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How to Develop Ideas and Art from Observations

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

My Hand-painted Lamp

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

BEFORE
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.