Sometimes, You Need to Inspire Your Art With Non-Art!
Sometimes, you just don’t feel inspired.
It’s okay, it happens to the best of us.
- there’s life stuff happening
- your current style is starting to feel stale,
- or maybe you just want to try something new.
The good news is this: there are many ways to get inspired, and they don’t have to be art related.
Sometimes when I am looking for ideas or inspiration for my art, I look to the outside world. I quickly realize we are literally surrounded by ideas and inspiration. It just takes the understanding that as important as it is to keep going, to keep doing the art – it’s equally important to stop, take a break, and look for new ways to be inspired.
Here are 10 of my favorite ways to “get out of my own way,” so to speak. I hope these help inspire your art, too!
It’s a given that you might have some art books to turn to for inspiration, but what about other books? They can be just as inspiring! If you are a lover of fiction, you might find new ideas in the themes of your latest book, the descriptions, or even the plot. Non-fiction can be just as good. I have a handful of photo books about history, nature, and photography that I can flip through when I’m feeling lost for ideas. It’s also okay to take a break from your art to sit and read for a while if you are in creative burnout, or simply stuck.
I am often inspired by song lyrics. Many times, one line from a song has lodged itself in my brain and refused to leave. That same line can be a great inspiration for my art, whether I use the lyric itself, or just get inspired by the song’s meaning or how it makes me feel. I shared in my last post how I was inspired to create my painting Clubbed to Death. But that’s not the only time songs have led to paintings for me. If you’re searching for song inspiration, go back in listen to the lyrics of old faves, or search out new songs that give you that creative zing.
3. A prompt:
My art teacher loves to give out random, interesting painting prompts. At first, I wonder “How the hell am I going to paint that??” But after I think about them, I often come up with something good, and these have turned out to be some of my better paintings! Here are some prompts I’ve been given:
Paint how a cat feels under a tree on a warm summer day:
Make a painting based on the song Viva Las Vegas by Elvis Presley:
Paint how a mouse feels in your kitchen. (This one is still in progress).
As you can see, these prompts get you to think a little differently and approach a painting with this idea in mind and come up with the best way to get that thought across. It can be realistic, or abstract! Many websites have creative prompts, writing prompts, etc. – or you can obviously come up with your own.
Here is a fun one to try: it’s an art prompt generator ArtPrompts.org
This site has a list of 20 prompts that are pretty outside the box: 20 Artistic Prompts
A good quote can be a great inspiration for a creative artwork or even a whole series of artworks. After famed writer Toni Morrison died, I saw her quote “If you want to fly, you have to give up the shit that weighs you down” online a lot. It got me thinking, and then it got me painting. In the end, I painted a portrait of Toni and included the quote on the portrait. I would have never done that had I not seen that quote several times, and started thinking about how personal it felt.
In June, our family went on vacation to New Orleans. One of our “must-sees” was the New Orleans zoo. I love me a good zoo or aquarium. I took lots of photos. When we got back home and I uploaded my photos to my computer, I started to realize that my zoo photos were also good art inspiration photos.
Movies can be endless supplies of inspiration, if you watch them in “paying attention” mode. My art mentor often paints paintings inspired by a movie he just watched. Maybe it’s the way a scene is lighted, or the was a person is standing in a certain scene. Even the scenery or the way a set is staged. It’s all good inspiration if you know how to look.
Another thing my art mentor does occasionally is have us watch movies that have a particular artistic value. We watch it while paying attention to how the director set things up, what was included in a shot and what was left out, etc. Two movies we watched this way are Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Ridley Scott’s Alien.
7. Your surroundings:
It doesn’t matter if you’re in the city, out in the country, in your hometown, or on vacation. Your surroundings always have something interesting going on that could spark an artistic idea. Maybe it’s the color of that particular building, the busyness of a festival, the way the light hits that tree. When you find yourself out in the world, take time to pay attention to your surroundings. It helps if you have your camera with you, that way you can go back to that particular spot later.
8. Your feelings:
Painting your feelings is a classic artistic idea, in fact the Fauvists made an entire movement out of it (the founder of Fauvism, Paul Gauguin, believed colors could express our feelings about a particular subject. When you’re upset, angry or sad, painting your feelings can sometimes pull you out of it. And even if it doesn’t, you can often be left with some raw, powerful pieces of art that connect with many viewers on a whole other level. Painting your feelings when you are happy, in love, or just feeling good can also translate well for the people viewing your work – who doesn’t love looking at something that makes them feel inspired?
We all have good and bad memories. It’s okay if you have ones you’d just rather forget, if that’s the case try to focus on some good or comforting memories and see if there is any art inspiration in those. If you are okay with it, you can also mine your not-so-good memories for ideas, too. Just like painting negative feelings, dealing with negative memories through art can help take some of the power away from those memories. Only do this, though, if you are okay with bringing up dark times and are certain you will be able to handle the feelings and thoughts that come with those memories.
Another thought is to remember stories and memories relatives have told you throughout your life. These not only translate to a great artwork, but also help honor those family members and their lives.
Objects can be a great art inspiration. Man made or found in nature – it doesn’t matter where we stumble across the object, just that it sparks something in us. If you’ve traveled and collected souvenirs from other places and countries, they can often lead to great art. If you come across an interesting shaped rock, part of a nest, or some seashells you can collect them and bring them back to your art space.
So there you have it! Art inspiration doesn’t have to be found just in the studio or your art corner. Life fuels art, and life is happening all around us. Sometimes we get stuck in life and forget to look around and see all the cool and amazing things that are surrounding us every day. If you have found things are getting stale, take a break and look at the things outside your art. Even if you don’t come back with a brand new idea, it might help reset your brain enough to help you create your art.
Good luck, and let me know if you have any great sources of inspiration I haven’t mentioned. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.
Looking for more inspiration? Try 6 Artists Who Inspired Me When I Was Learning Mixed Media Art
Photo credits (in order):
Girl with book:
Man with headphones:
Old world buildings:
All other photos were taken by me.
- Mixed Media Art Tutorial From Start to Finish: Moon Girl Portrait - September 29, 2020
- Video: My Thoughts on Coronavirus as an Artist - March 19, 2020
- We All Start Somewhere: What Our Old Mixed Media Art Can Teach Us - March 11, 2020