Many artists on the forums I visited talked about not feeling “inspired” and not knowing what to draw. Yet, I rarely (if ever) have this problem. Are you wondering why?
In a series of posts about inspiration, I reveal how my creative process starts to unfold. In today’s post I give kudos to Mother Nature.
Pay attention to your surroundings
I think this is the key difference between artistic and non-artistic people — artists see interesting things all around us! Shapes, forms, colors and textures that other people just pass by catch our attention. It doesn’t matter if you’re a realist artist, an abstract painter, a fantasy illustrator or a jewelry designer, you can always find something in the real world that can serve as a gateway to an inspired vision within you. (Tweet this quote)
One such detail that caught my attention inspired one of my best digital paintings to date.
It was late August, and I was walking home down my block, barefoot. I was moving to another part of town in a few days, so I took what I knew would probably be the last glimpses of my old neighborhood for a while. It’s really amazing what you allow yourself to see for the first time, even after being in this part of town for over a year.
There was a drought this summer, and the grass was completely dry. Leaves on the trees were getting yellow, brown and red and falling off, and younger trees looked unlikely to survive.
On the pavement in front of me were scattered maple leaves and seeds. I picked them up along the way because picking stuff up from the ground is what I often do — from sticks and pebbles to dead insects and animal skulls. I have a box filled with such treasures.
Be open to merging with existing ideas
You don’t have to start from scratch every time!
I already had sketches for a different kind of elemental from a few days earlier. I knew I would probably make a couple of them (plants, crystals, elements…), but I was still unsure which ones.
Grapevine Elemental sketch I did earlier
As I picked up those leaves and seeds, it became clear to me that the Maple is another candidate for this new series.
Make note of your ideas immediately
After I decided on this painting, I started taking photos of trees that I would use as references.
At home I sketched a few thumbnails in my sketchbook, so I don’t forget this idea because I wasn’t able to start working on it immediately.
A rough thumbnail sketch noting the composition I had in mind
Hold your source of inspiration close
All the while I was working on the sketch, study and final painting, the leaves and seeds were on my desk. I used them as reference for shapes, colors and textures, along with the photos on my phone.
Final watercolor study in my sketchbook (see larger image), with leaves and seeds I used as reference
I held onto them until they were so dry and brittle that I had to throw them away, so I did when I finished the painting a few days ago. I know it sounds silly, but I was a bit sad to let them go.
In the end, this is the final digital painting that came out (click for a larger view):
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you’d like to see more posts from my sketchbooks, check them out here.
About Nela Dunato
Artist, brand designer, teacher, and writer. Author of the book “The Human Centered Brand”. Owner of a boutique branding & design consultancy that helps experienced service-based businesses impress their dream clients.
On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...
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