the accompanying statement) and how much is due to feelings or moods that have actually nothing to do with the subject of the piece but are part of a residual psychological state generated in the artist’s conscious (or unconscious) mind by certain experiences or events, moods and feelings that we cannot possibly know about but we may be able to intuit from the piece.

I am interested to know how other people’s minds work and what makes them tick. Can you always tell where your inspiration comes from or, rather, can you consciously feel when you are working under the influence of feelings inspired, sometimes long ago, by something unrelated to the subject you are working on?  I know some people work better when they are under a lot of emotional upheaval (grief, love, political engagement, etc). Do you find it to be true for you or do you find that visual stimulation is more important in your creative process? Just being curious…

In any case, I hope that if my questions do not inspire you, the images will!

And by the way, I find it quite interesting to note that the word “inspire” also means “drawing air into the lungs”, an activity essential to life.


5 Responses to “Talmont: Lingering inspiration – Martine House”

  1. 1 Peg Keeney November 29, 2007 at 6:54 am


    Thanks for sharing the photos snd asking the questions. For me inspiration does come from the landscape and the multitude of photos I take. In my work I try a capture some “essence” of a place, the feel of the wind, the intensity of color or lack of it, the sturcture of a particular element.
    Landscapes for me are ever changing and therefor subject to multipul interpretations. This aspect intrigues me and offers me the opportunity to work in series.
    I do not strive for realism, but rather how it…the landscape affects the viewer. At the best of times it hopefully allows the viewer to make their own personal connection.

  2. 2 Olga November 29, 2007 at 12:56 am

    I agree that inspiration is a drawing in, and that the resultant art that comes out does so out of our whole – including and maybe especially from that drawing in. Or at least I think that the best results come that way.

    I too, like others take lots of photos, and sometimes they will become part of my work, but at other times they are there to conjure up memory of mood, atmosphere, colour, shape – aspects both elusively abstract and visually concrete. In the end any work which arises starts off constructed consciously, then abandoned, then restructured subconsciously to a point where I simply tinker with elements to bring it about. The subconscious construct is always what I consider the most satisfying, and is most often completely different from the initial conscious idea. However, that abandoned composition will lie about and often be picked up later with a subsequent inspiration.

    So, yes, I agree with what you are saying.

  3. 3 June November 28, 2007 at 9:51 pm


    Your question — how does a sense of place translate into a visual art work — is a constant with me. I feel like having a sense of place by itself isn’t quite sufficient. Nor is it sufficient to have a construct or an idea of the place, at least by itself. And even the images of the place by themselves aren’t adequate. For me, I need that “sense” of the place, the smell of it, the feel of its air (inspired!), but I also need a clear visual or visuals — not that I’ll necessarily use them, but I need them to key off of. And I need some “idea” something intellectual or abstract about the place.

    Without these three things I find myself merely imitating nature, which I always fail to do justice to. So the place itself is itself; the art has to be different from the place, but for me, it also references back to it, but with its feel as well as its look, and its meaning as well as its “feel”.

    I recently did some paintings of some city scapes and found they were entirely different from my land scapes. The landscapes make me want to breathe more deeply, walk more softly, stand with awe and be the minute speck that I am. But the city scapes make me chuckle. I feel full of bounce when I’m painting in the city. City streets here are so, so, human. The houses have silly colors, the trees are brought in from foreign parts and have been snipped and snapped and have snipped and snapped back until they are as human as the homo sapiens. Even the cars are more comic than disgusting. I think that that’s because my city is not like Talmont, but rather like a cheerful, unself-conscious puddle, or a bouncing crow, only mockingly self-important.

    At least that’s how the city seems to me today. Tomorrow it could be different. And it takes me a while to know what I know — to know what I sense –to know that “abstraction” that “idea” of the place. And while I’m coming to know that, I’m working with the actual images that I’ve encountered. They take me through my training runs.

  4. 4 eileen doughty November 28, 2007 at 9:49 am

    Martine, I can see how Talmont would be an inspirational place. You are lucky to be a person of two countries – double the creative opportunities.

    My landscapes tend to be representational rather than abstract. The more successful ones seem to be about the concept of a place rather than a really specific location. That allows the viewer to relate to the scene in their own way – not just ‘my’ way. It takes me a long time to just think about the design, when it is not just a copy of a photograph. Perhaps the viewer is able to sense the feelings and emotion that were part of the creative process.

    “Make art about what you know” is an adage that was important to my development in my art. The little stream a block from my house may not be as pretty as a little stream in Hawaii that I saw in a photograph, but it is what I know.

  5. 5 Sacredartist November 28, 2007 at 9:42 am

    I enjoyed reading your post. I just finished doing a barrette on the Cheshire Cat. This was an emotional piece that was inspired by a dream. I started reading Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens and felt even more exact about who this character is. Someone on my blog commented that they didn’t know if they could dwell this long on something so “negative”. But to me you can not have depth in a picture unless you have explored what shading does to lift out the light. So with negative emotions that you work through with art brings other emotions to light.

Comments are currently closed.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 221 other subscribers


%d bloggers like this: