Finding Art Inspiration: 5 Tips for Creativity
Welcome back, Friends!
As you well know, one of my passions is to teach you art, inspiration, and to bring a little beauty to your everyday life. That’s why I’m excited to dive into one of the questions I’m most frequently asked and that’s how I find inspiration.
Let’s say you recently bought all of your art supplies and you’re super excited to finally do something creative. You have all of them spread out and ready to use on your worktable. You stare at the white piece of paper laid out before you - and you freeze. There’s just nothing there. You don’t know what to draw, you don’t have any ideas, and you’re scared that you’re going to waste all these valuable and expensive materials.
Trust me, I’ve been there - that’s why you’ve come to the right person. Over the years I’ve found that finding inspiration is actually something I’m rather good at. First of all, I want to say that I think everyone has the capacity and the creativity to become an artist. I often hear family, friends, and acquaintances say, “I’m not an artist,” or “I’m not creative.” As if creativity is something you’re either born with or without! Yet, for most other things in life, it’s widely accepted that to be successful at something you need to practice it. You have to do something over and over again to gain knowledge and mastery. Practicing art and creativity is not exempt from this. Think of someone trying to ride a bike for the first time. They’re unable to balance properly and so they decide to throw in the towel and say, “well I’m not a good bicycle rider!”
It’s the same with those who try to draw for the first time and then declare they’re not a good artist. It takes practice, patience, and a little imagination. When you were a kid did you spend hours and hours playing make-believe? Maybe you spent time outside playing underneath the sun, building forts, and playing imaginary games with fantastical creatures. We’ve all been there, and thank goodness for those years! What I find incredible, is how naturally creative we all are as children. As we grew up, we had less and less of a need to play and use our imagination. This has caused our creativity and imagination to become a little rusty. Like any muscle that hasn’t been used or strengthened, it will take time for it to be strong again. The same goes for creativity. So, how do we get that creative muscle in our brain active again? How do we get started? Let’s dive into my five tips for inspiration!
Creativity Tip 1: Journal
My first tip for creative inspiration is to keep an idea journal. Get yourself a notebook or have a couple of them on hand. They don’t have to be art sketchbooks; they can be cheap little notebooks you buy at the drugstore. Here’s the important trick: Keep these notebooks in a place where you spend a lot of empty time. What I mean by empty time is time that is spent in a place where you are not actively engaging in a task. It’s a place where you’re often waiting or lounging around. Think of places and things that don’t require your brain to be actively involved in a task. These might be simple things that are part of your daily routine such as washing the dishes, folding the laundry, or taking a train to commute to work. Keep a sketchbook right there.
Ideas often come when you least expect them and when your brain is relaxed. I know that for myself, my best ideas always come from when I’m daydreaming or doing something like folding the laundry. They also often come when I’m just staring off into space. Yes, I do that.
Having an idea or inspiration come to you is very much like waking up from a dream. When you awake from a dream, the images and feelings are still very vivid in your mind. If you don’t concentrate on remembering it or jot it down, you’ll completely forget about that dream! You may forget over a course of a day or over a course of weeks.
Ideas are very much like dreams because if something comes to mind and you don’t actively collect that idea, it will escape you. Your distractions over the course of the day and your responsibilities will take precedence over the fleeting idea you had. Then, when it’s time to sit down at your worktable - as we mentioned above - you’ll see this blank piece of paper and think, “Oh, I’m just not creative. I don’t have any ideas!”
The truth is, you just never gathered them at the moments when they came to you.
Creativity Tip 2: Daily Creativity
My second tip for bringing inspiration and creativity into your life is to set aside 5 minutes every day to practice your creativity. This tip is more about building creativity and making time to practice it a little bit every day. The most important thing is to be consistent. I know we’re all really busy with our daily lives and responsibilities so it can be difficult to set aside time for creativity. But, five minutes is all you need.
For five minutes every day, sit down somewhere comfortable, take out your little notebook, and think of an interesting experience you may have recently had. Think about things that are interesting to you, maybe something you think is really cool or makes you really happy. Maybe you loved Disney movies as a kid or you went on a family vacation that invokes wonderful, warm memories. Perhaps you saw a pretty shop window recently, or you were kindly presented with a yummy box of cupcakes.
The key is to think of something that brings you joy. This can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The important thing is to think of something that excites YOU. What is it that you find really cool or inspiring? What is something that makes you really emotional or elicits a strong reaction from you?
Now, as you think about those things or maybe a specific memory, start to doodle. Take a pen or pencil, move it along a piece of paper, and see what you create! Nothing is set in stone. You’re just sort of daydreaming and doodling at the same time. The purpose of this is not to create a final piece or even something to keep - that’s not the point of this exercise.
Think of it as running on a treadmill to stay in shape. Through this practice, you’re exercising your creativity. What you come up with or what it looks like in the end is completely irrelevant. Of course, if anything good comes out of this you can always use that to inspire your next piece of art. But, I don’t want you to think about the outcome of this as much as the process of just exploring your imagination and doodling on the spot.
Creativity Tip 3: Musical Inspiration
Music is an amazing source of inspiration and pulls out all sorts of memories and emotions. What music invokes in each of us is a really great way of coming up with ideas. Next time you do a daily doodling exercise, put on some music!
Some of my favorite musical inspirations are soundtracks from movies. Think of the soundtracks from the movies Amelie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, La La Land, or from The Sound of Music. All of those musical scores produce such different feelings which are really wonderful for finding inspiration.
I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and search for a movie soundtrack on youtube. Let it play in the background as you let your pen wander on the page and see what happens! For example, you can think of a scene taking place that the music could go to. Try to draw that! This is an exercise to break away from the confines and restrictions of your day-to-day life and just be imaginative!
Creativity Tip 4: Idea Library
For my fourth creativity tip, I encourage you to start building a library or toolbox of books and items that you find inspiring. Again, this can mean something totally different to each person. But, the idea here is to have these objects or items be catalysts for ideas. To give you an idea of what I mean, here are some things I find really inspiring that I’ve collected over the years:
The first item is a box of postcards that I picked up from the New York Botanical Garden last time we visited. It holds tons of postcards of different flowers and plants. I think the drawings of each plant are absolutely beautiful. Whenever I’m looking for ideas, I just look at these wonderful pictures and something will come to me. Sometimes the colors really inspire me and sometimes it’s the composition. I can just imagine little people or characters flying in between the flowers. Sounds like that might just have to be an idea I do soon, maybe I’ll paint people or dancers flying amongst the flowers. See, that’s an example of how certain items, especially if you really like those items, can help you find your next great idea!
Some other items that bring me inspiration are these little lovely soaps my husband gave me as a stocking stuffer this year for Christmas. The packaging is absolutely beautiful. One of them has these little red corals on it that inspired a recent painting I did of mermaids. I thought the corals were just so pretty which got me daydreaming when I was doing my journaling. It made me think of life under the sea, which lead me to think about Disney and Ariel and princesses. That’s how that idea came to fruition and it goes to show that inspiration can truly come from anything if we allow our minds to wander!
The last one I want to share with you is the book, “The Hermes Scarf: History and Mystique” by Nadine Coleno. Books are a huge source of inspiration for me. I am a major bookworm and I especially love beautiful coffee table books. I picked up this particular book a few years ago and it’s about scarf art. It has the most stunning, colorful, and graphic pictures of scarf art. I find that the entire book is a terrific source of inspiration.
Creativity Tip 5: The Process
My final tip for creativity is about mindfulness and valuing the process more than the final outcome. I’ve found that when I talk to people about art and their process, they are often fixated on what the final piece will be. They want something that’s going to be perfect, beautiful, and that they’re proud to share with friends or hang up on the wall. This is completely understandable. But, the problem with this mindset is that if you value the perfection of the final piece you will be afraid to take risks. This is a real obstacle and I myself struggle with this all the time.
I want to share with you a funny anecdote from my college days when I went to Parsons School of Design in New York City. I had an extremely strict teacher my foundation year who taught drawing of the human body. One of the things I found so fascinating about her class is that she would never allow any of us to leave the classroom with a final piece. At the end of every class, she would wait for us by the door and she would rip up every single one of our drawings. No matter how great it is was. She did this because she believed that if you are worried about making your art look perfect then you’re not taking the right risks in order to grow. You’re not taking the risks you need to in order to become a better artist. She wouldn’t let us leave with them because she believed it’s not about what you get out of it. If you focus on what you get out of it then you will be too afraid to challenge yourself.
Think about this when you start sketching. I’m not asking you to rip up your beautiful works of art - please don’t do that! But, think about it when you’re in the sketching process.
There you have it! Those are my five tips for finding inspiration and creativity. Hopefully, that helps you in being able to come up with some ideas for your art and to start practicing your creativity. Thank you for being with me and reading this all the way through dear readers. Until next time!