A dozen sips of cool inspiration.
Having a problem coming up with an idea for your next artwork? No matter what your medium is, these prompts should have you working in no time.
- Color exploration. Choose a color you love or a color you don’t use very often. Try it as pastel as you can make it, then gradually deepen it until it’s at its most intense.
- Food. In different styles: an advertising graphic, a traditional still life, an Instagram post.
- Children. A formal portrait or a cartoon.
- Make a collage. Use found items, or snippets of fabric, or magazine photographs, or bits of newspaper painted different colors.
- Create a character. It could be a favorite character from a book or cartoon series; it could be a historical personage, or it could be someone you make up. Draw or paint your character doing different things: planting a garden, going for a walk, playing the accordion, rowing a boat.
- Take a walk with your sketchbook and draw different types of trees you see, or different flowers.
- Take a walk with your camera and photograph everything that meets predetermined criteria: the color yellow, or mailboxes, or fences, or rocks.
- Go to the supermarket and buy an inexpensive bundle of flowers. Arrange them in a vase and draw and/or paint them in different ways—colored pencils, fountain pen, crayons.
- A still life with random found objects.
- Buy clay, wire, and rubber bands, and create a sculpture with them.
- Choose a particularly unique or charming building near your house and photograph it from multiple angles. Then reproduce it either as a drawing, a painting, or a model. If building a model, experiment with traditional and non-traditional materials: sugar cubes, toothpicks, playing cards, candy hearts, plastic cut from packaging, or random stuff you find around the house.
- Make a cartoon of a public figure who is just begging to be mocked.
- If it’s not considered objectionable in your culture, make a representation of God.
- Draw a creature: bird, butterfly, dog, cat, horse, fish, unicorn, dragon.
- Draw a picture of a different art; for example, draw a picture of a statue, or of an embroidery sampler, or of a quilt.
- Make something inspired by a holiday: a valentine, or an Easter basket, or a Christmas stocking, or a birthday cake.
- Draw a fashion illustration.
- Draw something that won’t exist for another hundred years.
- Draw a picture of your childhood home.
- Draw a picture of a place you’ve never been. Maybe a place you’ve only seen pictures of but would like to visit.
- Choose a category for a series: flowers, boots, jewelry, cows, cars. Photograph or draw or paint or sculpt as many as you can in a week, or a month, or a year.
- Doodle. I love zentangle. The internet is full of designs. I have lots of favorites on my Pinterest board.
- Look up folk art of a culture you like, and copy some examples; then make up your own.
- Draw/paint/make something that was popular years ago: pudding pops, videotapes, Boy George.
- Design a building.
- Draw/paint/make a mode of transportation: stagecoach, airplane, Segway.
- Draw or build an elaborate frame.
- Draw or build an elaborate machine or Rube Goldberg device.
- Get some colored chalk and make a design on the sidewalk. Let your kids do it, too.
- Buy an inexpensive pair of white sneakers and design them with fabric ink or fabric paints or dyes.
- Design a new superhero with a fabulous costume and unique powers.
These ideas are just meant to be an inspiration suggestion. Alter them any way you wish. If you make something from one of these ideas, please post it somewhere online (your blog, Instagram, Flickr, whatever), and leave a link in the comments below so we can see.
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A baker’s dozen of beautiful things to inspire you:
Full disclosure: The suggestions listed below may only work for full-time writers and artists or the unemployed. If you have a day job, you might find this article frustrating. Or, you could try utilizing the information below on your days off, or implementing only the tips that fit your situation or schedule.
- Get up. Yeah, I know, it sounds obvious; but if you’re not doing getting up before 9:00, maybe you should try it. Going to bed before midnight helps.
- Drink a glass of water. Your brain won’t work well if it’s under-hydrated.
- Pray, meditate, or read something inspiring. For me, it’s a chapter of scripture. I read, pick out a passage that speaks to me at that particular moment, and rephrase it in my own words in my journal. Then I pray and ask God what He has for me that day, and ask Him to guide me.
- Go to the gym. If you don’t belong to a gym, hop on your bike, work through an exercise video, jog, climb stairs, practice yoga, lift dumbbells, or take a walk. If you’re not doing something that requires total concentration, let your mind wander. Observe what’s going on around you. People-watch. Listen to birds sing. Free your brain to collect inspiration.
- Clear your mind with freewriting. Even three minutes of dumping your worries or just writing down whatever silly thoughts enter your consciousness will help your creativity emerge.
- Plan what you want to accomplish this day. Be reasonable. Writer Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird, recommends giving yourself a small assignment, something that would fill a one-inch square picture frame, something that moves you forward without overwhelming you. Consider all the things you are obligated to do, and figure out a way to accomplish your daily chores while still giving you time to work on your art.
- Eat a healthy breakfast, preferably containing protein. I generally have a cup of coffee and some yogurt while I read my Bible (see #3). Hint—a donut or four cups of coffee do not constitute a healthy breakfast. Fuel yourself for productivity.
Once you’ve done these seven things, you’ve already overcome some of the worst barriers to creativity: inertia, apathy, hunger, thirst, and lack of motivation. Now get out there and make something beautiful and amazing!
Thirteen articles to help you get your creativity on:
- Cute little paintings.
- A trip to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
- What playing the piano does for your brain.
- Wildlife photography in black and white.
- Beautiful waterfalls.
- Lovely ceramics.
- What happens when you let seniors wear costumes for ID picture day.
- I love this artist’s sketches.
- Award-winning quilts. (Click on the small images for enlargements.)
- Instead of aimless surfing, read these websites to increase your knowledge.
- Quotes to ponder.
- Amazing paper sculptures by Nguyễn Hùng Cường.
- Something you can do to exercise your creativity.