How to stay inspired

In order to make art you need inspiration. Without it you’ll either find it very difficult to create something or what you create will turn out superficial and insincere.

This past year my inspiration has been constant. Whenever I’d finish a piece I’d feel nervous wondering if I’d be able to think of something new to create next time. But by the time it came to create something new I always seemed to have an idea to translate into art.

I wouldn’t say I’ve been lucky because it wasn’t luck that allowed me to create amazing pieces of art. I was exposed to various things that stimulated my inspiration and allowed ideas to form and take hold in my mind.

For this blog post I decided I’d share a few ways I keep inspired. They may not work for everyone but if you are struggling to come up with new ideas, you may as well give these a shot.

Books and Poetry

Now these are both similar and both very different forms of inspiration. A book can be a great source of inspiration when it comes to a basic idea or theme; perhaps a particular scene generates a new idea. Poetry, for me, is the words, phrases and metaphors themselves that inspire me.

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Both are great sources of inspiration for me, I have already talked about the book Darkhenge that has inspired me countless times. It’s almost like my “go to” for when I’m struggling to come up with ideas. You can read my in-depth blog post on Darkhenge here.

To be honest, any book by Catherine Fisher offers me plenty of inspiration. A few other highlights from her bibliography include “The Candle Man”, “The Snow-Walker Trilogy” and “Darkwater Hall”. If you like your books steeped in mythology and folklore with a modern twist definitely check out her work.

Other books that have inspired me over the years are “Macbeth” by A.J Hartley (look out for an upcoming blog about this next month), “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire and the “His Dark Materials Trilogy” by Phillip Pullman.

Now I’m not as well versed in poetry, I’ve only recently been using it as a source of inspiration, but a couple of authors that stand out for me are Pavana Reddy and Catherine Fisher (yes that Catherine Fisher). I find poetry a great source of inspiration as it conveys a lot of meaning in a shorter amount of time compared to a novel. Also the artistic language used can help kick start your brain to come up with new visions and ideas.

Metaphor Dice

If books and poetry are closely linked, the same could be said for poetry and metaphor dice. Conceived by poet Taylor Mali, “Metaphor Dice makes the formation of metaphors as easy as rolling a handful of dice. Combine one concept (red), one object (blue), and adjective (white), and you’ll have the basis of a metaphor.”

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It’s quick and easy and if you get something you don’t quite connect to, simply roll again!

Buy your own dice here.

Music

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know exactly what I’m going to say here.

Music would have to be my biggest resource when it comes to inspiration. But not just any old music. Chart music is generally a no. it’s too shallow and vapid to actually inspire credible art. To find music that speaks to you, you need to look off the beaten track. Something with a niche market,  and a non-mainstream genre (other than pop and all that relates to that such as other mainstream genres like hip-hop, r&b etc.) – my personal choice is Metal or more specifically Symphonic Metal. Think about those big epic film scores. Then add some heavy drums and guitars. Then add some ethereal female vocals. Then add some poetic lyrics and there you will find Symphonic Metal.

Everything you need to give you new ideas is there. There are plenty of amazing SM artists out there. My choice is Within Temptation, but you have bands such as Epica, Tarja, The Dark Element, Evanescence, Leaves’ Eyes, Lacuna Coil, Amaranthe (even though they are more modern/alternative metal it can still inspire).

Art

Seems like a no-brainer really. I guess there’s probably stigma around being inspired by other artists. People might be wary of using other artists’ work for inspiration out of fear of “copying” their work. Unless you are consciously creating something that has the same components, or using a unique technique that appears in the original then you have no need to worry.

Use this rule of thumb; do you think someone could accuse you of copying someone else when comparing the two pieces? If the answer is yes then it is safe to say you most likely are copying them.

If your piece is based on the theme of another artist’s piece or your colour palette is inspired by them then that’s completely fine. We all want to create art that touches people, something they can relate to – so if that just happens to be another artist, we’re still doing our job.

Personally, classic fantasy artists such as Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell and Ken Kelly have hugely inspired me. I even wrote a blog post about this inspiration back in August, you can read about it here.

Don’t just think about artists within the last century or artists in the same field as you, art from anytime in the past and any medium can inspire you. One such inspiration for me was Thomas Cole’s “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden” which was a painted in 1828.

As you can see – I didn’t copy the original image but you can definitely see that I drew inspiration from it.

Stock

Sometimes the very resources you use can inspire you. That is never truer than when looking through stock providers’ work. Their original photography serves as the base of my image. Without them, my images wouldn’t exist. Eventually the ultimate goal would be to create my own stock but until then their work is invaluable.

Recently I posted a blog, a love letter really, to stock providers – read it and find out how they serve as a constant form of inspiration for me.

Every now and then you see a stock image and immediately an image forms in your head and you know how you want to use it, what you could add, what the symbolism could mean and suddenly you’re halfway to the finish line, all because of one image.

The most recent example of this would be my piece “The Veil of Dreams” which was inspired by a stock image by LadyxBoleyn. I even wrote another blog post about it, read it here.

So don’t discount Stock images solely because they’re a “tool” to aid you in your vision. Sometimes they’re more than that, sometimes they’re the spark that creates your vision.

Nature & Meditation

As regularly as you can getting back in touch with nature is always a sure fire way to clear your head and allow room for new ideas to form.

I love going for walks through old forests, ruined abbeys, by the sea. As if the endless landscapes create endless opportunities. Over the summer I took a trip to Grey Abbey and while it was more to create stock images I could use in future art it was still a nice break and allowed myself to recharge.

There’s just something about the tranquillity and silence of nature that calms me and allows me to create. If I could move my computer out into the forest I would!

Another good practise to get in the habit of (not just for art, but in life) is meditation. Clearing your mind through meditation works in much the same way as nature. I use the Buddhify app and it works wonders.

Dreams

Again, sounds like a no-brainer but I understand why dreams aren’t probably used as much as they should be when creating art; because it’s so difficult to remember them!

If you remember them they can hold a wealth of inspiration and they’re something you should endeavour to record daily. In my experience the best way to do this is to keep a journal by your bed and as soon as you wake up write in it before you do anything else. Sometimes you just wont be able to remember what you dreamt and that’s fine, getting in to this routine takes time and practise. So don’t be worried if you don’t get it right away, you will do in time. And with that you’ll be able to recall your dreams more easily.

I’m guilty of not utilising this source of inspiration often. I can’t remember the last piece I created that was inspired by a dream, if I had to guess it was probably over 10 years ago. Keeping a dream journal is something I think I will start to do again because some of the dreams I had were very creative. Back then I didn’t have the necessary skills I needed to bring my dreams to life so it will be interesting how that will change now that I’m more experienced.

Ideas Journal

Closely following your dream journal you should also keep an ideas journal. This differs from the dream journal because you bring this one with you wherever you go and anytime an idea comes to you, you write it down. It doesn’t need to be a five paragraph artist’s statement, doesn’t even need to be full sentences, whatever you need to convey the image is all you need. Stick figures? Sure, a few choice words and a quick doodle? Why not. Even if you see something in a magazine that sparks your interest cut it out and stick it in. it just means that whenever you’re ready to create you can go through your journal and pull your inspiration from there.

It doesn’t even need to be a physical journal, the notes app on your phone does the same trick. I’m just old school so actually prefer the action of writing something in a book, but whatever floats your boat.

Social Media

This is probably one of the most important tips when trying to inspire creativity. Whilst I think we all spend too much time on computers or glued to our phones you can’t deny the power of social media. It’s a great tool when promoting your art and also a great tool when connecting with other artists.

If you have an account such as Instagram it would be beneficial to get rid of all the “influencers” you follow – honestly they do nothing for your creativity, all they do is feed your insecurities – that is something you don’t need when trying to remain inspired.

Instead follow artists, art accounts, design accounts, magazines, art departments, musicians, hell, even follow a few typography accounts because in the end it all feeds your inspiration. If you see something on an art account you love, check if the account has tagged the artist, if so go and follow them if you like more of their work. Keep liking art-related images and eventually your “discover” page will be full of great art that will nourish your creativity.

Some of my favourite accounts for you to start with are:

I hope these tips will help you in your journey to continued inspiration. These work for me, but everyone is different, so try them out and see what you think. Also keep in mind some require effort on your part. Inspiration isn’t a “lightbulb” moment. Most of the time you have to hunt for inspiration, dig it out of the dark corners of your mind, like you’re walking through a dark house with only a single candle to light your way…