10 Tips To Overcome Your Creative Block and Stay Inspired
by Dina Belenko
Every artist encounters moments in which he’s searching for inspiration. But at the same time every artist has a set of tricks, which invariably come in handy. Well, here are mine. It's not a universal recipe for how to always find art inspiration and stay inspired, but a set of tips that work for me every time. I hope some of them will work for you too.
When you don't know what to photograph (or draw) just go around your house and make a list of all the things that catch your eye. What do you see in your kitchen? Living room? Work table? Make a list of your favourite food or flowers growing near your house.
Here, you can a start series right now:
Or wait a bit and combine that list with another.
When I started working on my “Endless Book“ series I was terrified, I had to take 52 pictures. 52! Me, who used to call “a series“ only three photos in a row. So I pulled myself together and made a list of sweets and a list of celestial objects, and thought which of them could be combined. It turned out that cookies can become an asteroid belt and a donut is pretty good for a centre of a star system.
“10 stories about my favourite books“,
“5 broken cups“,
“31 autumn leaves“.
Use mind maps
When I first heard about mind maps, it seemed like a pointless idea. I thought I could just write down associations in a column with the same success. But mind maps can give you something better than that. They encourage lateral thinking, making you able to see connections between things that don’t seem related; connections which you never of at first glance. Mind maps provide a structure, allowing you to work with many elements at the same time.
I believe you can easily find detailed articles about how to use the mind maps, but here is a summary:
Write the main theme (the object you are working with, the mood you want to convey, and so on.)
In the center, draw rays of main branches (shooting conditions, associations, available props, supporting ideas, location).
Refine each of these parameters using the supporting branches.
Ask yourself which of the two resulting details fit together best?
Build your picture based on this finding.
Give mind maps a chance. They’re perfectly simple and useful.
Select any simple object (a flower, a coffee cup, a pencil or, say, an apple) and try to squeeze out of it all that is possible. Deconstruct it, dissect it on simple properties. What shape is it? What colour? Can you cut it? Can it be painted?
Write all characteristics you can think of and then change just one (e.g. change the solidity of an apple, make it a liquid and watch how it melts from the fruit bowl or how it produces a splash of excellent apple-red) or cut an apple into half-circles and make a kaleidoscopic image with it.
Start with details
Every project needs a big idea behind it. But if you don't have a big idea right now that doesn't mean you have to sit still and be upset with yourself. Start by something right now. You can prepare your workplace and instruments, buy some paper or new spoons (if you're a paper craft artist or a food photographer, respectively), paint a new background. All these little preparations will clear your mind and get you into a working mood. And maybe, through preparing, you'll actually get half the work done.
Create our own frames and borders
Paradoxically, creating borders is often the best way help your imagination do its job. If you think “I have to photograph something“, your brain becomes stunned with thousands and thousands of possibilities and can't pick up only one. But when you think “I have to photograph something red“, your brain becomes more focused and knows what it needs to do. So imagine you have a brief or sort of work description and think of any confines you can make: only green, only round, only with hard light, only transparent, only from above. (After that, surely, ask questions: What objects are green? What surroundings is appropriate for green objects? What shade of green, eco or neon?) If you actually have a brief, make your limits more clear, it can help you understand not only what you can't change but also what you can.
Translate on visual language
Express the thoughts and emotions you want to share, in a visual way. What does “joy“ or “nostalgia“ mean in terms of visual art? Soft colour tones? Dramatic light? What could work as a symbol of it?
You can literally write a short story you want to tell, describing your character, e.g. “This is a reader whose biggest love is fairy-tales with dragons, he dives deeper and deeper in a book world and starts to see glimpses and shadows of dragons in everyday things“. What does that mean in a visual language?
We may have warm, cozy colour tones appropriate to a book lover story, a lot of books, obviously, something to show that our hero is spending a lot of time reading (cobwebs? withering houseplant? dust?) and, of course, something of a dragon (a shadow on a book page, a reflection in a teacup, a tip of tail among the books).
Explore new art territory
If you're a photographer, start to draw (maybe even draw something you’ve always wanted to shoot but couldn't find the right props). If you're an artist, make a collage from your old sketches. Working in unfamiliar territory encourages you to think outside the box. You're a newbie here, newbies are allowed to do everything, especially — to make mistakes. Even you, the strictest critic, aren't allowed to judge yourself if you're working with one-day experience, so just relax and let yourself explore new territory.
Postpone the criticism
The first rule of brainstorming — no critiquing during a brainstorming session. When you're looking for ideas write down every single one that comes into your head. No pre-moderation. No criticism. You can decide later, which ones are good and which ones, not so much. Our inner critic is very quick to judge everything we create so don't let him speak right now, he will have his word later - when it’s time to choose only one idea from many.
Things to Try: list
I find it very helpful to have a collection of things I want to try (locations where I want to photograph, stories I want to illustrate, beautiful colour palettes, schemes of lighting, tricks of composition, etc). It's not a to-do list, it's more like I-want-to-give-it-a-try list. Maybe you'll never complete it, but you'll also never have a problem like “what shall I do today?“
Remember things and places
Think about circumstances in which you became most creative. Think about the place most comfortable to work. Does it need to be the place there you can talk to other people? Does it need be quiet and cozy? Inside or outside? Comfortable chair or a bench in a park? I found that I had most of my good ideas during sunny days, often on long bus rides sitting by the window with headphones in my ears. Notice little things like that, thing you love, things that inspires you. Remember them and let them inspire you every day.
Which parts of this list inspire you the most? Which will you try? Let us know in the comments below.
Written by Dina Belenko
My name is Dina and I tell animate stories about inanimate objects. The rest is not important, I suppose. I'm a person with little paper cities, sugar cubes, moon from polymer clay, doll's miniatures, broken cups, handmade Rube Goldberg machine, repainted puzzles, wire trees, cardboard dragons and spilled coffee. And with photo camera. That's quite essentially me.