Where do you get your ideas?

Inspiration Art Process

“The Ideas aren’t the hard bit. They’re a small component of the whole.” Neil Gaiman

Although I agree with Neil (I’ve had moments of overwhelm when I’ve realised that I can’t fit all of the things I want to paint into a single lifetime), I don’t think it’s true for everyone. When something comes easy to you I think it’s difficult to imagine the absence of it. “Where do you get your ideas?” is one of those off-the-cuff questions artists get asked a lot which there isn’t an off-the-cuff answer to. In fact, it seems I had to write an essay in order to answer it.

My Process

“Often ideas come from two things coming together that haven’t come together before… Good ideas don’t just turn up, you have to go looking for them. Research – reading, looking at pictures, playing with different media – provides freedom from the creative paralysis that comes with infinite possibility.” Shaun Tan

The above picture mosaic shows the inspiration for my next painting. There are three distinct elements of inspiration here:

  1. I paint things I like.
  2. I build on past work.
  3. I combine two or more things that haven’t been combined before

First off, let me explain where these images come from. Like the Shaun Tan quote above says, I do my research. When I see something I want to use in a painting it goes in my epic Evernote folder of Inspiration. Usually, when I’ve saved an image of a piece of art it’s because I like an object in it that I want to use in a painting but sometimes it might be something a bit more subtle such as a posture. I saved the top left image because I like the combination of dangling stars and swing. I saved the bottom images because maypoles are cool. They’re not so much reminders that I want to make art anything like these two pieces, they’re reminders that these are cool objects and I should use them one day. The rest of course is just imagination. I know I want to combine stars/celestial bodies with a maypole in some way so I’ll just imagine various ways of doing this until I find an image compelling enough to begin sketching out.

The image on the top right leads me to my final thought…

Creativity Begets Creativity

I think it’s a natural worry amongst beginners that the ideas might run out; that you might be tapping into a finite resource. I suspect the question “where do you get your ideas?” comes from the same place as this concern. Once you begin creating, however, you quickly realise that creativity begets creativity. You create one thing which generates five more ideas because you want to do something differently next time; change something, add something, subtract something, just generally extrapolate on the theme. Pretty soon, like me, you’ll realise you can’t keep up with the pace that ideas are coming in and the concern will shift to one of how to prioritise. Which idea gets your attention, your most precious limited resource: your time.

Last year I dedicated all of January to doing no creative work except for sketching. The plan was I would only turn the very best of my sketches into paintings. I had an absolute ball but it didn’t work. What I thought were the “best” ideas in January weren’t the “best” ideas in June. I’ve since abandoned the idea of there being a “best” thing to create as far too stressful and inhibiting.

I felt really vulnerable writing this post. I’m probably doing myself a disservice by revealing the nuts and bolts of something so intangible as “inspiration” and making my process a little less magical. Having said that, these are exactly the types of blog posts I like to read most from my favourite artists.

The End.

Defining a Cohesive Colour Scheme for My Art

Since being back in Australia I’ve been offered the opportunity to exhibit at a Melbourne cafe and a couple of other opportunities have arisen that I could apply for. This has forced me to start thinking like a professional artist. I was looking at the paintings I’ve made this year, all together, and realised that all of the different colour schemes didn’t really gel with each other.

I really love seeing an artist’s work all together, looking cohesive. I find it immensely inspiring. That’s something I want to experience one day myself.

As I had the epiphany that my work lacked that cohesiveness, I was in the middle of painting with yet another colour scheme which also wouldn’t match any of the other pieces I’ve finished this year. I immediately stopped working on this piece and decided I needed to paint my next painting in a sort of “Master Colour Scheme”. A colour scheme I could base all other colour schemes off. The idea being, that when I am developing new colour schemes in the future, I can compare them to the “Master” and if it clashes I wont’ use it.

MG 8313

colour scheme acrylic painting_2

colour scheme

These are my staple colours; plummy purples and earthy greens with plenty of neutrals.

There are a couple of colours in the colour mixing grid which aren’t to my taste so I want to be clear that I’m not saying that this is the best colour combination in the world. I am however, very pleased with the results of playing with this palette on a canvas. Probably because I could omit the mauve (vom) and dirty up the mint green with raw umber.

P.S. After uploading this post to my blog, I realised this is essentially my blog’s colour scheme!

The Making of Winkle & Tonk

Painting “Winkle & Tonk” was an exercise in restraint. I’ve often seen selective colour paintings or photographs – that is, when most of the painting is in a neutral colour and only portions of the painting are coloured – and resolved to one day give it a go. I’m not sure if I forgot or was doing an Orwellian double-think trick, but I almost painted Winkle purple before I remembering. Continue reading

Time-Lapse Images of the Tree Swing Series

I had no idea what I was doing when I was painting these tree swing pieces. I was using both new techniques and new mediums, which was probably ill-advised. On the one hand, I’ve now several techniques under my belt which I will definitely use again. On the other hand, I kinda wanted to die when I was rendering delicate branches in pastel pencil. Continue reading