Usually, we find inspiration to make art when we are not looking for it. We are in the shower or preparing dinner and ideas pop into our heads. We walk through nature or in a city and are inspired by what we see or experience.
Then we are so in the flow that we do not need extra inspiration. At other times we have to consciously search for it because we want to create but just don’t know how and what. We’re stuck.
To get the inspiration process going, I’ll give you 12 tips in this article.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Find inspiration to make art
- 2 Get inspired
- 3 Where to get inspiration
- 4 Inspiration to make art
Find inspiration to make art
We can consciously direct the process of getting inspired by listening to music, reading books, taking pictures, making lists to brainstorm, and challenging ourselves.
In the article The Inspiration, Process, and Results of my Abstract Ceramics I describe the process of getting inspired during my ceramics career. It seemed as if inspiration came out of the blue, every time I was ready to start a new series of work.
Yet it is nonsense to think that artists always have inspiration. On the other hand, artists are more aware of the possibilities to be inspired. We will direct that process both consciously and unconsciously.
And by artists, I don’t just mean professionals, but also amateurs and hobbyists. For me, anyone who is creative is an artist.
Where to get inspiration
Look at other art
Art is not just paintings but also sculptures and architecture. Visit a lot of museums and exhibitions. Look at every building or statue you come across on your walks through a city. Browse through books or on the internet, like the Google Arts & Culture project.
Try to delay your reaction to what you see. We tend to immediately classify everything as beautiful or ugly with the risk that we close off part of our experience.
Nature has been a great source of inspiration for many artists. That could be a landscape that was drawn or painted. The structure of trees and plants. The shape of seed pods.
The architect of the Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi, was clearly inspired by the plant world, which you can recognize in the ornaments as well as in the ceilings.
Dance and music
Art includes not only visual art but also music, dance and theatre. Sound and movement can inspire you to make music or dance yourself. It is also interesting to convert sounds or movements into a drawing or painting. And vice versa.
Someone may make a comment that triggers you. Or someone can look in a certain way that is a great inspiration to make art.
And a very important aspect: if you are stuck, draw a figure. Figure drawing has always been important in the development of artists. So consider that as study material.
Even a graphic designer or typographer benefits a lot from figure drawing, I know from experience. You learn to consider relationships between shapes and to see perspective and directions.
With a scrapbook or bulletin board, it’s easy to save ideas you come across. You can paste or pin magazine photos, folders, or notes that you make yourself so that you always have some examples at hand if you are stuck.
Sit down and start
Sometimes we think too much. It helps if you just sit at your work table or stand in front of your easel and draw lines or areas. There’s nothing worse than a blank piece of paper staring at you.
Take loads of pictures
Take pictures of everything you come across. Of people, landscapes, buildings, but also structures. Shoot within a theme, such as movement, composition, colour, or repetition. Limiting yourself in this way can yield whole new insights.
Take a course. The subject of the course doesn’t even matter that much. It can be profession-related but also something completely different.
Even if we think it’s familiar material, we always learn something new if we stay open to it.
To this day I follow all kinds of courses. Recently, for example, it was about the sustainable design of an ecological vegetable garden and a 30-day challenge to become a Canva Star.
Even though I have been an experienced photographer since the age of 12, I did an iPhone photography course last year.
Literature and poetry
Written texts can be a great source of inspiration. Because of the content, but also because of the way it is written. Some poems have a beautiful rhythm or repeating pattern.
Dada was an art movement that encompassed visual arts, graphic design, poetry and theatre with mixtures that were magnificent.
A competition or a challenge helps a lot to get a creative flow going. This can be a challenge from someone else, such as the weekend challenges on Instagram. Or you can set yourself up for a challenge.
In 2019 I made a drawing every day. My intention was to break free from the idea that everything I made had to meet super high standards. What a liberation that was. Some drawings were ugly, others were very satisfying because I tried something new.
In 2020 I took a picture every day and posted it on Instagram. Even then I was not always satisfied with the result, but it was more about the action than the outcome.
At the moment I have a daily collage as my personal challenge. Such fun!
Brainstorming and making lists
Making lists forces you to keep going. If you don’t think too much and keep writing, you will always come up with new ideas.
It also helps to sit down with someone and brainstorm together about all kinds of topics.
Keep a written or drawn diary. Most creatives have a notebook in which thoughts are noted. Both analogue and digital.
If you don’t want to go out with a paper notebook, there are various apps, such as Evernote, in which you can write your thoughts.
Inspiration to make art
When I was still exhibiting and organizing open studio days, one of the most frequently asked questions was where I got my inspiration from. Often followed by the comment “I could never do such a thing”.
My answer was usually that art is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. It’s similar to Thomas Edison’s quote: Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
The best advice is to get started and then the inspiration will come.
What is your source of inspiration? Tell me in the comment box down below.