I’ve been thinking quite a lot recently about sources of inspiration. Creative types are always talking about ‘blocks’, particularly writer’s block, but I think it’s something that happens across the board, whether it’s what to write in an article, blog post or poem, or what to paint, create or sing.
When I was younger I’m sure I annoyed everyone around me by constantly asking ‘what shall I draw?’ I loved the experience of creating something, but lacked the inventive power to think of things myself. I was also growing up without ready access to google! I made do with scouring illustrated books for ones that I liked, and often recreating them (I have countless drawings of Winnie The Pooh and his beloved honeypots). I also remember drawing a lot of clothes and outfits, and pictures from magazines.
But as I grew up, I started to search for more ‘meaningful’ and original things to draw. Something which wouldn’t just be a bad copy of something else, but that which I could apply a style to. It wasn’t until I started painting in watercolour and ink that I developed any style at all (which was around 2012). It was around then that I started to recognise the types of things that lend themselves to my style. The first piece I think I ever painted which I was happy with was my flower bike. The inspiration for the piece was a real-life bicycle I came across whilst Interrailing in Amsterdam. I honestly think that I have a lot to thank that bicycle for! From then I focused on bright colours, more prominent lines, and a slightly relaxed attitude to technicalities.
However, even with an established style and a recognition of things which look good, I struggled sometimes to think of things to draw. I have always managed to draw most freely when I’m visiting new places. Still now, I think my favourite pieces are inspired by places I’ve visited. Venice, Amsterdam, and – for my whales- the Natural History Museum! So, clearly travel, for me, is a huge source of inspiration.
When I can’t be visiting new places, the internet is of course an extremely valuable tool for inspiration. I always try to be over-careful, though, to recognise the rights of others when it comes to images. It’s a fairly tricky area, and even derivations of photos can be unsteady grounds, so I make sure that any inspiration I get from the likes of Pinterest & google images is as abstract as it can be, and that I use open sources such as creative commons if I ever want to copy a photograph more precisely. There are some amazing sources, however, of images which are in the public domain. I’ll share a few of my favourites at the bottom of this post, and these serve as an excellent substitute to exploring the world around us when we don’t quite have the time or resources!
Now, as is probably obvious from my Facebook feed, I spend a lot of time working on House Portraits. In one sense, I absolutely love the fact that I don’t have to search for inspiration to create a painting which is very special to someone. I still feel as though I’m being ‘creative’, as I’m painting it in my own way still, but it’s slightly less draining on my ‘creative energy’. I think buildings may well be my favourite thing to draw, because they can be beautiful even if I don’t get the lines right. In fact, sometimes they look better when I get the lines wrong. I can also apply a level of artistic licence to the colours they feature, or the plants which decorate them.
The downside of spending the majority of my painting-time on House Portraits is that I seem to find less and less time for drawing new things (I seemed to have a lot more time for this last year!). And even when I do sit down to draw something new, it’s sometimes harder because it feels a bit more forced. I’ve started trying to use less technology when it comes to ‘inspiration drawing’ time, because I actually ended up feeling like it was a more negative process as there was almost too much inspiration. Following on from my ‘moon’ valentine’s card, I’ve decided to go back to basics, and the next thing I’m going to paint will be our lovely earth.
Where do you find inspiration?