How to Develop Ideas and Art from Observations

My Hand-painted Lamp

I had this ugly, plain boring lampshade and I just painted what I call, “Abundance Circles,” onto it.

Scrapbook Albums and Pages

How to Get Ideas: Observe and Experiment

The idea came from this doodling on a receipt in my car…

Doodles that led to Abundance Trees

Doodling the random things that catch your eye can lead you to lots of different ideas later — especially if you keep your doodles together some place. I keep mine in my scrap journal and my sketch book.

The doodle started when I was pulling out of a parking space, and an unusual pedestrian path caught my eye. I grabbed a receipt and sketched it on the far left, and then I had a spontaneous desire to add the circles and make it a tree. I was feeling whimsical.

I liked the tree top, but not the trunk, so I tried again on the right side of the receipt. And you can see that two days later I tried again a third time and was really happy with the results. I made a note that the tree top felt like abundance to me. Later when I flipped through my book and saw it, I added a note saying I was calling my tree an Abundance Tree.

Refining Your Doodles

Abundance Tree

Later I sat down with a Copic Multi-Liner and tried making a tree that I could actually use for scrapbooking and mixed-media art. In the process I devised a trunk I really loved, though my tree ended up looking more like a mushroom. I made a mental note that the circles were too tight and tried again, this time adding color with my Copic Sketches…

Abundance Tree

Here’s another example of where doodling has led me to an eventual hand-made embellishment for scrapbooking…

Grocery List Doodle: Happy Mushroom Colony…
Grocery Lists (Doodling Included).

Refining the Happy Mushroom Colony in my Scrap Journal…
Doodling with Copics in my Scrap Journal

Making a Happy Mushroom Colony as a Scrapbook Embellishment…
Happy Mushroom Colony

I’m sure I will eventually use my abundance tree in a scrapbook or mixed-media project, and I’m already making more.

Translating Your Ideas into Different Mediums and Styles

The key is asking yourself the question in the first place — “How can I translate this piece of inspiration into something else?”

I’ve been asking myself how I could translate my Abundance Trees into a painting project. Because I had the question in my head, I got the answer when I saw this dress on Elsie Flannigan. I saved the dress to my Art Inspiration board on Pinterest and decided I would use it as inspiration to dress up my boring lamp shade. I practiced first in my art journal…

Abundance - Art Journal

I didn’t try to copy the pattern on Elsie’s dress. I took one more look at it before pulling out my paints, and then closed the picture. There are two reasons I rarely try to copy directly when doing artistic projects…

  1. You set yourself up for frustration and negative self-talk because it’s very difficult to copy something just right. In fact, sometimes your own project actually needs you to do it a little differently and it’s hard to see that need if you’re copying. I think of my sources as inspiration, rather than a source to copy exactly.
  2. If you study the inspiration piece beforehand, and then put it away when you’re actually going to work on your project, you free yourself to make the piece your own.

This is how I use inspiration for my scrapbooking as well. I almost never scraplift, but I sometimes do think back to a layout I liked recently and I recall the overall idea of why I liked it. If you do that, you benefit from the inspiration of others, but you’ll make projects that are completely your own.

My Hand-painted Lamp

So now, from noticing a pedestrian walk and and doodling it into my scrap journal, I’ve developed some art I can use for scrapbooking, for mixed-media projects, and for painting projects as well. It’s amazing how it all flows for you when you pay attention to your environment, act on your observations and idea bursts, experiment with them, develop them, and ask yourself how-questions.

  • IdaIsAlive

    Oh! I like it – – a lot!

  • Sarahloughran

    I love the way your scraproom is laid out!

  • AllisonLP

    So here is my “lamp shade” story, I saw the most amazing lamp shades in Pottery Barn, that would be perfect for my new bedroom.  Only issue?  they were $80 each!  Not for a pair of lamps or even 1, but just the lamp shades!  So I put them on my personal credit card, so my hubby wouldn’t know. I planned to get the money from my mom, and pay the bill before he saw the bill.  The very next day he called me at work to tell me , he had recieved a really nice bonus, so I took the opportunity to tell him the hole sorted tale.  He siad he probably wouldn’t have noticed the charge on the card we both use.  All that plotting for nothing!
    Inspiring article Noell, don’t know if it’s in me to follow through so much on an idea. I bought a book once called “Following Through”  – I never finished reading it!  :)

  • ROFL, you’re hilarious!

  • Teri Terrific

    Having kept many journals and being an avid doodler, I confess this is
    my first exposure to a “scrap journal” and I’m quite excited about
    having one of my own.     

  • Krishnasharana

    the lamp shade is just awesome!!! i wish i could have it.. :) 

  • You are soooo talented!! I love your lamp and this whole concept. You are a true artist Noell. Hugs! 

  • Janet Smith

    Awesome advice. Love the lampshade and your mushroom patch! I tend to copy more often than not sorry to say.

  • ana smith

     love the lampshade. i think i’ll give it try, since i’m moving to a all new apartment that’s very biege. it needs color and this will work for me. Thanks for the inspiration. 

  • cass

    Great ideas.  Thanks

  • Love the colors you used on the lampshade as well as your doodling. 

  • This is so cool and it makes me think you’d love Theo Ellsworth’s work (he’s an AWESOME teacher, too, if you ever get the chance):

    =) Liz

  • Just love the Happy Mushroom Colony :)

  • Just lovely! Fabulous how you showed the whole process…where it all came from and how you applied your ideas to projects. Oftentimes, I think people forget that even Artists go through a million sketches and experimentations before finishing a piece of work. There’s a definite process with mistakes in between, so we should not be afraid to experiment, explore and make mistakes to see where it takes us. I suppose applies to crafty projects and life! Otherwise, we might never discover the cool ending and possible results…

  • Haven’t seen his stuff before. Have you taken a class by him?

  •  I have (at Artfest a few years back).  He’s a local artist and friends with friends (heh-heh). I have Capacity and totally enjoyed it — LOVE visual stories (no surprise, right?).

    Also, I’m looking forward to your future posts about your own art retreat — and with whom you studied.  There are so many amazing teachers out there!  =)

    PS: Your journal (above) and things in my own life have me super psyched about journals in general right now.  And, I just have to share that today we (two art-mom friends that I’m volunteering with for Art Discovery in our sons’ class) are introducing our sons’ class to art journals (and we’re giving each child their own).  I’m so jazzed about this and keep thinking about where this might lead some of them — oh, the possibilities!  =)

    Anyhow, HUGS for a great weekend and many good things!

  • That’s awesome!!!

  • Gab

     That is so cool. I really love your journal too

  • Naomi Edwards

    Lots of ideas here, I love what you did to the lampshade… wow… I am very interested in what you will do next so I am signing up…oh oh oh…I love your scraproom 

  • Thank you!! :)