1. seek inspiration
The first step is to seek inspiration: Take a walk, flip through a magazine, visit the beach, a park, a museum, go away for a weekend or on a vacation. There are so many ways, big and small, to find inspiration.
Sometimes just the mindset of looking for inspiration, will helps us see it. Last year, I did a project called “Finding Joy,” where every day I looked for and painted a moment of joy. It was such a positive way to face the day.
The easiest way to record something inspiring is to take a photo. Fill your phone with all the things that inspire you throughout the day. Some people carry around with a sketchbook and pencil – even a small set of paints, and for capturing special moments.
Many people seek inspiration, document it and then forget about it. It’s important to look back through your photos and reflect on them. What made that thing inspire you? Was it the way the sun reflected on the water or the way a painter’s brushstrokes looked? Write it down.
I take a lot of photos. It’s great when I’m ready to paint and can’t think of a subject. I scroll through my phone, remembering all the inspiring moments, and pick one to paint.
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Spend time playing in a sketchbook, exploring ideas that the inspiration generates. This could be using different mediums or doing thumbnail drawings or paintings to explore an idea.
Playing in my sketchbook is an important part of my creative practice. My favorite sketchbook – the Canson Multimedia – can handle a lot of different types of media – watercolor, acrylic, pastel, etc.
Depending on what the inspiration is, research can go into different directions. If the work of an artist inspires you, you could learn more about the artist and their technique.
I was inspired by a Monet painting of a snowy landscape, called The Magpie – the painting glowed. I did some research and found out the Monet had a “winter palette” of colors he used to paint winter scenes. I emulated his palette, using watercolors and did my own painting of The Magpie. It was so fun and I learned a lot!
Whether you write it down – like I do – or just verbalize it, it’s important to state what your goal is. It holds you accountable to follow through.
After an amazing trip to Paris with my family, I decided to spend time painting Paris. I opened it up for others to join me as I painted and created the course “Let’s Paint Paris.” The program is watercolor lessons that build upon one another, with videos where you watch my process as I paint all things Paris. It was so much fun, and allowed me to be even more inspired by the things that caught my eye in Paris.
Don’t forget to allow time to gather the supplies you’ll need for a project! Not having the right supplies can be a roadblock to following through on an idea. Plus it’s fun to shop!
I leave my watercolor supplies out on my table, so I’m always prepped for a watercolor project. It makes it easier to sit and paint.
The fun part is carrying out your idea. I’m always super excited to start. But, there was a time I would get very discouraged when I went from excited to frustrated – when a project got hard. I used to quit when I hit this part and ended up with a bunch of unfinished projects.
Eventually I learned that the hard part is part of the process. That realization made it so much easier to deal with and work through. The satisfaction of finishing a project, motivated me to tackle more projects.
I write all about working through the hard part and share many other tips on creativity in my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life.