8 Ways to Generate Painting Ideas

An idea is a thought or plan about what to do. Where do ideas for painting come from?  Although at times it may seem mysterious – flashes of inspiration that come like divine intervention – the truth is that sources for ideas exist everywhere. It is up to the artist, though, to not only be open and receptive to ideas, but also to actively pursue them.

1. Get to Work

To that end, the number one way to generate painting ideas is to paint.  Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” While ideas can certainly come to you when you’re not working, and in fact, often come when your mind is seemingly “at rest,” you are nurturing these ideas when you are working, allowing them to gestate and come forth at some unpredictable time.

2. Practice and Paint Daily

Everything takes practice, and, as the saying goes, the more you practice the better you get. Not only that, but the more you do, the more easily ideas flow. So make sure to draw or paint every day . Even if you can’t spend eight hours a day in the studio, carve out some time each day to fuel your creative juices.

3. Mix it Up and Try Different Things

I love this quote from Picasso: “God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style, He just goes on trying other things.”  As an artist it is good to be open to everything, trying new media, new techniques, different styles, different color palettes, different painting surfaces, etc. It will help you make connections and expand your creative repertoire.

4. Find Times to Rest Your Mind, But Have a Way to Take Notes

Oftentimes it is when our mind is in neutral that ideas come to us. I get many good ideas on walks, but unless I have something to record these ideas on – a smartphone recorder, or notepad – they often slip away by the time I get home and get caught up in the flurry of daily life. Try a slow walk, too, so that you’re noticing things you wouldn’t normally see along the way. And who doesn’t get good ideas in the shower?

5. Carry a Camera and Take Many Pictures

Cameras are now relatively inexpensive and digital technology means that you can take many pictures without wasting anything more than a little space on a digital chip that can easily be deleted. With smart phone technology you don’t even need an extra camera, so take pictures of anything and everything that catches your eye .

6. Keep a Sketchbook or Visual Journal

In addition to having a camera, or in case you don’t, make sure to carry a little viewfinder (an old slide holder) or the Color Wheel Artist’s View Catcher (Buy from Amazon) and a pen or pencil to take notes and do some quick sketches of scenes or images that inspire you. Keep a sketchbook or visual journal to record your impressions and observations.

7. Keep a Journal, Write Poetry, Write an Artist’s Statement

One type of creativity informs another. If you feel like you’re stuck visually, try getting your thoughts down in words – whether in prose or poetry. You might find that writing down your thoughts can unlock the painting process.

8. Experience Theatre, Dance, Literature, Music, Other Visual Arts

Look at other artists’ work. Go to the theatre, dance or musical performances, museums, and galleries. Read a novel. The seeds of creativity are the same no matter the area of specialty, and you may find a concept, image, phrase, or lyric that sparks your own creativity.

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