Today’s question is about that mysterious thing called inspiration. Specifically, where do art ideas come from and what inspires me.
I can tell you one thing very easily. It’s not always the same things.
But lets get the question first.
Where do you get your ideas/inspiration? I love drawing landscapes but [don’t always] know what to draw.
I think I’ll tackle this subject in two parts, since ideas and inspiration aren’t always the same thing. Let’s start with inspiration.
Where Does Inspiration Come From?
I get inspiration from a number of places, many of them unexpected.
Movies & Music
For example, I love movies like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and John Carter of Mars.
Epic movies in which characters face huge challenges, daunting hardships and villains of the worst sort, and still come out victorious. Victories often come with losses, suffering and grief, but in the end, their noble deeds leave me wanting to do noble deeds. Most of the time, that means writing something noble, what I’ve come to think of as The Noble Novel.
But it can also affect artwork. A noble painting? A grand drawing? Something that stands the test of time and moves people decades later. That’s inspiration.
I get the same type of inspiration from music, especially classical music. The William Tell Overture (otherwise known as the Lone Ranger Theme.) The 1812 Overture. Bach. Beethoven. Mannheim Steamroller. The Piano Guys! The kinds of music that make my spirit soar, also tend to make me think about making art that soars, too.
Towering thunderheads provide artistic inspiration. The first snow of the season and also the last, especially if it happens to be that kind of snow that comes down in big, fat flakes that you can hear hitting the ground. Gives me a thrill just to write about it!
Rain. Thunder and lightning. The dramatic and often colorful lighting in the evening (I don’t often see the dawn.) The glisten of street lights on a wet street at nighttime.
As you no doubt can tell, it doesn’t always take much to inspire me.
And the things that inspire can change according to my mood, circumstances, and wellness. But you get the idea, I hope. Inspiration comes from all around.
Where Do Ideas Come From?
Ideas sometimes come from all around, too, but they’re not usually on such a grand scale.
Remember that thunderhead I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago? I have seen clouds that have prompted me to do cloud art. I have drawn clouds both from life and from photographs I’ve taken. At one time, I even thought about doing a series of cloud portraits. I do live in Kansas, after all, and we have thunderstorms as a matter of course. There is no lack of subjects for cloud portraits.
But the Flint Hills also present plenty of ideas for landscape drawings. Believe it or not, the vastness of all that distance with so little evidence of population (not even a glow on the horizon in many places) tempts me to try to capture the same bleak beauty.
Water scenes give me ideas for art. Weather gives me ideas for art. Animals do, too.
So Why Is It Sometimes so Hard to Find the Right Idea?
Now we come to the crux of the matter, don’t we?
After reading the rest of this post, you’d think I never lack for an idea to draw. If that’s what you think, then you’re wrong. I often struggle with finding or settling on the right idea.
Too Many Ideas
Part of the problem is that I frequently have so many ideas that I don’t know which one to do next. They all look so good that it’s difficult to pick one and just do it (which is usually what my husband tells me to do.)
The readers touched on this when she said there are so many beautiful landscapes, she doesn’t know what to draw.
Lack of White Hot Passion
Another part of the problem is that I’m hardly ever aware of the kind of passion I think other artists have when they speak of passion for subject. That white-hot fire in the belly that won’t leave you alone. I don’t remember ever feeling anything to that extent. So I’m thinking, “I don’t feel white-hot passion for this, so it must not be the right thing to draw,” even if it is the right thing to draw.
And sometimes, the problem is that I just don’t want to do the same kinds of subjects again. I addressed this issue in a post titled, When You Get Tired of Drawing Your Favorite Subjects, so I won’t do more than just mention here.
What Do You Do When You Can’t Decide What to Draw?
This is where the rubber meets the road. You can have all the great art ideas in the world and still feel stumped.
I don’t know if these things will help you because they don’t always help me, but I offer them anyway.
Pick Something and Draw It
When you can’t decide what to draw, but you have lots of ideas, just pick a photo and draw it. If the ideas are all about equal, this is a good way to get started.
Combine Two or More Ideas
You might also try combining the best parts of several photos into your own composition. That’s perfectly all right, even if you are drawing a specific location. If you don’t want to do that, try drawing the most significant part of the landscape. A tree, maybe, or a pond.
Do a Series of Small Studies
Something I like to do is small studies. One or two colors of pencil on colored paper keeps me from getting bogged down in detail. If you sketch fairly quickly, you can work your way through a collection of photos in a few days. It’s entirely possible that one will grab your attention enough for a more complete drawing.
And even if that doesn’t happen, you’ll have a nice collection of sketches when you finish!
Don’t Focus on Passion
If you have the “passion problem” that I described, then the best thing to do is ignore the idea of passion in art. Draw whatever appeals to you and call it good. We’re not all made the same. There are different levels of passion and some feel it hotly and some feel it temperately. I, for one, have an easier time feeling compelled to do something than feeling passion to do that thing. Maybe compulsion is some form of passion. I’ve been told it is.
Whatever the case, don’t let the way other people react to their work dictate how you react to yours. If that’s what you’re doing, it’s sure to stifle your natural creativity.
I hope I’ve answered this reader’s question (and that of anyone else dealing with the same issues.) Art ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere. At least for me.
I feel like I’ve gotten a bit off track, but this is something I wrestle with on a regular basis, and I can tell you from experience that there have been times when it totally shut down the creativity.
Whatever else you do, don’t let that happen to you!