As anyone who makes art regularly will tell you, finding inspiration can sometimes be a challenge. So, for today, I thought that I’d give you a few examples of easy sources of inspiration that can sometimes come in handy if you make art regularly.
Using these sources of inspiration will obviously still require some imagination and artistic skill. If you don’t have many artistic skills yet, then try these things out anyway when you’re feeling uninspired (since artistic skill comes from keeping up your art practice even when you aren’t feeling inspired).
Likewise, as I’ll explain during the article, there’s a big difference between taking inspiration and just copying something (and hopefully, the specific techniques I’ll describe [for how to use the sources of inspiration described in the article] will help you to avoid direct or accidental copying).
So, let’s get started:
1) Television and film: This one is pretty obvious, but it can be an absolute goldmine if used correctly. In other words, DON’T directly copy what you see on the screen but, instead, immerse yourself in a TV show or a film until you have a rather good mental image of the “atmosphere” of the thing that you’re watching (eg: is it bright or gloomy? Is it modern or retro? etc..). Once you’ve got that, then use it as a springboard for your own original ideas.
But, what are original ideas? Although I’m not a copyright lawyer, it is a basic point of most copyright laws that copyright only protects highly- specific expressions of an idea, rather than general ideas. What this means is that, for example, Captain Picard standing on the bridge of the USS Enterprise is an example of a copyrighted character and a copyrighted location design.
But, the general idea of a spaceship captain commanding a spaceship from a ship-like bridge and/or command room is NOT copyrightable. After all, other TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Stargate SG-1 etc.. show captains commanding spaceships and they don’t have to ask Gene Roddenberry’s estate for permission. But, of course, the characters look different and so do the spaceship bridges – yet, “Star Trek” was probably an inspiration for almost every space-based sci-fi show.
So, using general ideas/generic elements (Eg: colour schemes, general types of settings, general character types etc..) in new and different ways should usually be ok.
Likewise, you can also learn new artistic techniques (which you can use in new and different ways) by carefully observing things that you see on TV or in films.
For example, I learnt how to draw mountains covered with a shallow layer of snow by watching a nature documentary on TV the night before I wrote this article. The trick is, of course, to cover the side of the mountain with lots of short, irregular black, blue or brown horizontal lines (and irregular shaded areas) in order to make it look like some of the snow has melted and/or hasn’t covered the stone underneath:
Of course, the idea trying out a new artistic technique that you’ve just learnt can be something that might help you to feel a bit more inspired.
2) Image searches: Using the “image search” feature on a search engine in a very specific way can work wonders if you have a vague idea of the type of painting that you want to make (eg: a rainy city, an old castle etc..), but can’t work out how to make it.
The trick here is not to look at any one specific picture for too long (and certainly not to directly copy any of them in your art!) but to look at as many images of the thing you want to draw or paint as possible, until you feel more in the mood for creating something. Then, close your internet browser, wait a few minutes and then start drawing or painting. The waiting part is important, for reasons that I’ll explain later.
First of all, by seeing lots of different images of similar things within a short amount of time, you help to ensure that your painting or drawing will be fairly original. After all, although you will end up taking some inspiration from the pictures that you saw, you won’t be taking too much inspiration from just one of them for the simple reason that you haven’t had time to study any one picture in a huge amount of detail (since looking at lots of pictures quickly helps you to spot general features, trends, similarities etc..).
Secondly, by waiting a few minutes after doing your image search, you’ll be working from memory alone. Since memory is a slightly unreliable thing, this also reduces the risk of accidental copying. Not only that, because you’ve looked at so many images within such a short amount of time, your memory will probably start to blend them together and conflate them in interesting (and original) ways too.
3) Your long-standing inspirations: Chances are, you probably have a few long-standing inspirations. These are things that often inspire you when you’re feeling mildly uninspired. They’re your favourite types of art, your favourite genres of films, your favourite music etc…. They are the things that you daydream about sometimes. These are the things that have already turned up in your art more times than you can remember.
The trick, of course, is to have as many of these inspirations as possible. Since, when you’re feeling uninspired, it’s possible that some of them might not “work” at that particular moment in time. So, the more long-standing inspirations you have, the more likely you are to find one of them that will actually work for you at that particular moment.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂