As artists (hobbyists or professionals) we need to constantly come up with creative ideas. It’s pretty easy to end up feeling burned out and disappointed in yourself as your work doesn’t turn out as interesting as you would like it to be. Below you will find 5 tips to help you overcome this state of mind and have plenty of creative ideas every day.
By the way, I’m not going to talk about the obvious things that you hear everywhere, like ‘observe your surroundings’ – you probably already know that and also it takes some time to get into a habit of doing this. The advice below should work as soon as you apply it, so you can instantly become more creative.
Tip #1: Don’t settle for the first sketch
Let’s say you have an idea to draw a unicorn fighting a red bull (yes, ‘The Last Unicorn’ fan over here). Start by drawing a very rough sketch. Now, once you’re done get another sheet of paper or create a new layer in Photoshop and start over! Unless you are a genius born with an extraordinary mind, the first sketch you put down will be the most obvious and the least creative concept that you can think of. Believe me, by the time you draw the second, third, fourth sketch you will notice your brain starting to think outside the box and come up with ideas much more unique and creative. Your original idea to draw a unicorn and a red bull fighting might have evolved into something entirely different or maybe you thought of a story behind the scene and now it looks more interesting and unique.
Tip #2: Sketch somewhere away from the internet
Get away from your computer, leave your phone and tablet and just sit down somewhere quiet with a pencil and paper. Just the three of you. Let your brain work on it’s own for a moment without relying on thousands of different images that you might feel tempted to go through on Pinterest or Google to find the perfect reference for your idea. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to draw a horse or a bull. Try to focus on the general composition of your image, the main shapes and the perspective, before you start to look up for some reference pictures. There will be time for that later! If you do it before having a sketch down, you will most likely rely on the reference too much and it will stop your creative thinking. Don’t underestimate the power of your brain! You have no idea how amazing it can be and what mountains of unique ideas it has in store.
Tip #3: Keep exploring until the end
Once, a long time ago, I thought that the process of creating an illustration looked something like this:
The artist sits in front of a blank piece of paper and visualizes their art work until they have a clear image in their head.
In reality I would spend 20 minutes, an hour, a day, just trying really hard to see the perfect image in my head. I would feel like I’m failing as an artist because the perfect idea would not come to me.
They begin drawing it exactly the way they imagined it.
Oh boy, then I knew from the first few lines I put down – this is NOT going to look like I pictured it in my head AT ALL.
The illustration turns out just as they planned and they are satisfied with the result.
In my case, I give up mid way or finish the illustration while struggling with it the whole process and in the end I hate the result.
Now I know that this was a very bad way to get anywhere near creating anything worthwhile.
Here’s a different approach:
Get a general idea, even just a feeling, something to start with. After putting down the first lines, keep brainstorming. Why would the unicorn fight the bull? The bull should look strong, intimidating and scary, and the unicorn fragile but majestic. The unicorn will look like it’s loosing the battle. Keep thinking all throughout your drawing process and don’t be afraid to change your ideas and go a different direction. Explore all the possibilities that come to your mind and choose what most accurately fits the story or emotion that you want to show in your piece.
Tip #4: Forget about the social media
Try not to guess what other people will think of your idea. You might subconsciously restrict yourself to popular ideas that are met with general approval. Don’t settle just for what you think people want to see. Avoid fantasizing how many likes you will get on social media after posting it. Doing this will distract you from brainstorming. Once you have an idea or concept that you like, don’t be afraid that it might be too bold or too weird for people to see.
Tip #5: Don’t set your expectations too high
Expect to fail many times and have lots of terrible ideas that don’t work out. Try not to set your expectations too high only to get disappointed by the result. Welcome whatever turns out of your drawing. If it sucks, it sucks. You can draw something better next time, it’s no big deal! Expecting your work to be a masterpiece right away can make you feel terrified of starting a new sketch, even discourage you from drawing altogether.