I was just speaking to two really amazing artists on inspiration and how it comes to us as creative people, and we all established that it was really too broad of a topic to try to boil down to the short amount of time that we had (more on that in a future date).
I'm going to try to tackle at least a little bit of how my process works.
The first thing I want to point out is the power of the word, the word inspire means (according to dictionary.com) means to fill with animating, quickening, or exalting influence or to communicate or suggest by a divine or supernatural influence. Those are powerful definitions. Inspire is a powerful word. I think a lot of times in todays world we flippantly use words that mean something a lot more powerful than they actually do. My two favorite examples of this is the word awesome, your sandwich was not awesome (maybe it was, who am I to judge) the grand canyon is awesome, to be filled with awe is something really powerful, the second being "I miss you". I miss you is something that we are programmed to say to someone we haven't seen in a while, like we have to say it, but to actually truly miss someone is a really intense painful emotion.
So back to inspiration, as an artist I can be inspired by many different things, the town I live in, a comedy show, something someone says passing me on the street, pretty much anything. To get from the inspiration to the work though, is very complicated. Art takes work. Something or someone may have lit the match, but you have to build the fire up and keep it going. So to boil down inspiration to who is your most influential artist, or what inspired you to start the current project your doing?
I think Josh Jordan today said it best, that by making that one thing the topic of discussion about your art negates the hours and hours of work that you did to refine your series or your craft or even just one image.
It erases the work that you did leading up to the great unveiling, it ignores the fact that your blood sweat and tears went into a piece that may have been spurred on by one moment or a small piece of your life, but that doesn't mean that the muse fairy creature came down upon you and told you what to do. The closest that I've had that comes to that is when I write poetry, which is why I don't write it that often because the poems come out of me, I don't write them, they write me. As far as visual art goes, there are hours, weeks, months, even years that come out of that small speck of inspiration.
So I guess the punch line to this is, pay your artists as if you knew how much time and effort goes into fanning that match flame into a bonfire. The end product is not what the process is.