Creativity is an enigmatic aspect of human experience; it is often difficult to identify what it is that drives this impulse and the elements that inspire an artist’s work. Written from the perspective of a practicing painter and writer, this post brings together ten areas that are sources for artistic inspiration. When an individual chooses a career path of freelance art or design, a career that depends on a constant supply of creativity, it is important to recognize what inspires the work, and how to stimulate one’s imagination.
For all makers of art and design a crucial source of inspiration is the work of fellow artists, designers and creatives of every kind. Knowledge of art and design history offers a solid grounding on which to make work, while an awareness of contemporary art practice frames the context in which the work is produced. Successive art movements have evolved and thrived by artists taking inspiration from one and other’s work and this continues to be the case today. At times when inspiration is flagging it is important to look to the work of past masters. When a designer is grappling with an aesthetic problem, they are assisted by the vast history of art that features practitioners who have already ‘solved’ many of these dilemmas.
2. Galleries and Museums
The best way to experience art is in the flesh and fortunately our galleries and museums are bursting with great works and fascinating relics. There is a mass of inspirational art to explore, from the embarrassment of riches held by national museums such as the British Museum and National Galleries to the cutting edge work found in small contemporary shows. Many of the finest museums are free to enter (although some charge for majors exhibitions), and many offer talks and events exploring the collections. Thousands of small galleries have rolling schedules of exhibitions and many publicly advertise for their opening night ‘private views’, a chance to meet the artists, mingle with other creatives, and enjoy a glass of wine.
3. The Internet
It’s easy to take the Internet for granted, but it was only a few years ago that researching artists and creative techniques would involve trawling through libraries, searching for periodicals, and attending evening classes. Today all this can be found with simple searches, reading Wikipedia pages or watching YouTube clips. The Internet has revolutionized many aspects of our daily lives; for artists and designers it is an invaluable source of information and inspiration.
Many critics and historians consider film to be the quintessential art form of the twentieth century. The haunting quality of silent movies, the sharp design of light and shadow in film noir, the garish colours of Hammer horror, the grit of American gangster movies, the aesthetics of European art house, the startling graphics of Manga animations, and cutting edge CGI and 3D technologies; for artists and designers film is an enormous source of visual imagery and inspiration.
There are two ways in which music can be an important source of inspiration for artists and designers. Firstly, music can form the soundtrack to a designers practice, helping create a mood and ambience to accompany the working environment. Designers can choose music to suit the project on which they are working, helping to set the pace and mood of the work. The second way that music can positively influence designers is in its packaging, performances, posters and other related imagery. Musicians often embrace strong aesthetics, high fashion and state-of-the-art design to accompany their music, inspirational stuff for those involved in the visual arts.
6. Print Ads and Posters
Film and music are prompted with often astonishing posters and print media, as are every kind of commercial product, events and even ideas. Many print ads are made by the leading designers of the day to ensure eye-catching imagery and effective communication. This media is an essential resource for the designer to find reference material and inspiration.
7. The Outdoors
There come moments in every creative person’s practice that the inspiration dries up and the ideas stagnate. At these times it is great to have a break and get outside in the fresh air, have a stroll or take a bicycle ride. Parks and countryside, city streets and urban environments can all enliven the senses and invigorate creativity.
While the best way to see art is in the flesh, and so much is available on the Internet, one of the best ways to study visual work is in books. For book designers and typographers, of course, the book form is the best way to present their creations. Books are available on all types of artists, history and techniques, and they remain one of the most rewarding means of finding inspiration.
In common with books, magazines and periodicals are a fine way of finding inspiration. Publications such as Art Review and Modern Painters cover the latest trends and contemporary artists, whilst also providing overviews of past movements and critical theories.
The best art, design and creative works are directly inspired by the maker’s life. Working purely stylistically and aesthetically can produce results, but it is when artists infuse their work with their personal experiences of life that the work becomes enriched and truly enlivened.
About the Author
Tom may be a writer but his real passion in life is anything to do with design and art. He works as a writer for an established supplier of supplies such as HP toner, inks and papers for a company based in Manchester, England called Cartridge Save. You can read his other work on their blog, CreativeCloud, where he posts about print design and modern art.
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