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How To Come Up With Ideas

Posted by Koosje Koene in ArtJournal, Draw Tip, sketchbook on January 7, 2019

We’re already a week into 2019 and I am quite excited about all the plans I have and the many new things I will learn. The ideas that I don’t have yet but that will pop up in my mind.

And maybe that’s something you wonder: how do you come up with ideas? It’s a question people ask me often about my weekly Draw Tip Tuesday videos.
You can’t just sit around ad wait for an idea to come to you. as Picasso said: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

Here are my two cents; which are 5 simple tips:

Look around you

Ideas can be found anywhere. Even just inside your home. When I don’t know what to draw, I just draw whatever is available: my feet, the tea pot, the toilet bowl… anything goes! If you’re looking for ideas outside of your home, keep it simple too. Look at the shadows and reflections caused by the sunlight. When doing groceries, take a close look at the fresh produce. Smell it. Open up your senses. Look at the people around you. Talk with them. Often, just with a little bit of chit-chat, you can learn a lot about or from someone. And even if it’s not instantly, that minute of small-talk can give you (big) ideas.

Read books

You can find a certain topic you’d like to learn more about. Read all about it, study. But reading is also very relaxing – I love it when it’s hard to put a book down because of its suspense! And I love how different writers have such different styles in writing and use of words. Every book is a different adventure. I am lucky to be able to read both in Dutch and English, so the choice is even bigger. And sometimes just one sentence can spark a completely unrelated idea!

Find Inspiration online

I will be the first to admit that I am an Instagram addict. It’s just something about the visual format, so easy to scroll and see a lot of different art styles. I follow a couple of hundred people on instagram – all artists. Often I wonder about the tools or techniques they use, and I’ll find out more about it through their websites. Then I’ll try mimicking it, if I want to learn how they approach a certain style or subject. Isn’t it amazing that we have an infinite library of art online, that we can explore, and learn from every day?

Be curious!

If you follow artists online that you admire, try to find out more about how they work, how they come up with ideas. Have a chat with that new neighbor, they might have an interesting story. Ask questions, always. Buy a product (and I don’t just mean art supplies!) you never bought before and try it. Find a recipe you’ve never tried before. Call a friend to ask how they’re doing and what they’re up to at the moment.

Don’t try to come up with ideas

If you can’t sleep, it doesn’t help to tense up and think ‘I need to sleep, I need to sleep!’. It only makes things worse. If you don’t have ideas or inspiration, then thinking ‘I need to come up with a great idea’ doesn’t help either. Just do any (or all) of the 4 tips above, and even if it’s not immediately (some things need to simmer for a while), you will see that ideas will pop up!

Koosje Koene

Hi I'm Koosje. I'm an illustrator and art teacher in Amsterdam, where I was born and raised. I went to school to study graphic design, then worked for ten years as an award-winning professional photographer. But eventually my love of drawing and painting took over and I became an illustrator. My illustrations have been published in many Dutch magazines and in 2011, I began blogging and started developing and teaching online art classes. In 2014 I founded Sketchbook Skool, which is a flourishing community of artists from around the world of all skill levels.