What Inspires My Art

I thought I'd dig into my Pinterest boards that are actually titled "Art Inspiration" for this blog post. I see that although my techniques and style has shifted over the last couple of years, my inspiration remains the same.

Here's a list of some items that I love creating art about / with:

(All of the images I've used come from Pinterest. If you'd like to see the source of the photos / art, please click the image, and you will be redirected to Pinterest.com.)


There's something quintessentially American about quilting. Although it ultimately arrived here via other countries and cultures, it has become a symbol of Americana, and thus an icon that I love adding to my work. I have quit a complicated relationship with my country, and although there's tremendous heartbreak for me over how the US was formed and how it continues to oppress certain people groups, it is still my country and I live here. I will continue to create work that reflects who I am (an American) and where I come from (small-town America.)


Because I've always loved them. I love how these animals symbolize power and mystery. In a series I did this last winter about chronic pain, I featured tiger women, as they were grappling with their individual chronic illness and pain journeys. Roaring tigers are such a striking and heart-wrenching image; stoic tigers are regal. They're also fascinating to paint, as their faces contain so many shapes and lines. They happened to be my favorite animal since I was young, but it was such a serendipitous find that they are the official animal of South Korea (my husband's country.) I use tigers in my art every chance I get!

(a Korean tiger and rabbit; this image recalls a mythical time, "When tigers and rabbits smoked," which is how most Korean folktales are told (instead of "Once upon a time.")


Even before I was familiar with Day of the Dead or Mexican art, or even Friday Kahlo, I was drawing skeletons to represent the figures in my art. It just felt right. I had a friend that initially was so offended by them, she said my art scared her. I agree, that that's the initial reaction to seeing a skull. People automatically think, "death" since that's when we see skeletons mostly: strung up in doctor's offices to teach anatomy (creepy) and at Halloween to spook people (double creepy). However, skeletons and bones hold a deeper symbolic meaning than death; yes, it is a reminder of mortality, but also an indication of sameness. Our society has constructed all sorts of dividers and ways to separate people: skin color, class, education, etc. Bones represent the idea that we are all the same underneath...and if you're scared of skeletons, remember that you have one - right inside your own body! Mwahahahahah ;-)

A recent painting I created for the Art of Tröegs contest 2018.

My older work featured skulls heavily...and as I've got a Day of the Dead show coming up this fall, I'll be featuring them a lot more:

Here's a list (without reference photos) of other things that get me excited about making art:

- Cabins, camping, being outdoors

- Tea, teapots

- Rainy Mondays

- Mountains, snow-covered or tree-covered

- Fall foliage

- Korean culture, masks, hanbok

- Mushrooms

- Flowers, nature, herbs

- Dragons

- Legends and folktales from various cultures

- Chickens and roosters

- Antlers

- The night sky

- Buffalo plaid

- Wrapping ribbons and filigree

- The moon, clouds

A lot of my art currently features these items. I've found that keeping a running list of objects to fill your paintings with keeps things cohesive.

What inspires YOUR art?

What do you identify with on my list?

Marni Manning - Artist

Join the e-mailing list
I agree to receive monthly email updates from Marni Manning Art