5 Things You Can Do When You Need Inspiration

You want to paint, draw, sculpt, design something, write a song, whatever. Maybe it’s for a client, maybe for yourself. It happens on occasion that you have just zero idea of what to do, no inspiration. Nothing. It’s not a big deal, certainly nothing to worry about. It happens. And it’s easily handled. Here are a few things I do to overcome these moments.

1. Look at other people’s artist portfolios.

This is always helpful and inspiring to me. I use Pinterest a lot for this, and just do a search for whatever it is I can’t seem to do at that moment. “Magazine page layout” or “Mixed media painting” or whatever. Find a creation that inspires you and then see if that artist’s website is linked. Or do a separate google search for that artist’s website and portfolio. You’ll be amazed and how inspiring this can be. It’s usually all I need to get rolling again.

Here’s one artist’s portfolio I was looking at today actually…for inspiration. He’s am amazing artist and designer. There’s something really nostalgic for me about his work. Reminds me really good times with glue and scissors and markers, making collages I did as a kid, erasing supermodel’s eyes on magazine covers so they looked white, or blacking out some teeth with a sharpie. Writing notes with cut magazine letters, etc.

His name is {ths} aka Thomas Schostok. His website is http://www.ths.nu/.

2. Go outside and photograph textures.

This point is strange and miraculous to me. Whenever I’ve gone outside and looked specifically for textures of things, paint on walls, metal pipes, concrete, stucco, rust, wood, beehives, and taken some nice closeup shots of what I find, I’ve ALWAYS gotten at least one good painting or possibly a whole series out of that activity. These macro shots make amazing backgrounds for design projects, collages or mixed media paintings. Plus you never know what you’re going to find until you go out and LOOK. It’s very therapeutic. Trust me.

3. Work out the ideal scene for the project.

If you have a project for a client, and you just can’t come up with ANYTHING creative, chances are this step has not been done. What would the perfect version of what the client wants LOOK like? Let’s say client wants a logo and has given you a few details of what he’s looking for, what he likes and doesn’t like. If you can’t automatically envision an amazing idea or two for this logo, it’s likely you don’t have enough information to be able to be inspired. What does the company do, make, sell, manufacture, etc.? Who are its public? How to they want to be viewed? If you get enough data about the company and the brand, you’ll get a bright idea. If you still can’t, get more info until you can.

And branding and logo books are super helpful for this too. For inspiration. My favorite logo book currently is “Logo Design Love” by David Airey. Here’s the website/blog for the book:


4. Invent a photo project.

Art projects, like the ones art students do in school, are really helpful to get creative ideas going. So just come up with a single thing to photograph. Like if you were going to make a coffee table book of doors in your town. Go out and take the most beautiful photos of doors in your neighborhood that you possibly can. That should unstick something.

Other photo project ideas that can be done quickly (off the top of my head):

Photographs of things through other transparent things.

Photographs of eyes

Photographs of shadows or reflections or negative space.

These little projects take 30 minutes and can be so helpful. For me it’s just a matter of getting a different view, forcing myself to look outward at life and finding the beauty in things.

5. Buy art and design books that inspire you. Or, alternately, check them out of a library.

Personally, I like to have at least a small collection of my favorite art and design books I find on Amazon. I spend my life on the computer, so I find it helpful to actually have physical pages in actual books to hold and read for art inspiration. I just get books that interest and inspire me on creative subjects that I’m interested in. Branding, logos, design trends, my favorite graphic designers, etc. Go to an actual physical bookstore and look through the art and design books. Or whatever creative subjects you need inspiration for. Find something that creates an effect on you and BUY it. Or do the same at a library, if you don’t want to spend money on books. They can get expensive. It’s nice to have them onhand for those uninspired moments, though. I go back to my favorites ALL THE TIME. And consequently, my uninspired moments are just that…moments.

XO, dreX