As you will see, I also want to present an alternative to all the places we can go on the internet to look for inspiration – you already know those and I don’t have to tell you how to find Pinterest & Co. Also, keeping your eyes glued to all your media feeds will likely just overwhelm you instead of giving you ideas. Try to get away from the digital overload for a while and enjoy the slow pace of the real world.
I love reading, because it opens up a world inside your thoughts. It can feel like taking a trip without leaving the house. Oftentimes, when I read, I get ideas for illustrations, or I read quotes that I would like to letter or write in calligraphy. It doesn’t really matter what kind of books, I feel at home in fiction, non-fiction, biographies, children’s books and even self-help literature.
Listening to music activates emotions, and emotions can result directly in visual ideas, they are a big driving force for me behind every creative decision (the other big driving force for me is thought). When you listen to music, it can be easier to get into a flow state and let go of your thinking, because the music itself presents a kind of creative flow you can follow. I often get ideas about colors and moods I want to incorporate into a piece when listening to music.
This is truly my number one place for getting inspired and becoming calm at the same time. Whether I go for a walk, or take a road trip, or just sit in the garden for half a day, I always feel like I just have to look around to see new and interesting things. I actually find the stillness and beauty of nature soothing, so I try to go outside and just breathe that in whenever I can.
You can go outside and just notice and watch, or collect little things you bring home, or focus on your senses while you’re outside. This can be a whole body experience.
Outside (cafés, public places)
You don’t have to leave civilization behind entirely to find inspiration. Often funny or memorable things happen when you just take a stroll through the city, or sit down on a bench or in a café and watch other people interact, or just go about their business. You can choose to stay in the observer position or start a conversation. I find that whenever I do something out of the ordinary that I wouldn’t do on other days (because I don’t have time, or usually don’t do such a thing), it leaves a trace in my thoughts that I can draw inspiration from. Or to put it that way: the other person leaves a trace.
Dreams are the weirdest things ever, and they’re great for getting absurd ideas or just a different view on things, but the first step is to remember what happened. If you start writing them down immediately after waking up, you will notice that your memory for your dreams will become better and better. I don’t always find something worthwhile when I browse through my inner dream landscape like this, but sometimes a single image or sentence sticks with me and I try to explore it creatively. Dream diaries can be images or loose doodles too.
Art exhibitions are another one of my favourite sources for inspiration. You can learn about a certain time, an art movement or a single artist and his ideas, and this is something that is such a huge knowledge base to draw from. So many impressions collected by other humans and put into an interesting form! When I feel really captured by a technique or a visual idea I can watch myself incorporating bits and pieces of it into my own art. If you look at any point in art history, you will find people who worked every day to make something new, see the world in a different way and tried to express that through their art. I think it’s such a beautiful and fundamentally human process. Don’t be afraid to steal anything, or do something that has been done before – everyone will see the world through their own eyes, and the saying that there’s no truly new idea under the sun has been around for a few thousand years now…(just be careful with posting it to the internet and saying it’s yours when it’s a direct copy – this might not be so cool.)
I sometimes take a sketchbook or notebook with me to exhibitions, or a camera if allowed, to keep track of what is interesting for me, and to build a catalogue of inspirational material (we’re slowly getting back to Pinterest territory here).
We all have people around us who accompany us in our daily lives. Often we don’t even think about them in a mindful manner. Make a point to notice something new about someone you know really well. Or have a conversation with someone you don’t know that well. Sometimes it’s the little quirks and facts that are interesting about someone. Take the opportunity to view things different for just a day. This always brings inspiring ideas to me.
Kids are also a wonderful source of quirky, fun ideas and unconventional thoughts. They don’t filter the world like grown-ups do, and I often find that very uplifting.
When I think of people as a source of inspiration, I also think of diving into a person’s life, as in a biography. I have mentioned this above, I find it really interesting to see or read how someone else lived their life (be it an artist or a scientist or a engineer). I think looking at other people’s lives and trying to understand them makes us more open for other ideas, makes us consider different things for our own life. And this can be really small details, or big fundamental ideas on how to live your life.
Inspiration can be anywhere
With the list above I tried to give you some places to start your own investigations about where you might find a creative spark in your daily life.
Finding inspiration is all about the change of focus for me, about getting out of your rut, changing the order of things or getting a new perspective – however you can bring that in. It’s about daily mindfulness. I think changing your perspective from time to time is necessary to stay interested, to keep your art going, to be able to learn something new.
Like these ideas? Do you have different methods for inspiration? I’d love to hear how you get inspired – write me an email and let me know!