How to Get Inspired

Often the hardest part to creating a drawing is getting started.  There's nothing more intimidating than having a blank sheet of paper in front of you.  You have the desire to draw, but no ideas!  Where do you get your inspiration from?  Where do you find your drawing ideas?

Well, let's take a look at some traditional drawing subjects and we'll go from there.


Still Life Drawing

A still life is an arrangement of objects that is usually set up by the artist for reference.  Traditionally still life drawings are created from life, meaning that they are drawn from strict observation "in person", or without the aid of a photograph.  Often, the objects that are arranged in the still life have some type of relationship.  However, this is not always the case.  Sometimes the artist simply chooses objects that they like to draw.

The arrangement of objects are important to the composition.  It is advisable to have an arrangement that encourages a "flow" through the image.  This flow is often referred to as "eye movement".   (We discuss this concept as well as other compositional concepts in the  "Composition" video in the course.)  It is also encouraged to include an odd number of objects in the arrangement.  Groupings of 3, 5, or 7 are aesthetically more attractive than groupings of 2, 4, or 6 objects.

A still life can really include all kinds of subject matter, but some traditional items include flowers, vases, bottles, fruits and vegetables, and books.

Here is a look at a traditional still life arrangement...

Traditional Still Life

Kalf, Willem (1619 - 1693), Still Life with Ewer, Vessels and Pomegranate, mid 1640s, oil on canvas

Cloth is often included in a still life as well.  The folds in cloth create interesting relationships with values, colors and textures.  Cloth and folded drapery is a great subject for practicing drawing.  It forces the artist to focus on the actual lines, values and textures that are observed, instead of resorting to formulaic approaches.

Here is an image of folded cloth that you can use for practice.  Concentrate on drawing the lines, and then create a gradation of value to create the illusion...

Cloth Photo Reference for Drawing


Figure Drawing

Another popular subject for drawing is the human figure.  Throughout history artists have logically been attracted to drawing people.  I'm sure it has something to do with our fascination of ourselves.  But beyond that, figure drawing is a challenge.  The human figure changes in different lights, each figure is different, and with a simple twist or vantage point, the figure changes dramatically.  Drawing the human figure can improve your overall drawing skills dramatically.

Luckily, people are everywhere!  So, finding subjects isn't hard to do.  In fact, a great drawing exercise is simply to grab a sketchbook and go sit down in a public place - like a park or mall - and start drawing. Draw quickly and try to "capture" as many figures as you can.  Drawing the human figure quickly is often referred to as gesture drawing.  (Gesture drawing and human figure drawing is covered in videos 26 and 27 in the video course.)  Do this a few times and you will notice improvement in your drawing skills.

Part of figure drawing is understanding the human body.  It's no wonder that many artists like to draw the structural elements of the figure - like the skeleton.

Here'a an image of the human skull that you can use a photo reference to practice...

Skull Photo Reference


Landscape Drawing

Another traditional subject for drawing is the landscape.  The natural beauty of  the world around us makes a great subject for drawing.  Even a drawing of a simple tree in a field can be beautiful when it is translated in a drawing.  Drawing the landscape helps an artist understand space, which is an important element to master.

Grab a sketchbook and take an afternoon walk, find a good composition, and sit down and draw for a few minutes.  Pay attention to the textures that you see, and do your best to translate these textures in your drawing.  Look at the values (the darks and lights) and draw them as shapes.  Draw architectural elements such as houses, sheds, and buildings.  Concentrate on drawing what you see and not how you think it should look. <----There's a big difference there.

Landscape drawing is often best done with color.  When creating sketches consider using pastel pencils, watercolor pencils, or colored pencils.


Other Drawing Ideas

Here's a quick list of a few other things you may consider drawing...

1. a self portrait

2. a vehicle (car, truck, bike, or boat)

3. a view from a window

4. create a comic character of people that you know

5. an arrangement of glass objects

6. unfolded laundry

7. musical instruments (guitar, fiddle, drums, trumpet)

8. geometric forms (sphere, cube, pyramid, etc.)

9. animals (dogs, birds, fish)

10. your drawing materials and tools (cup of pencils, sketchbooks etc.)

Ultimately, if your goal is to improve, it doesn't really matter what you draw - just that you take that step to draw something.