Inspiration is the magic and the kryptonite of the creative person’s existence.
Right? We love it. We love the pretty things and all the beautiful work that is out in the world. We can look and scroll and pin for hours. But suddenly, when it comes time to do the work we are shockingly uninspired, directionless or unsure of the right path to take. Our inspiration well can seem dry or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, overwhelming.
Collecting inspiration is the fun part, translating it is the magical, but difficult part.
I am currently developing an ecourse called How To Travel Like An Artist, but more than travel, it is about translating the inspiration around you into your craft. Today, I want to share with you how to find, curate and collect the inspiration that is all around you.
I have four main ways I collect inspiration: pinterest, a journal, a mood board and a bulletin board. Four ways may seem like a lot to you, so if you want to start collecting inspiration of your own just pick one to start with that speaks to you the most and will be the easiest for you to maintain. Let’s dive in.
1. Bulletin Board
I use this board to collect my own paintings to curate a collection of color stories, patterns, marks, paint strokes and ideas. I reference these pages often when I am choosing colors and patterns for different projects. I add paintings to it when I find a pattern or color combo that I really like. It serves as my ‘bag of tricks’, the best techniques that I have that I know I can fall back on and are my signature style. I rotate paintings out when they feel old or boring and am always adding to it. I create the paintings from simply playing in my sketchbook.
After reading these two articles (1 and 2) I became obsessed with how Gay Talese kept everything, but not only did he keep things, but he collaged them. There was no rhyme or reason and yet it was all important and so visually stimulating. I was absolutely moved to be a more active documenter of my inspiration. I grabbed a notebook, bought a fancy pencil and started smashing in any and everything that tickled my curiosity. As you can see there are scraps of unused photos, packaging from said fancy pencils, quotes about bees that blow my mind and more. Anything that I look at twice goes in with no rhyme or reason. Because one day I will need these bits of inspiration and I’ll be ready when that day comes. The journal is a great place that has no rules and no expectations. It’s small, cheap and fits right into my purse.
3. Mood Board
Justina Blakeney is one of the most influential artists for me right now. About 90% of my desire to redo my studio was so I could incorporate a mood board like hers. These are simple cork boards that I’ve hung up to create a large space. I simply rip out inspiring images I see. Anything that tickles my fancy. When I see them all up together I can so quickly pick out themes, colors, patterns, textures, clothing, designs that I love. This is the perfect place to keep those postcards, your collection of ‘trash’ and those bits that you just can’t seem to part with. It’s so much better hung up where you can see it and be inspired by it than hidden in a folder. It’s real life pinterest-Tom Haverford style!
Ok, Pinterest is amazing, but you can get overwhelmed with one million pins, plus the overwhelming anxiety to categorize everything perfectly so you can find it later is crushing. Right? Just me? I love a curated board, so much. I love being able to know all my watercolor pins are on my watercolor board for easy reference. But! What do you do with those pins that are just beautiful?! The colors just scream at you! The lines make you want to draw. The pin just inspires you. You put it on your inspiration board. These are pins that serve only one purpose: to visually inspire you. They are not tutorials to follow or things to buy. They are not even something that makes sense. This is where I go when I want to actually create something new and not just copy someone else’s exact version of what I am making. If you look at my inspiration board, it has a lot of animal vertebrae illustrations…Ill never use those for anything. But! The color, the lines, the shape, THAT is what I will use in a painting maybe or an art journal page. Again, this board has no rhyme or reason, no rules, just a photo that catches your fancy.
Bonus tip to take your inspiration collecting to the next level:
Label what inspires you. On the pin or in your journal, make a note of why this image or quote inspires you. Is it the texture, color, lines, etc. Jot it down so you can remember later.
These are the places I keep things that make my head tilt, make me go hmmm, things that I can’t stop looking at or thinking about, but don’t know why. This is where I go when I need to be inspired instead of to a place to copy. I hope this sparks an idea in you for how to start collecting your inspiration! If you want to learn more about translating what inspires you into your craft of choice, be sure to sign up for my mailing list as I’ll send you more info when my new course comes out.
Tell me, what inspires you? Where do you keep the inspiration?