Find Creative Inspiration in Out-of-the-Box Places

If you’re an artist, chances are there are times when you feel too burned out to create new things, or you feel bored by your own ideas. Trust me, I’ve been there! Thankfully, the spark always returns one way or another. As a gesture of solidarity for anyone else who struggles to find creative inspiration from time to time, I’ve put together this list of some of the more unexpected ways I’ve jumped back into the game after a slump.

1. Reality TV (Yes, you read that right!)

For me, it’s Project Runway. I have logged many, many hours of Project Runway over the years. I am in no way a fashion designer; in fact, I can only successfully follow garment construction directions about 75% of the time. But for some reason, this show sparks my desire to create. I most often pull out my bead collection and make jewelry while I watch, but recently I tried my hand at designing my own fabric:

self-designed fabric

I’m obsessed! And I’m selfishly hoping the products I make with this fabric will sell really well, so I have an excuse to play around with that tool over and over again. I used spoonflower.com, for anyone interested, but there are a million similar sites that popped up when I Googled the idea.

So, if there’s a guilty pleasure show you like to watch, indulge yourself! You never know when and where inspiration will strike, so don’t limit yourself based on some self-imposed “worthwhile” meter.

2. Gardening

“Nature” is often listed as a source of inspiration, I know, but I’m going to get a little more specific than that. I’ve discovered that gardening is A) a much bigger job than I thought as a kid and B) that its components lend themselves well to creative reflection. Gardening takes planning and research: mapping out the space, deciding on the best plants for your climate, finding the best mixture of colors and textures, etc. It’s the same type of process I use when I’m putting together a composition on paper or canvas, so I often want to transition to drawing after I plan a new flowerbed.

Gardening takes a lot of repetitive effort (so many weeds….), which to me is relaxing. That enjoyable monotony gives me the time to mull over whatever stresses the day has thrown at me. Once I make it back inside, I’m in a better mental state for making art.

Gardening also provides ample subject matter – I love depicting flowers in any medium (including the fabric design, obviously!). In fact, I pulled the name of an iris out of a gardening catalog and used it to inspire my latest short story.

3. Highway Driving

This one may sound the craziest. When I picture a highway, I think of industrial complexes, concrete expanses, and hideous billboards. I never set out on a long drive expecting to find creative inspiration. But lo and behold, my family was on the road a couple of nights ago at sunset, and the view was beautiful:

highway driving for creative inspiration

The pastel blue and pink caught my eye, and I snapped several of these passable-but-not-great photos in an attempt to capture enough of the sunset to be able to reproduce it later. Sometimes being stuck as the passenger for a 6 hour drive isn’t such a bad thing.

4. Out of the Mouths of Babes

My daughter is an opinionated child. Has been since she was born. And she’s persuasive, too, because lately I’ve found myself drawing the things I know she’ll like the most! I’ve always liked butterflies and moths, for example, but her obsession with them has definitely convinced me to include them in more pieces than ever before. I even gave her some framed art for her second birthday, which she still points out when we’re in her room:

find creative inspiration in children

She (thankfully) loves it, and I love watching her respond to art from such a young age.

Find Creative Inspiration: The Takeaway

Even if you’re in a creative slump, don’t despair! As long as you keep an open mind, you’ll eventually find creative inspiration even in the unlikeliest of places. And, if you want to jumpstart your creativity with some easy but fun projects, I have a few tutorials you could dive into:

DIY Memory BoxHandmade Beaded EarringsHow to Draw a Flower

Have you found any unlikely sources of inspiration in your life? I’m always looking for new ideas! Leave a comment below or connect with other artists in the Inspiration Club.

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