Welcome to another newsletter!
I hope everyone has had a fab August and you're preferably reading this on a warm beach somewhere...
The summer months (especially August) seem to be notoriously slow for most businesses, as everyone takes their holidays and goes out in the sun (you may ask 'what sun?' ☼ if you're in the UK). But this makes summer a great time to design new products and work on projects that have been put on the back burner.
The heart of all projects, though? Ideas! How do you find them? Is there an ideas catalogue? How much does an idea cost? All will be revealed in this newsletter.
Coming up this month: exploring idea generation and a craft fair announcement.
Where do ideas even come from?
Last month, I chatted about the struggles of finding the motivation to create new work. I went through all of the great books I turn to in a time of need. But let’s say we’ve found the motivation. We’re out of bed, thrown on some tracksuit bottoms and at we’re at the drawing desk. Now what?
Here lies the next problem: what the heck do I draw?
Finding ideas is one of the many struggles most of us face as an artist. There’s a reason every one of Dan Berry’s Make It Then Tell Everybody podcast ends with the same question: where do your ideas come from?
Of course, there are master storytellers all over the creative industries who can (somehow) find the motivation to make daily comics or doodle until it’s coming out of their ears. I, on the other hand, am not one of those people! Coming up with ideas and stories has been a life-long difficulty of mine, and something I essentially had to come to terms with.
A good example would be my relationship with writing. I really loved reading as a kid and thought I might become a fiction writer when I grew up. In class they give you prompts and exercises, so that wasn't too bad. But the minute I tried to come up with my own stories I drew a blank! It took two years of studying English at college to figure out that I was in fact much better at writing non-fiction or commentaries, as it was based more in research than fantasy.
Ultimately, it was a matter of figuring out what my strengths were and focusing on that, instead of being beaten by my weaknesses. A similar process drove me to pursue an illustration career despite studying animation, but that's for another newsletter!
Over the years, there are a couple of coping mechanisms I’ve come up with to help me find ideas. I don’t always know where I heard such wisdom, so I’ll be taking credit for most of it… but the chances are it came from a podcaster or YouTuber, so I’ll be listing my favourite sources below.
Solution 1: Make a mind map
If there’s one method I always turn to in a time of need, it’s a good ol’ mind map. Simply write down what you’re trying to achieve and go crazy. Visualising your thoughts often opens you up to what it is you're looking to achieve, and is also a great retrospection for you to look at (and laugh at) later. I often go back to old mind maps from several years ago and pick up the ideas dropped on the cutting room floor. Sometimes past you is worth stealing from!
And by mind map I don’t just mean the standard bubble and lines, if you’ve got a fellow creative around a verbal mind map works just as well. Chatting out a problem often gets your brain cogs churning to come up with new solutions.
If you're looking for a modern solution, Instagram polls can also be a free and easy way to harvest ideas from your friends or audience.
Solution 2: Do some research
This works well if you’ve got a particular project in mind that you want to create. Typing ‘art’ into Google probably isn’t the best idea, but if you know you want to make a postcard or a character design, there’s no harm in looking up some other work.
That’s not to say you should plagiarise of course, but taking inspiration from different sources is essentially how art works. This video really helped me understand the process a bit better, and stopped my fear of using reference.
Solution 3: Grab a cup of tea and watch lots of stuff
Even if you don’t feel inspired afterwards, there’s no harm in spending a few hours… or days… on YouTube. I probably wouldn’t have pursued illustration (or the text you’re reading right now) without it.
Here are some of my favourite avenues for creative advice:
Solution 4: Give up.
Ok, ok, I know this sounds ridiculously pessimistic but hear me out. As a kid, I would often catch myself literally staring at a piece of white paper wondering what I could draw. I’d look desperately at my surroundings, searching for some inspiration from the outside window or the empty packet of rich tea biscuits. Surprise, surprise, inspiration never struck.
The best thing to do? Give up. Go outside, buy a coffee, come back, bake a cake. If you have a day job, even better. Stack some shelves. Go and do something utterly mundane. Austin Kleon explains why this works in his book Steal Like an Artist:
Take time to be bored…Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing… I love ironing my shirts – it’s so boring, I almost always get good ideas. If you’re out of ideas, wash the dishes. Take a really long walk.
There’s a cliché that people get their best ideas in the shower, but for most people it’s probably the only time when their brain isn’t engaged with anything of importance, allowing the good (and not so good) ideas to flow in.
If you’re wanting to do something vaguely creative whilst essentially doing nothing, ‘people sketching’ is a great way to pass the time. Simply rock up at a busy café or food court and sketch the people around you.
It’s often practised by animators to sharpen up their observation/ character design skills, but if you practice for a bit it can be an easy way to chill out whilst feeling like you’ve produced some work.
Is there a topic you’d like me to discuss in an upcoming newsletter? Send me an email or message on Instagram with your idea!
I’m exhibiting at the Catford Arts Trail!
For the past four years now, an open house art event called the Catford Arts Trail has been held in Catford, South East London. It sees tens of artists converting their homes into art exhibitions where you can chat to artists face to face, buy their work or even just have a slice of cake.
I exhibited way back in 2016, before university got in the way. I’m back this year, selling products from my shop. I highly recommend visiting the trail if you’re in London. It’s held over two weekends in the Autumn every year, and there’s certainly more than enough to see for a grand day out (or two).
This year’s event will be taking place on September 28th/29th & 5th/6th Oct. I’ll be there both weekends at 48 Arran Road (11am-6pm), along with two other makers. I'll be bringing all of the products from my Etsy shop, along with a few new locally-inspired designs!
The map of the trail should be up on the website soon, but a feature of all the artists involved is already up on the site. I hope to see some of you there!
UPDATE: The map is out! You can see all of the houses and artists involved here
Some stuff I’ve been enjoying this month
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See you next month!
- Georgina :)
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