"You can find inspiration even when you're not looking for it." — Judy Woodruff
Every creative person experiences artist's block from time to time. Fortunately, this frustrating problem has many simple solutions.
Observing the seemingly mundane aspects of day-to-day life can yield endless ideas and ignite your creativity again and again. So if you're struggling to find inspiration for your next painting or art project, don't despair. The secret is to practice finding inspiration when you don't immediately feel inspired.
Just as your art is totally unique, what fills you with inspiration will also be unique to you. Experiment with different approaches to get to know yourself better and understand your most reliable sources of inspiration. Then you will be able to turn to tried-and-true techniques whenever you're drained of color (pun intended) and struggling to create.
10 Simple Sources of Endless Inspiration
Describing the process of creative thinking, painter Dion Archibald says, "Life inspires me to paint. Painting inspires me to paint." And poet Charles Baudelaire said, "Inspiration comes of working every day."
Both these artists knew the paradoxical truth: Inspiration comes from everywhere and nowhere, and it often comes from the act of making art.
Simply put, you shouldn't wait for inspiration. Instead, you should generate inspiration by putting paint to paper — especially when you don't feel like it.
That said, seeing beauty in your everyday life, being moved by another's work of art, or feeling the excitement of a new idea can be surprisingly motivating. So when your inspiration has dried up, try one of these simple techniques to get the creative juices flowing.
Just remember: whatever you do, don't over-complicate your creative practice. Nothing kills inspiration faster than setting unrealistic goals or putting too much pressure on yourself.
Here are 10 simple ways to seize inspiration and start creating today.
1. Look Inward with Meditation
"When you’re meditating, you’re bringing your consciousness to that centered source of creativity and intelligence. In my opinion, it’s the best way to tap into creativity.” — Tosin Abasi
Whether you call it brain fog or mental clutter, every artist experiences periods of low productivity when they are consumed by fear and doubt. This is where meditation can help.
Even a few minutes of meditation can quiet your mental chatter and create the space you need for inspiration to arise. In addition, studies show meditation can boost focus, lower stress and anxiety, and promote free flowing, non-linear thinking. In other words, it puts you in an ideal head space for generating creative ideas.
Simply put, meditation can help you get out of your own way and eliminate creative blocks, allowing you to take action on the first idea that excites you.
Handy tip: There are many apps that provide guided meditations with daily reminders and timers to take the guesswork out of meditating. If you don't like relying on an app, simply follow these steps:
- Find a comfortable place to sit that is free of distractions.
- Concentrate on your breath, noticing the rise and fall of your belly as it flows in and out of your lungs.
- When you get distracted, simply notice your intruding thought and draw your attention back to your breath.
It's really that simple, and you can't get it wrong.
2. Create a Distraction-Free Zone
"Try to ignore the noise around you: the chatter, the parties, the reviews, the envy, the shame." — Anthony Neilson, playwright and director
Turn off your phone, get away from your TV and computer, stop the hourly trips to the fridge, and use headphones to block out the noise of roommates and family members.
Curate a space for just you and your thoughts to exist. It can be a small desk in your bedroom, your kitchen counter, your balcony, or a meditation corner. Wherever you choose to get creative, make sure the space makes you feel at ease and allows you to truly put everything else aside.
Beautify your space with special objects, inspirational photos, or plants. These can act as an anchor, quickly drawing you back into a creative state of mind each time your return to your space.
3. Go for a Walk
“Walking, in particular drifting, or strolling, is already – with the speed culture of our time – a kind of resistance…a very immediate method for unfolding stories.” — Francis Alÿs
Walking is a form of meditation. And, according to Stanford University researchers, walking can increase your creative output by up to 60 percent. Plus, this creative practice helps the brain to release endorphins and boost mental health.
For artists, walking is an opportunity to discover inspiration in the sights and sounds you encounter. A tree in bloom, a bright yellow house, children playing, or even litter on the sidewalk can stimulate your mind and spark creative ideas.
4. Visit a Virtual Library
"Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world...." — Sidney Sheldon
Sometimes getting out of your head and into a book is all the inspiration you need. Check out virtual libraries, like Open Library, Smithsonian Libraries, and Digital Public Library of America to dive into history, fiction, poetry, plays, biographies, and art.
It doesn't matter what you read, it's all potential fodder for making art. You might discover a compelling image lingers in your head after reading a short story, or feel moved by a poem and want to express your feelings in paint. At the very least, you'll stretch and nourish your imagination.
5. Take a Virtual Museum Tour
"Don't restrict yourself to your own medium. It is just as possible to be inspired by a film-maker, fashion designer, writer or friend than another artist. Cross-pollination makes for an interesting outcome." — Polly Morgan
Ever wonder why the word "muse" is present in the word "museum"? It's not a coincidence. The word museum comes from a Greek word meaning "seat of the Muses."
Many museums throughout the world offer virtual tours of their collections and also share artwork on their social media pages. It doesn't matter what kind of museum you visit or what exactly you look at. Art, science, and history museums can transport us to other times and places and fuel creative thinking in surprising ways. From the comfort of your own home, you can look at everything from Renaissance paintings to species of South American butterflies to the fashions of Victorian England.
6. Connect with a Loved One
In his TED Talk, Seung Chan Lim discusses "How Empathy Fuels the Creative Process." He believes that creating something is similar to relating with another person. Just as we must listen to others and put ourselves in their shoes, artists must have an empathic conversation with their materials.
Connecting with others is often an untapped source of inspiration. At its most basic, a phone call with a friend may remind you of a long-forgotten memory, or give you a little boost of confidence and energy to start putting paint to paper. And it may even help you expand your understanding, lower your defenses, and experience a deeper and wider range of emotions.
7. Do Something for Fun, Just for You
“Serious art is born from serious play.” — Julia Cameron
While the work artists do is invaluable to society, it's important not to take yourself so seriously that you become paralyzed by the pressure. Take a dance class. Dye your hair purple. Buy yourself dessert. Fly to Vegas for a weekend. Do whatever it takes to dial up the fun quotient.
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, teaches that artists replenish themselves with magic, delight, and play. She recommends taking yourself on an "artist date" once a week. The key is to do something you enjoy, for no reason other than that you enjoy it.
Try it and you'll see: Fun and pleasure are gateways to inspiration and creativity.
8. Go Freestyle
"The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” — Louis L’Amour
This advice works every single time. If you tend to torment yourself by expecting perfection every time you sit down to create, this tip is for you.
Set a timer and write, draw, paint — whatever form of expression you like — for 10 minutes straight without stopping. Don't plan ahead and don't edit yourself as you go. The point is not to produce anything by the end of the ten minutes, but only to keep your hand moving. Even if you have to paint the same squiggly line over and over, simply don't stop moving.
It may feel uncomfortable at first, but along the way you will find your inner critic growing quieter. And eventually you'll experience that magical thing called creative flow, where inhibitions fall away and you don't want to stop.
In the end, you may crumple up your work and throw it away, but chances are you'll have sparked a new idea and overcome your artist's block.
9. Change Up Your Environment
"Be open to your surroundings.... It helps me if I can respond to something that is already there." — Susan Philipsz
Small changes in your environment can spark big ideas. From sitting beside a window (as opposed to your work desk) to getting outdoors to beautifying your desk with Pinterest-worthy decor, these simple-yet-effective changes can feel like a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively.
If your usual creative space is beginning to feel stale, give it a makeover, move to another room in your house, go to a coffee shop, or find a comfortable park bench. The possibilities are endless — just remember not to overthink it!
Handy tip: Natural light has been proven to encourage creativity by boosting feelings of freedom and reducing anxiety, sadness, and lethargy.
10. Look Through Old Photos & Scrapbooks
"My artworks are often inspired by memories. I love searching out imagery and recording events...to bring this memory back to life in a piece of art." — Debbie Smyth
Nostalgia can be a potent source of inspiration. Whether it's your own childhood memories, photos of ancestors, or the histories of other people, visiting the past causes feelings to arise in the present.
Objects often hold just as much power as photographs, if not more. Dig up your favorite old stuffed animal, a mug given to you by your grandfather, or a ring your mom has worn since she was a girl. Search through your garage or attic until you find something that floods you with feelings and imagery.
Take Inspiration With You Everywhere You Go
When it comes to finding creative inspiration, there is no universal formula. But one thing is certain: inspiration can strike any time, anywhere. Make sure you're prepared by keeping your art supplies at the ready, or even carrying them with you wherever you go.
Viviva Colorsheets are lightweight, portable, and mess-free, so you can toss them in your bag or slide them in your back pocket. These high-quality, vivid watercolors are an artist's perfect packable companion and they yield endless inspiration, one brushstroke at a time.
Learn more about Viviva’s safe, portable, 100% vegan color sets (but don’t forget to snag your promo code first!)