Skip to content

How to get past those droughts of inspiration and lack of ideas

November 5, 2010

Often it is the process itself, looming before you, that can get you ‘stuck’ on a new project. Here are some tricks and tips to help you through the sticky parts of the process.

First you’ve got to come up with ideas. Brainstorming words, grab a notebook and just start writing words, funny words scary words, nouns, adverbs, if you know what theme you are wanting to do art for do words that go along with that. if you want to do a piece with a clown, start brainstorming ideas on paper, then you can mix and match, suddenly you look down and see elephant over here and juggling chainsaws over there and you write them down together, elephant juggling chainsaws, then you add another thing or two, and you’ve got “clown elephant juggling chainsaws on the tightrope.” Ok there’s one idea that sounds fun to do a thumbnail drawing. Get several of those ideas, then either pick your favorite or ask others which they like best and do that one.

If you have a format that you have to fit (a circle, a 3×9 rectangle, 8×10 vertical, square, etc.), I like to go into Adobe illustrator and make a sheet of the shape in the exact proportion. I make the shape white or clear and give it a black stroke. This forces me to deal with the composition while I sketch.

Try and do your sketches small and quick. Working small will help you to not get bogged down in the details. Fill a page or more with different approaches (try out different points of view, different emotions, etc). Don’t worry at this point that you don’t remember exactly what a chainsaw looks like. Just get the jest of it, even if nobody else looking at your drawing could figure out what it is. It’s helping you transition from words to pictures.

Hopefully now you have a little drawing or drawings that you like. If you have more than one try combining them, you can do this with scissors and tape and a copy machine or in the computer. (If you don’t have any sketches you like you might want to try one of the other ideas you brainstormed.) Move things around and change it until you are happy with the overal layout.

Now go get reference! That chainsaw needs to look like a chainsaw. Google works pretty well for some things. But, if there are people in your scenes grab a camera and a friend and have them get into the right position, take a picture with the digital camera and pull that up on the screen. Now on your screen you’ve got an elephant, a chainsaw, a tightrope, and maybe a photo of a friend doing the pose up on the screen.

Blow up your layout on a copy machine or the computer and throw some tracing paper over it. I’ve been using my screen as a light table recently, taping the tracing paper to the screen and ghosting back the sketch in Photoshop. But you could do that on a light table if you have one. Now you should be able to tighten up your drawing and improve it, add detail, get the expression right, etc. you should end up with a pretty cool drawing on tracing paper.

Now take that off the screen or light table or whatever and tape it to a white board. Scan it or take a photo. You can fine-tune it in Photoshop: clean up the line work, cut and paste, move things around, scale them, breaking things out into layers will make for easier manipulation. Once you get that drawing rocking post it on an art forum like in the critique center and get feedback. You can probably do the tweaks in the computer.

Ok, you’re ready to paint. Have fun!

Also find what gets you’re creative juices going that isn’t distracting. Try listening to music, audio books, movie sound tracks, podcasts, ambient music, atmospheric music, etc. maybe what works on one day won’t work on another. It’s good to develop a ‘bag of tricks’ to get you through. I like listening to movie sound tracks, like Indiana Jones. or listening to audio books while I paint. They keep my left-brain occupied. But if I’m working on the brainstorming or writing, I’d rather listen to ambient music or soundtracks.

Through some trial and error you can find what works for you. Just don’t say, oh I’m most productive while I’m watching ‘the Simpsons’ and not realize that you’ve say there for thirty minutes and not done any work. You’ve got to find what makes you the most productive.

, Steven

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 5, 2010 2:47 pm

    I really liked this article (=
    Thanks for posting super artistic, creative ideas


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s