One of the questions I often get it is: “Where do you find inspiration and ideas?”
The answer would probably be everywhere, anytime. Of course, that is a bit too wide and short for an answer so here goes:
Generally, I get inspired when I least expect it. Personally, I take a lot of my inspiration from everyday things like talking to friends, family, what’s being said on broadcasts, in the news, opinions, reactions, and facts for example. REAL things and facts from REAL life. I like where there’s some inspirational element of truth behind my ideas. This, of course, is different for everyone. For myself, the collection of material seems to have a cumulative effect. The brain strangely connects the input through associations and after brewing for a while the impressions turn into ideas often at the oddest hours of the day, and at a time when I’m trying to relax and are not trying hard at all. (Most likely after you’ve just spent a full day REALLY trying to find inspiration to come up with that ONE idea.)
1. See something new
Now, hands up if you ever have thought: “I need to go away to a nice white sandy beach far away in the sun. I’m sure I’ll get some great ideas laying on a sunbed under the palm trees.”
Traveling is a great way to gain insight and inspiration I find. But. Are you sure you’ll be able to focus on the work itself with that nice white sandy beach and glimmering blue aqua water out there?
I have tried and it didn’t work for me. It just felt like a waste of time to not jump in the water! But for inspiration. Yes, please. (Have a bit of traveling coming up so I’ll try to make a post later on that.)
2. Do something different
How about listening to some new music? Borrow some books at the library or talking to a new person? Take a new way to get to work. Do 5 things in a day that you never have done before. Borrow a book on how things work. See a new art exhibition or go to a museum you’ve never been to?
If I’m thinking about a project I try to go for a long walk to break up the day. I find fresh air clears my head. Getting away from the drawing table and the computer does magic for your back and shoulders as well. Because if it one thing you do as an illustrator, it is sitting hunchbacked over a screen or desk hours to end. As an illustrator, you’re often your own boss, and YOU is all YOU have, so look after yourself and break up the day. I find if I don’t go in the morning, I don’t get out at all… Before you know it, the day starts, emails come in, and suddenly the day is gone.
4. Talk to people around you – and listen
You can learn something from everyone, you just have to find out what it is. Don’t be afraid to ask people around you for knowledge or advice. I find other people often can offer alternative views on a subject, be able to add things or look at things from a completely different angle.
5. Inspiration from personal or special interests
Special interests outside illustration is also a great source of both amusement and inspiration. So you can think of them as pleasure and work at the same time and hopefully shake off that sense of guilt you might have for not sitting 18 hours a day in front of the computer trying to come up with ideas.
My interests are for example; architecture, and yes, travels. I like to follow the news (what’s going on in the world), obscure facts, plants and gardening, food and my friends and family of course. I would probably have more interests if I had the time, there’s just so much out there!
6. Use a sketchbook to note down and draw ideas – any ideas!
A sketchbook is the first place where all my thoughts, notes and research goes. Write or sketch anything that comes into your mind. I have many times looked back at the studies or sketches and found details I’ve been able to use at a later date in a new context. I usually look at the problem from a couple of different perspectives and then you can bounce the approaches off each other.
7. Multiple projects
So, as it is not enough with ONE project to work on, why considering taking multiple projects you might think. I have found it easier to move forward with my projects if I allow myself to work on a couple of projects parallel to each other. That takes the pressure of one particular project and I’ll avoid a block. You might even find you enjoy alternating between the tasks and they’ll all be moving forward nicely. They kind of work like distractions from one another.
8. What do I do – I can’t come up with anything?
First of all, don’t stress. It’ll come to you. Leave it for a while, go and do something different. Go for a walk. Go see a movie. Look at the news. Think about subjects that you care about. Is there something you’d like to change? If you are working on a brief, research the subject and you’ll start to gain insight and ideas on how to solve the brief soon enough. If not, leave it to rest and come back a little later. The difference between a robot and a real person is that a human can come up with unique, new ideas. A robot can’t (yet anyway, who knows about the future!). And unique new ideas takes time. Be kind to yourself.
9. And if I still haven’t got an idea?
Take your best one. It’s ok to fail. We’ve all done it. Learn from your mistakes. Move forward. Get at it again and look at it from a different angle.
Most importantly, have fun! Don’t limit your self! At the inspiration and ideas stage, anything goes. Happy creating!
This is the first post in a series of Q&A about how I work 🙂