As artists, we oftentimes find ourselves holding a blank sketchbook; eager to fill it up with sketchbook ideas, drawings, and random doodles to the brim! We get all giddy, buying these beautiful art materials which we can use in our new creative project. And then, the inevitable happens – we get paralyzed and anxious by the fear of starting. What if I ruin the notebook? What if I don’t do this right? This article talks about overcoming this roadblock, developing a regular sketching habit, and the different ways on how to find inspiration for art, everywhere around you!
We know that it can be quite daunting to just begin this habit, but we are here to help you overcome whatever it is that’s stopping you. With that, we will also provide you with very practical tips and bits of advice that you can use on how to find inspiration for art, broaden your list of sketchbook ideas, and begin your creative journey. Continue reading along!
HOW TO BEAT THE CREATIVE BLOCK? The key to success is to just ask why.
It comes as no surprise that every artist suffers from a seasonal creative block. Yet, the duration varies from person to person. Don’t fret though, because creative blocks are not something to be fearful about! Rather, we must accept the universal fact that like our bodies, our minds also need to recharge and recover once in a while. Creative blocks are your mind’s way of telling you that you need to get out there, rest your mind, and be inspired again.
This delay is often caused by a lot of factors, and we know the picture quite well: You’re confused. You don’t know where to begin. You had your mojo on and the discipline to do your art a few weeks ago, but now you seem to have completely lost the creative flow. Hey, you’re not alone! It happens. And though it might seem difficult to get over this phase, we’re here to let you know that with the proper mindset and environment, you most definitely can! Beating creative blocks entail that we do what makes us feel relaxed, refreshed and rejuvenated mentally, whatever that may be.
“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein
Accomplishing any task begins with the right mindset. We can train and condition our mind to think about what we want to achieve! In this case, we want to develop the proper mindset the get our creative and artistic juices showing and flowing!
You might find yourself asking this question often: How to find inspiration for art? The first rule in beating a creative block is to have a curious mind.
“Curiosity is the very thing that pushes us forward through life, driving us to learn more and develop ourselves. It can be defined as a strong desire to know or learn something. We are born curious – children learn about the world around them by pushing this, testing that, learning from their mistakes along the way.” – George Loewenstein, “The Psychology of Curiosity.
Curiosity fuels growth and this is even supported by Albert Einstein’s statement above. Curiosity means that you are always in search of things, looking for new answers to old questions, and new solutions to old problems. It is the hunger to always know more, and the same concept applies to art-making. When we are in a state of mental stagnation, developing a mind that is always searching and asking can help us overcome that mental roadblock.
The good thing about this? All artists are naturally curious! However, it is our duty to keep this curiosity alive. Now, going back to our question — how to find inspiration for art? Here are a few tips to remember!
- Keep an open mind. There are a lot of things we don’t know yet and have not discovered the answers to, so open yourself to different possibilities of doing things. Understand that there is no ultimate, correct way of doing something.
- Listen and observe: When we keep quiet and let others talk, we understand more of them and their thoughts. Seek first to understand, not to explain.
- Be adventurous. Try a different technique in your sketchbook ideas, read a book in a genre you usually avoid, go to an art exhibit you wouldn’t normally go to! Each of these activities opens up your mind to new ways of seeing.
- Ask questions: Ask other artists about their techniques. You will always learn something new from someone.
All inventors, artists, and revolutionaries in history had very curious minds. They became themselves because they had some level of curiosity. They didn’t just fall into their chosen careers, but rather, something inside them asked a question that needed to be explored. One curious mind who changed the world for the better is Martin Luther King, whom many artists adored for his heroism and his quest for peaceful conflict resolutions, positive social interactions, equality for all people.
This desire to find answers, to discover the truth, to be the best that we can be is what drives a seemingly ordinary human being to become someone great! To start, all we need to do is to wonder.
SEEING FAILURE AS A STEPPING STONE
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” – Thomas Edison, world-renowned genius and inventor of the light bulb.
When you begin to think that there is really no failure in life, but rather mere stepping-stones to success, you begin to see things in a different way. All the great leaders of the world will tell you that failure is only failure when you think of it that way.
When you see ‘failure’ as a discovery, you’ll know that encountering these things will also show you countless possibilities and discoveries. You might not find what you are looking for in that specific instance, but you will discover something else! How wonderful is that? Nature works that way.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVITY
Being around friends, family, and acquaintances who encourage us in our dreams is an epic key to success. Stay with people who give you the drive and encouragement that you need. Put up words of encouragement on your bedroom wall, mirror, and gadgets! These little nuggets of positivity will help motivate you on a daily basis. Write down fun and positive sketchbook ideas which will help you answer how to find inspiration for art. When feeling down, remind yourself that the journey to creativity is always fun, inspiring, and uplifting. At the end of the day, there are no losses; but only gains.
CHECK YOUR GOALS
Once in a while, it helps to check our goals in doing the things that we do. Are they aligned with what we want to achieve in the long run? Do you want to produce the perfectly symmetrical, visually striking, and balanced drawing composition? Or do you want to have fun, be better than you were yesterday, and the best that you can be today? Hey, you know what they say — Great things take time!
TRUST AND ENJOY THE PROCESS
As you create every day, you will dabble on many different techniques that work for you, and discover how to find inspiration for art. What medium do you work best with? What gives you inspiration? Which sketchbook ideas spark your creativity? No two artists are the same! Knowing the answer to these questions will not only help you discover your artistic identity, but allow you to broaden your horizon as well.
Wabi-Sabi: the beauty of imperfection
There is a traditional Japanese philosophy called “wabi-sabi” that is a world view centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.
Today, the term “Wabi” connotes rustic simplicity, and we can encounter it in both natural and man-made objects of underrated elegance. It can also refer to the accidental beauty that we sometimes encounter upon accidents, random occurrences, and broken material things. “Sabi” is the beauty and charm that is carried in the wear and tear, in the impermanence of things, the fleeting moments. In today’s Japan, the meaning of wabi-sabi is often condensed to “wisdom in natural simplicity”.
In art books, it is typically defined as “flawed beauty”.
According to the Zen philosophy, there are seven aesthetic principles in achieving wabi-sabi:
- Kanso — simplicity
- Fukinsei — asymmetry or irregularity
- Shibumi — beauty in the understated
- Shizen — naturalness without pretense
- Yugen — subtle grace
- Datsuzoku — freeness
- Seijaku — tranquillity
Now, how does wabi-sabi help on how to find inspiration for art?
A great example of wabi-sabi in creativity is the art of kintsugi, where cracked pottery is filled with gold dusted lacquer as a way to showcase the beauty of its age and damage rather than hiding it. The fault is not hidden but highlighted.
“Wabi-sabi is a different kind of looking, a different kind of mindset,” explains Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author of Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House. “It’s the true acceptance of finding beauty in things as they are,” he says.
Translated Vase Thousand, Yee Sookyung, 2012. Ceramic shards, epoxy, 24K gold leaf. Dimensions variable, Korea Artist Prize, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea.
What does it take to embrace Wabi-sabi in your life?
In order to practice wabi-sabi in life and art, you just need to embrace yourself! You don’t need money, or any special skills to appreciate your imperfections and make the most of the life you are living. It takes a mind that’s quiet enough to appreciate muted beauty, courage not to fear bareness, and the willingness to accept things as they are — without ornamentation. It depends on the ability to slow down, to shift the balance from doing to being, to appreciating rather than perfecting — accepting yourself and building on what you already have in life.
Embracing wabi-sabi is as easy (or as difficult) as understanding and accepting yourself — imperfections and all. It’s about being compassionate with yourself as you are, and building on whatever there is — not feverishly trying to rebuild yourself in order to pose as something else entirely.
How To Find Inspiration For Art
Now that we have discussed the most effective ways to combat creative blocks, and applying wabi-sabi in life and in art, where and how do we find inspiration for our art-making? Let us discuss!
Collect Sketchbook Ideas
A good practice of artists who have built the habit of constant sketching is bringing a visual diary wherever they go. But first things first — Don’t let the term intimidate you! A visual diary is simply a plain notebook where you dump your scribbles, thoughts, and random sketchbook ideas. A good size would be a notebook that you can fit inside your everyday bag. Ideally, you will bring this out each time a random creative thought enters your mind. It can be while you’re inside the train, when listening to music in the park, or even before you go to bed. It must be handy, sturdy, and since you’ll be needing a lot of this — choose a brand that’s affordable and sustainable! You might want to check out ZenART’s B6 sketchbooks here.
ZenART Supplies B6 sketchbook with spotted cover.
Your visual diary can be a point of reference when brainstorming on how to find inspiration for art-making. Each of our thoughts is unique and special, so do not let them be forgotten! Immortalize your ideas with a simple scribble on your visual diary.
Be inspired in the mundane things
Inspiration comes in many ways, but the most accessible ones are the things that we see and encounter everyday. Let us take a look at some of the things that bring us joy and inspiration, and let’s begin to fill up our visual diaries with sketchbook ideas of these!
Take photos of the places you visit and things you do that spark joy and imagination in you. Glue them on the sketchbook, and write down the date, your experience, and your thoughts besides the photo. You may also do a few doodles on the side to style the photograph! Photos can also be used as a reference – You can start painting/sketching en-plein-air, then finish the paint or sketch at home by using your photo as reference!
2. Little trinkets
Bring home some of the things you loved from the places you visited. It could be shells from the beach, flowers from a garden/park, etc. Find ways of using them in your sketchbook ideas – like draw them, dry and glue them, etc! There are no rules to this, so do what makes you happy. Looking at these things closely, they will also help you in your quest on how to find inspiration for art.
3. Natural things
When you look at nature close enough, you will see a lot of wondrous things. Seeing a flower grow, the chirping of birds in the morning, the leaves that have fallen on the ground, the details of random rocks you see on your way to work. Practice seeing the beauty in the tiniest details of nature. With a pencil, start sketching this on your visual journal in your own artistic style. You can even get a petal or a leaf that you particularly like, and paste it on your journal as a reference and a reminder.
4. Home elements
They say that our homes are a representation of who we are, and what we love. What better way to get the creative juices flowing but by finding it among the things we love the most! Create a still-life set-up of your favorite things, and do a quick sketch of this. It will help you see them in another way, and surely your love for your treasured items will show in your work. Get inspired by the food you prepare, the presence of your family and loved ones, and the experience of waking up and sleeping on your bed. These things, the ones that go unnoticed — are also the ones that give us life and inspiration. Take a closer look, a better look, and appreciate your surroundings.
Play with texture, colors, and materials
Another way on how to find inspiration for art is to unleash the inner child in you and play. Bring out those graphites, colored pencils, markers, paints, what have you! Use them in your sketches and random markings on your visual diary. Remember: The idea is to just begin and explore. You don’t need to follow any rule. This visual diary is as private as the good old journal diary, where you write your most private thoughts and feelings. These sketchbook ideas are completely yours.
If you see a texture that inspires you, do a graphite transfer of this. It automatically creates a work in your journal, which you can play around with! Try mixing inks with watercolors, and pastels with graphites. The possibilities are endless when you begin to wonder. This way, you can also see the properties of the different materials, which medium works with what, and this will help your understanding of mixtures when you create your actual painting.
EXPLORE MIXED MEDIA
What does the term ‘mixed media’ mean? Basically, it’s a combination of different medium or materials in your artwork! Mixing and joining media that are not usually used together can create a lot of diversity and interesting points on how to find inspiration for art in your sketchbook ideas.
Watercolor and ink on ZenART Supplies B6 and B5 sketchbooks.
Ink + Watercolor/Gouache
This is one of the most interesting media combinations to use! In your visual diary, do a random sketch of a still-life set-up. Color your work with washes of watercolor and gouache (be sure not to make your brush too wet, to prevent your paper from tearing apart) and let dry. After which, make doodles of anything under the sun on your composition! Outline your painting, write notes on the side, etc. Explore what effects you can come up with in combining these two. You’ll be surprised at the beautiful outcome of this sketchbook idea!
Acrylic + Graphite/Charcoal
This is one of our favourite media combinations, too! The stark, opaque effect of acrylic paints blend so beautifully with the ephemeral property of graphite. For starters, try painting the entire page with an acrylic color of your choice, then write all over it with graphite. Explore with the effect of the strokes and pressure you put when writing. You can also try to use white graphite/charcoal with very bold colors of acrylic paints like reds, blacks, etc. Combine with the natural lead graphite, and this will create a very interesting dimension in your work.
Pro tip: Make sure that all of your pages are completely dry before turning them and working on the next one! This is to make sure that the pages don’t stick to one another. You can also try putting onion paper in between pages, even after they have dried, just to make sure that the colors don’t blend through the pages.
Photographs + Acrylic Paint
A beautiful and unique combination that can easily go down as one of your favourite sketchbook ideas! Whether you have a Polaroid film, a developed photograph, or just a print-out of your favorite shots — cute and paste your desired photo on a page in your visual diary. It’s better to fill up the entire page, and leave just a few spaces on the sides that will serve as margins. Next, get your acrylic paints and paint on your photograph! Yes, you read that right. Sounds like a crazy idea? Of course not! But don’t go overboard and paint the entire photo, but rather start by adding a few elements of acrylics on some parts of the photo. From there, you will see how combining the two media will affect your work, and you can decide how you want it to turn out from that point on.
Leaves/flowers + Oil Pastel + Graphite
When you have oil pastels lying around the house, but you don’t know how to put them to use, now’s a perfect time! When you see an interesting petal or leaf, keep it so it can be used for your sketchbook ideas. Paste or glue this on your notebook, then using your oil pastels, create drawings that accentuate this element. You can even use q-tips or paper to spread your oil pastel around and create a gradient effect. With your graphite, write down notes beside your artwork. This will bring out the unique beauty of your chosen element, and you can immortalize your thoughts by writing them down, too!
Oil pastel sketch on ZenART B6 sketchbook.
BUILDING A SKETCHING HABIT
Now, it’s time to do the actual work! Another roadblock that most artists encounter is the lack of self-discipline when it comes to creating their work. One of the ways to ensure that we will be able to carry this habit through is by delegating specific time in a day just for journaling
Set a sketching schedule everyday
When you set a designated drawing/sketching schedule for yourself, there are higher chances that you will adhere to this. Squeeze it in your daily schedule as a 20-min sketch in the morning while waiting for the bus, or even a quick 15-min sketch in between lunch breaks. Open your visual diary and check out your sketchbook ideas on how to find inspiration for art.
Carry your visual diary at all times
We will repeat this again, and again: When you think of something creative, write it down. When you see something beautiful, sketch it up. Don’t be afraid to whip out your visual diary. Jot down your notes, and give life to your ideas. Having it handy with you will also build the habit of getting the work done.
Join an artist’s community
We all know the importance of having a support group and friends in our lives. In this case, it’s important to have an artist’s community where you all encourage one another, help your peers on how to find inspiration for art, and motivate each other to strive for your goals! Like we’ve said above, surrounding yourself with like-minded people will increase the creativity and boost the confidence in you. Join the community of ZenART artists that will propel you to begin your journey in art!
Life, and the world around us, was created in an awe-inspiring way. With the right mindset, tools, and people around you — It’s not hard to find inspiration for art, if you just know where to look and what to do. That’s why we’re here to help you every single day! We hope that with the help of this article and the sketchbook ideas we stated above, you begin your art journey today, because there is really nothing to worry about. The first step is the decision to begin.
We hope you liked this article! Do you already have a sketching habit? If so, do you have any suggestions on how to find inspiration for art that you would like to share with our community? And if not, we’re excited to know if you’re going to start with your sketchbook ideas after reading this article! Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. 🙂
Ardak Kassenova is mother, artist and ZenART Supplies co-founder. “My heart and soul were always with Art, and since my childhood as long as I remember myself, I was dreaming to be an artist. I was painting after work, when I had time, and teaching myself through the books, videos, visiting art galleries and museums. I’ve been very curious about different techniques and styles, and therefore accumulated knowledge and experience on a variety of mediums”.
After 20 years of successful corporate career and with becoming a mother to two wonderful girls, she decided that it’s time to make drastic changes and link her life with Art. She started to paint again and decided to create her own art supplies brand that would help artists to fulfil their creative dreams and achieve their best results since the beginning using high-quality art materials without wasting their precious time and money. Say hello to @ardak_zenart on Instagram!
Regina R. is the head content writer for ZenART Supplies. She is a full-time artist, art and literature advocate, and a mother of three cats. On her free days – she likes to cook, knit, and tinkle around with her typewriter while drinking a glass or two of good red wine. Oh, and she loves 60’s music too!