Finding Inspiration as an Artist

Something I hear a lot from friends and acquaintances that are just getting into art is, “I want to create but I just have no idea WHAT to create.” This can be a stumbling block for even the most skilled artists and is commonly known as “artist’s block.”

No matter what type of creative venture you pursue, whether it’s painting, wood working, collaging, photographing, or something else, finding inspiration is key to driving your process. And if you’re saying to yourself right now, “I’m not an artist. I just like to dabble in things for fun,” then have no fear: this post is intended for everyone—artists, crafters, and dabblers.

Please don’t expect this list to be comprehensive. I’m still learning about this myself, but these tips are based on my personal experience. With that being said, here is my advice for finding inspiration:

  1. EXPLORE – The number one way I find inspiration is to explore the world around me and take note of the things that draw me in. This exploration can occur in nature, in your backyard, at a friend’s house, in a thrift store, at Target, on the internet, etc… Inspiration is everywhere and getting out of your house is the easiest way to notice it.
  2. TRY  A VARIETY OF MEDIUMS – If you aren’t sure where your creative energy resides, this is the best way to find out! Try painting, try drawing, or try photographing your kids in the great outdoors. The only real way to find out what suits you is to try different things. Maybe you’ll discover that you like multiple mediums. There are no hard and fast rules to follow, but it’s important to have fun! Some of you out there may already know which mediums you enjoy; for example, maybe you are a watercolor artist and have no interest in trying other types of paint. I totally understand and praise you for knowing yourself so well. On the other hand, maybe it’s worth it to get outside your comfort zone. Trying something new is sometimes the best thing you can do for your art because it can enhance your process.
  3. FIND ROLE MODELS – If you are really struggling with finding a starting place, it can sometimes be helpful to look for inspiration in others. For example, if you’re into wood working, find other wood workers that you admire and see what projects they are coming up with. I’m not suggesting plagiarism(!), but rather, trying to see what they’re creating with their own inspiration.
  4. GIVE YOURSELF A CHALLENGE – Whether you are a writer, a crafter, or an illustrator, coming up with a challenge can really get your creative juices flowing. Possible challenges can include drawing something every day/week/month or creating a theme for the work you make over a selected period of time. You won’t only obtain a lot of inspiration from an activity like this, but you will also learn lot about yourself and your process.
  5. BRAINSTORM WITH OTHERS – Friends and family can be a great source of insight and inspiration, since they will have different perspectives from you. I often have people request things that I have never even thought of creating, and it leads me down an unexpectedly pleasant path when I decide to pursue it.
  6. TAKE A CLASS – This is similar to trying new mediums. You may find that by taking a class, you will be exposed to new ideas and concepts that can fuel your next creative endeavor. Instructors and other students often provide feedback as well, so this is an opportunity for you to get input from other people about your art.
  7. CREATE, CREATE, CREATE – Sometimes, the biggest problem you can face is a stalemate with yourself. Just jump in and start making! You will likely find that inspiration will come as you keep yourself busy creating.

In summary, I would like to cite an example from my own life that will hopefully illustrate some of my points more clearly. The photo above shows some illustrations I created based upon some eclectic ornaments I found at a thrift store. These purchases were completely random, but something about their design, colors, and craftsmanship caught my eye. They were likely made by hand for a craft project by someone I’ve never met and they’re starting to fall apart. When he first saw them, my husband said, “Why did you buy those ratty things?” Haha… But I thought something about them was really cute. I’ve been holding onto them for a couple of years and this week, I finally decided to pursue a project with them. They remind me of Mexican Folk Art because of how vibrant they are and the animals they represent. They have inspired me to create not only one Mexican Folk Art study, but a whole series of Folk Art pieces. Stay tuned for that series to unfold!

I hope that some part of this blog post was helpful to someone else out there. And if any of you have any thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear your insights in the comments section below.