Finding Inspiration: "Dying Rainbows and Unicorns"


Over the years I have become aware that inspiration for a painting, composite photo, a piece of music or a story can come out of nowhere. I always tell my students that one does not sit back and wait for inspiration. Inspiration comes through work and through the process consistently putting time into your craft. One idea, whether good or bad, can be a path for an entirely new concept. I instruct my students to open up oneself and to be inspired throughout the day through inspiration in art, music, literature and daily interactions.

The inspiration for this image is an unusual one, even for me.

Years ago, while teaching art to a group of special needs students there was a girl who would talk about things that made no sense at all. She was labeled as having psychotic tendencies and was in her own world most of the time. One day she shouted out a phrase that stopped me in my tracks. While painting a self portrait for me, she said, ”Dying Unicorns and Rainbows”. The phrase struck me as odd, but something about the phrase was really poetic. I thought it would be a great name for a band, song title or future work of art. The phrase was wonderfully surreal.

I wrote the phrase down in a notebook and figured it could be used a springboard for a future project.

Years go by and I found that phrase written in my “notes” on my cell phone and recently began trying to figure out what that phrase meant to me.

I finally felt that the phrase spoke of the loss of one’s innocence and the inevitability of change. I looked back at childhood friends who /I have lost over the years, the demise of my childhood neighborhood, and the yearning for simpler times. I decided to create an image symbolizing this loss of innocence and the effects of time on one’s life.

I wanted to create a unicorn’s skull and have it emerge from a façade of peeling paint. I was able to take some photos of my old childhood home before it was destroyed by arson and included the weathered peeling paint in my photo composite image. I wanted the skull to have the look of a unicorn. The challenge was to create a unicorn skull from my imagination. I used on old coyote skull for the base of the form and was stuck on how to create a “horn” for the unicorn. I ended up using a shell that had a horn like structure. I incorporated a faded image of a rainbow in the design and had it disintegrate and drip down the weathered wall as a metaphor for innocence lost.

I give thanks to my former student for the inspiration and hear that she is in high school and doing well. The moral of this story is to keep plugging away, keep yourself open to ideas from many sources. Inspiration doesn’t find you…you find it through putting the work in…..Inspiration comes from doing. It does not come from sitting back and waiting for it to happen.


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