Do you struggle to find inspiration and ideas for your art? This is probably something every artist is experiencing from time to time, including me. To get over this, I developed a simple but effective strategy for always having good ideas on hand, from which I can choose from. This helped me to find the ideas for my most successful artworks and also gave me the chance to win the prize for “the most creative work” on the Hum3D Car Render Challenge 2016. In this article I will share exactly this strategy with you.

In a nutshell: Never stop looking for inspiration!

My whole strategy is based on this. But why is this so important? The problem is, that we can’t really control when a good idea pops into our mind. So, we have to train ourselves to be always aware of the world around us and to be conscious about what we’re looking at. Because EVERYTHING can serve as inspiration for our art. And inspirations (or impressions) are the fuel for the “idea generating machine” in our head.

There are some simple things we can do to train our brain in a way that it will use the inspirations and impressions to generate exactly the ideas we are looking for.

So, let’s break it up into smaller steps.

Quick Links

Tools:
Evernote
Trello

Inspirational Websites:
Artstation
Pinterest

Art Challenge:
Weekly CG Challenge

Artists:
Portfolio of Lukas Walzer

With this 3D rendering I won the prize for “the most creative work” on the Hum3D Car Render Challenge 2016.

Step #1: Define the direction

When it comes to art, there are basically two general directions which you can go, your personal art or a specific project.

Personal art means art that you want to do on your own, with nobody telling you what to do. We have much more possibilities (in most cases), which makes it often harder to find the right ideas, but gives us much more creative freedom on the other hand.

A specific project on the other side means a project, where someone is telling you what to do, like a client project, when you’re entering an art challenge or make a study of something specific. Here we often have a guideline or a description on what should be done. So, we are a bit more restricted.

Now, think about on what project you want to work next and decide to which of the two directions this project should be assigned to.

Step #2: Define the general topics

No matter if it is a personal art piece you want to work on or a specific project, it will make the idea finding process much easier if we define general topics for the direction we want to go.

If I were to define the general topics for my personal art, they would be the following: robots, sci-fi, nature, quirky monsters and creatures, rusty selfmade vehicles, heartwarming stories, being on the road, experiencing adventures etc.

For a specific project, e.g. an art challenge with the topic “Space”, the general topics would be probably: spaceships, planets, extraterrestrials, unexplored worlds, nebular, wormholes etc.

By thinking about the general topics (or better by writing them down), it will be much easier to find great ideas later on, because we are focusing on more specific things instead of everything possible in the whole wide world.

Now, think about what the general topics of the art piece you want to create next actually are. But keep it general, this is not the point where we are looking for the actual inspirations or ideas. Again, writing it down can help a lot.

Step #3: Find inspiration by exploring what we’re looking at

The main problem when we are looking at something is, that our brain immediately tells us what this is. And the older we get, the more ordinary everything will be. But if we imagine getting back to see the world through children’s eyes, everything gets way more interesting and inspiring again, because for a young child, everything is something new, something to explore, something exciting. And if we train ourselves to look at the world around us with those exploring eyes, we will experience a blast of inspiration for our art.

To explain it in a more practical way, if you look at something, try to analyze it, look at the shapes, the material, the colors, the lighting, reflections, but also storys or emotions that are related to the thing you‘re looking at. And if you now combine the general topics with all the bits and pieces, you will see that many cool ideas will pop into your mind. Also, not only objects and living things in the world around you can be analyzed, you can also be attentive while watching a movie, playing a game, looking at artworks of other artists etc. Inspiration is everywhere!

Now, shortly think about the general topics you had defined earlier, to have them fresh in your mind. Then take a look around you and start analyzing the first thing you are looking at. Make this a habit, no matter where you are and what you are doing. You will see, finding ideas should not be a problem anymore. At least, this is the case for me

Since I love drawing robots, the first thing I’m always thinking of when I look at something, is how I can turn this somehow into a robot or sci-fi vehicle. This leads to very creative ideas in many cases and makes it even easier for me to find original concepts.

Step #4: Write down your ideas (and take photos)

Ok, this might sound super obvious, but it is easy to forget something. So, as soon as a good idea arrives, write it down. In this way you will have a list, which you alwys can pick from, if you need a great idea. If you don‘t have a notebook on hand, use your smartphone. There are some cool apps, which can help you here. I usually use Evernote or Trello for collecting ideas, because this apps can be synced with every device you‘re using.

Also, it can help to take photos of inspirational things with your smartphone and collect it somewhere. This can also help to find cool ideas later on, especially if you‘re putting together a moodboard for you next artwork.

That's about it

Thank you so much for reading this, I appreciate your attention. I hope you find this content valuable. If you have other great strategies on how to get inspired and find great ideas, share them with us in the comments below.

If you want to see which ideas I turned into artworks, check my Instagram and Artstation pages.

Stay creative!
~Zach