Today I wanted to talk about 5 things I simply must have to create illustrations, paintings, and sketches consistently and reliably. Maybe these things will be the same for you, or maybe they'll just inspire you to find your own! What I won't be talking about here are things like paper, brushes, pens, pencils, brands, mediums, et cetera because *drumroll* those things don't really matter. Anyone who's ever felt art block and held a quivering pencil over a blank sheet of paper will know that the tools don't make the art for you. No one can tell you what pencil you'll like best, what medium will call to you, or how to make things the way that speaks to you and reflects you as an individual. Hence, art-making is a journey.
What I will talk about here are the things I take on that journey with me that help me create; things that help me proactively make art that I find fulfilling and enjoyable. I really never have artist's block that I can't easily get past because of these things. Note before I start, this post isn't sponsored by anyone, and any sites or businesses I recommend are simply because they help me and they might help you.
Things That Inspire Me In My Space
I'm a natural science, animal, and biology nerd, so I surround myself with cruelty-free preserved specimens, bones, taxidermied animals, flowers and plants, minerals, and the widest array of pets I can manage in my tiny apartment (currently a range of fish and a young corn snake named Margot). I also read books about natural science and watch a ton of documentaries on the same subject.
I'm an art nerd too, so I have an obscene amount of art books, prints and stickers from other artists, way more illustrated children's books than an adult without children should normally have, and books of old scientific illustrations. I also subscribe to art magazines and follow a billion artists on social media sites like Instagram and Behance. I don't look for inspiration in art that looks like my art, I look at everyone's art and find things I love about it and would like to try.
So you get the idea - make your art space a place that inspires you and you won't have to look very hard for inspiration. I also like to extend this idea by going to inspiring places when I'm not at my desk as often as possible and using any available excuse to get me there. For example, I wrangled my husband into taking me whale watching on Puget Sound for my 30th birthday. I don't really care about birthdays, but I do care about whales! #everydayimhustlin
Last thought on your art space - we all have days we aren't feeling it. But if you have a deadline or some other reason that you want to make something anyway put a little extra love into your space for your self. I like to light a candle, make some coffee, put on a podcast, and even spritz some essential oils in the air so I feel cozy and comfortable where I'm working. Do whatever little rituals work for you.
Different Sketchbooks For Different Moods
For those of us that do keep sketchbooks, or even those that don't because they find them intimidating, I find it's best to have several going at once . This way I don't feel like I'm ruining a nice sketchbook with ugly things or putting something nice into a big pile of ugly. I like to have a small and hideous scribble book (that I know I'll probably throw out in the end) for taking quick notes about composition ideas. I also like to have a multimedia sketchbook where I can use paints without struggling with thin, warping paper. But because I haven't found a non-ew factor multimedia sketchbook that works for me, I don't like to make those books places I spend a lot of time in. So I use a Moleskine I like for pencil sketches of things I want to explore, techniques I want to try, and even things I need to draw to scan into the computer for further editing. Before I started having this multi-book system I'd often find myself wanting to make a mark but feeling like it didn't fit my sketchbook so I wouldn't end up doing it. Now I just pick up the right book for the right mood and don't worry about it.
Inspirational Educational Resources
I can't overstate how important this point is. I never get stuck not knowing what to do because I've always just watched 10 videos of things I want to try. Fantastic resources for learning are: Youtube, Skillshare, Schoolism, SVS Learn, and even Creative Bug. These all have different emphasis, costs, and vibes so look around to find one that suits you and drink it in.
Ways To Make Products With My Projects
Finding places that you can upload your artwork for print-on-demand services like Redbubble or Society6 or Spoonflower is a great start. You'll begin to have ideas for products, or be able to take existing work you've made and apply it to things that people might want to buy. The next step is finding sites that you can buy an even wider range of wholesale products from that will put your art on them. I like to use Awesome Merchandise where you can get prints, bookmarks, tea towels, banners, notebook, stickers...just about anything you'd want to put your art on is there to be made for you and taken to local shops or sold to your customers online. These things get you thinking about different formats, techniques, and media that you might not otherwise have used and can keep you feeling creative. I've sold hoodies and shirts supporting the #emptythetanks movement to people is Norway, Australia, and Canada to name a few - places I've never even been where someone is wearing my artwork and helping spread a message I believe in, and that's a great feeling that keeps me excited to make more things.
A Set Intention That Enables Me To Create
This one is last but not the least important. Say you have art block, or just a bad art day. Who cares? Decide you're going to make something. It might not be the best thing you've ever made, but you created something and that matters for lots of reasons. It keeps the flow going and also gives you a chance to practice your craft. If you don't feel inspired, take the day to practice studying values, or soft and hard edges, or composition, of color combinations. You'll be better prepared to knock it out of the park next time an amazing idea strikes you. Having a set intention that you ARE going to make something takes a lot of fear away that you'll stop being able to because the muse hasn't alighted uponst thine shoulder like a bluebird in a Disney film. You don't need the muse because you have an intention instead.
If you're feeling stuck, I hope this post helps knock something loose for you. And if you have ideas that you think should have been a part of this list please leave a comment below so we can all learn from each other. See you next week and in the meantime stay wild and create something!