Artistic Turn-Ons

Serendipitous "drawing," created by a slug crawling through condensation on glass, 2009.

In art as in romance, attraction is a complicated thing. While I can’t begin to speculate about relationships, I do know that artistic attractions bubble up from a deep inner well — intensely personal, primal, and intuitive. We don’t get to choose them, but we can work to discover them, and to explore the directions and possibilities that they suggest for our future work.

A few years ago I began compiling a list of my own “artistic turn-ons” — the various concepts and visual elements that I consistently find attractive and intriguing. The process began with an investigation of my own work, in search of patterns, connections, and common threads. I tried to remember times when I was particularly captivated by something: a tight gathering of mushrooms on the forest floor, or a rising column of steam back-lit by the morning sun. Other insights came from looking through the work of historical and contemporary artists whom I admire. I also gathered many other photographs, ranging from natural phenomena to shrines and ceremonial sites.

I imagine this will be a life-long process of discovery and exploration, but already it has proven valuable as I consider about my own identity as an artist and the range of directions my future work might take. It has been particularly helpful in recognizing the common threads that unify my various artworks, which are often created using very different materials and processes.

Below is a partial list of my own artistic turn-ons. In the comments, I would love to hear about other artists’ journeys toward self-discovery. What processes or practices have given you the greatest insight into your own deep inner well of creativity?



Mystery, myth, ritual

The color white

Seductive surfaces

Repetition with slight variation


Circles, spheres, ovoid forms

Things that hang from above


Spare, organic lines/shapes


Change, growth, transformation


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About Sarah Jane

Working artist, university professor, community educator. Currently living in community at the Grunewald Guild, Leavenworth, WA.

2 responses to “Artistic Turn-Ons”

  1. themofman says :

    Trial and error;
    Constructive criticism;
    Inspiration from other people and other things.

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