The popular myth is that an artist is struck by an idea out of the blue, and HAS to paint it right that minute. Well, the reality is that the ideas don't come from out of the blue. Ideas don't show up as a vision or gift. Inspiration comes because you have made it a regular part of your life. I have read Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit a few times now. In it, she says "If creativity is a habit, then the best creativity is the result of good work habits. They are the nuts and bolts of dreaming." The nuts and bolts of dreaming - that's it right there. The inspiration comes, because you have repeatedly put pencil to paper, brush to canvas, etc.
So you show up. You have your sketchbook, your pens and colored pencils, and you look at that blank page, but there are no ideas. Its a common occurrence, and happens to everyone. So, I have listed some ideas to help you get started.
Try this - commit to drawing simple objects that fit a theme each week. To keep things interesting, vary your materials or approach from day to day. For example, draw one in pencil, one in pen, one day use colored pencil, the next day use watercolor. Or you can go with the flow and use whatever material you feel like using that day. I often like to keep things simple by using the same theme for a week - it saves me from thinking too much about it. It helps to have a list of ideas to draw from, or a schedule so that when you sit down to draw, your theme is already there and you can just start drawing. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Draw everyday things- things in your pantry - boxes of pasta, cans of beans. Things in your closet - shoes, coats on hangers, jewelry. Things in your garage - bikes, tools, gardening tools, Things in your kitchen - the coffee maker, mugs, cooking utensils. Things in your photo albums - people, places you have been, events. Things in your garden or houseplants
- Buy a small bouquet of flowers when you are at the grocery store and draw it for a week - some days, draw the whole bouquet and capture how it changes from day to day. Some days, pick one flower from the bunch and draw it carefully in detail. The next day, draw it again in an expressive way - try to capture how it makes you feel.
- Do an internet search and find photos of places you would like to go and draw them - This is particularly fun - its like going on vacation without leaving your own home!
- Animals - Animals are fun to draw. Draw your own pet or draw someone else's. See if you can bring out the pet's personality in your portrait. Draw them with a favorite toy, or in a favorite spot. Go to the zoo and draw the animals you see there. Draw items in their habitat, or the people enchanted by them.
- Bring a sketchbook or a camera when you go on a hike, then draw your favorite views when you get home, and relive your fun time outdoors.
- Draw your dinner every day for a week. Everyone is always posting photos of their meals, wouldn't it be interesting to see drawings of meals for a change?
- Spend a week drawing things around your house that are red. Next week, draw blue ones.
- Draw sentimental objects that remind you of someone. That necklace you got from your grandma, the tea set from a special aunt. While you are drawing, reminisce about your favorite time spent with them.
Not inspired by my ideas? Here are some other places you can find ideas -
- Jennifer Orkin Lewis has written a wonderful workbook on this subject - Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way - It is filled with prompts and tutorials for filling a book with a sketch every day.
- 100 day projects - The idea of this, is to do one small creative act every day for one hundred days. It sounds like a lot doesn't it? But many, many people have already done it, and you can too. Search up the hashtag #100dayproject on social media and you will find many ideas to get you started. Its your project and you can make it whatever you want. It can be as simple as 100 days of drawing for 15 minutes or 100 days of doodles. Or, you can focus on a subject you want to master, such as 100 days of drawing faces. Whatever strikes your fancy is fair game.
- The Website Daily Paintworks posts a weekly challenge - join the other artists who have committed to painting a small painting every day, and use these challenges as a springboard for ideas. Who knows? Maybe you will have so much fun, you will set up a page on that website and start selling your paintings there!
Inspiration comes when you show up. In the studio drawing or painting, writing at the computer, playing an instrument. I am not a writer or musician, so I can only talk about art here, but if your chosen creative outlet is different, a quick internet search will turn up many ideas. Whatever you do, just keep doing it and the ideas will come!