The Making of Inspiration : From Monet to Warhol and beyond

Hanna-Kaisa Korolainen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


Every practitioner yearns for inspiration. It fuels the creative process with desire and motivation. However, it seems unclear what inspiration exactly is and where it comes from. Practitioners can experience an obscure state of being inspired without knowing how and why it happened. Possibly they can remember something they saw or experienced beforehand that made them feel inspired. These inspiring ‘things’ or ‘happenings’ can be called sources of inspiration. These sources of inspiration, from the practitioners’ point of view, have not been extensively researched within the fields of art and design. Designers and artists themselves do not often reveal their sources of inspiration, as if they ought to be protected or sourcing external inspiration was embarrassing. However, the surrounding world is so filled with visual and other kinds of stimulus that it would be nearly impossible not to be influenced or inspired by some of them. Even if a practitioner were to attempt to create something in an empty vacuum with nothing but her own mind, would that mind not be already filled with all kinds of impressions of the life lived, and a myriad of things seen, experienced, and learned? Memories of childhood entangled with stories read and heard, sunsets and sunrises seen in famous landscape paintings confused with real-life experiences. Throughout this study, I try to trace how consciously selected sources of inspiration influence the creative process and its outcome. I investigate specifically: 1) the relationship between the practitioner and the source of inspiration, 2) the differences between inspiration and copying, and 3) the idea of shared authorship. I conduct this study as a practitioner who is simultaneously the artist and the researcher, opening up my own creative process to the investigation. In this way, new information can be sourced from the inside of the process, hoping to discover aspects that will interest other practitioners and the field of creative studies in general. I hope to demonstrate the possible threads we weave between makers, eras and cultures and shed light upon the concept of inspiration. As the artistic components of this study, I executed three exhibitions and numerous artefacts (in ceramics, glass, and textile) in which the influence of the sources of inspiration was materialized. These artefacts are presented as a catalogue at the end of this study. In addition, as part of the theoretical foundation, I try to outline the concept of inspiration, sources of inspiration and becoming/ being inspired. I do this by exploring neighbouring themes such as imitation, intertextuality and appropriation. I also draw from the history of inspiration and investigate how the general understanding of the topic has developed through time. The centre of this study lies in a collaboration–like relationship between the practitioner and sources of inspiration. The word collaboration might seem unexpected in this context, but since sources of inspiration often greatly affect the creative process, I believe their role should be given the attention it deserves. Sources participate in initiating the process and accompanying the practitioner along the way, almost like physically absent family members or long-time friends. As a practitioner, I form an inner dialogue with them. Even without spoken words, sources can speak to a practitioner who has learned to listen to them. Often these relationships can endure for many years, or even a lifetime.
Translated title of the contributionThe Making of Inspiration: From Monet to Warhol and beyond
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Mäkelä, Maarit, Supervising Professor
  • Mäkelä, Maarit, Thesis Advisor
  • Kaila, Jan, Thesis Advisor, External person
Place of PublicationEspoo, Finland
Print ISBNs978-952-64-0787-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-0788-3
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • inspiration
  • creative process
  • collaboration


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