How to Find Inspiration in an Artistic Desert
I’m writing this entry fresh out of my own artistic desert. Dewy eyed and now overwhelmed and unable to sleep with ideas popping in as soon as I close my eyes. It’s not easy, but I have some tricks for getting back to this place when I’ve resolved to give up all art forever.
There are two types of “deserts” I find myself in.
The first is the real deal. A dry void where absolutely no ideas are coming to my mind. I can’t even bring myself to pull out my sketch book to begin doodling ideas because I’ll surely weep.
The second is my cold desert. I actually do have a million and one ideas but they’re all flops or not my style or they’re just not coming to life in the way I envisioned at all.
Inspiration is deeply personal. It takes time to find what gets you back on track.
I can see a lemon in just the right morning lighting in my kitchen and take 20 photos of it while my brain is spouting off ideas. And an hour later it’s just a lemon and the idea stays in my mind or is washed away all together.
My advice is this: take note of when you are inspired. There’s something to it.
For example, I keep a list of the times, places, and things I’m most inspired by so when I find myself in the desert, I can try them out.
- Getting up early to have coffee alone. I find alone time with just my brain and a sketchbook and pen can do the trick quite often. My mom made me a suncatcher and I love watching the rainbows grow along my walls and ceiling as I scribble ideas.
- Art and nature museums. These are for my driest deserts. The ones that make me get out of the house to be surrounded by years of other people’s completed ideas. Something about the mix of freezing AC, tomato basil sandwiches, and dried oil paint makes my heartbeat fast.
- I tend to collect nature books new and old filled with photos, but also books on gardening and houseplants. They’ve spurred some of my very favorite embroidery pieces.
- Going on a walk before sitting down to create. I’ll take Georgia and my phone and take as many photos as I can of colors and bugs and leaves. I also take notes in my phone constantly. Not just on walks, but always. I write down every idea that pops in my mind even if it seems silly and small. Sometimes I understand what I was trying to say…and often I don’t. It’s about paying attention to your mind and where it leads you more than anything.
- Check back over your previous art. Keep sketchbooks and notepads. Many of my current ideas and upcoming patterns are from ideas I had in 2017. Sometimes our ideas can come in handy later when we have more refined skills.
Art is a process and a way of life and if you’re true to your thoughts and ideas, it becomes an extension of you. You’ll begin to find YOUR style. A style that people recognize and admire as yours.
“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” –Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
There is nothing new under the sun. Botanical paintings and embroideries and tapestries have been done. People have been painting fruit and landscapes since the dawn of time. Leave the pressure you’re putting on yourself to be original and brilliant aside. That pressure is the death of inspiration.
Let the simple idea that you are creating be enough. The story of you is what makes your art original, thoughtful, and real.
“Artists love to trot out the tired line, “My work speaks for itself,” but the truth is, our work doesn’t speak for itself. Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them.”–Austin Kleon, Show Your Work!
Piece together the parts of you, practice your craft, try new mediums, take baths, sleep in, get up early, post that drawing you’ve been terrified to show the world.
I am a firm believer that the meaning of life is creation. That’s why I think it’s so painful to find yourself in these deserts and why I think it’s absolutely possible to pull yourself out of them.
Happy creating, my friends.
Books found in Feature Image:
My favorite sketch book, pens, and inspirational books for artists: