As an artist and creative brain, I’m often asked where my inspiration comes from. My canned answers is always “from life”. It’s true. Every interaction, every encounter, every moment is potentially the big inspiration for my next neat idea. However, I don’t just walk around seeing things with instant “ah ha” moments of clarity. No, it’s true, I have to think harder than that.
I gain piles of insight by surrounding myself by smart people with interesting ideas. I try not to follow too closely with other designers in the spaces I work, however, I do pay close attention to creatives and designers on TV. HGTV’s Design Star is one of these fabulous resources. It’s a reality competition style show with 12 contestants who are all Designers, in this case, focusing on interior designer. The contestants are competing to the “last one standing” by completing various design challenges. Not only is the competition interesting to me, but I also enjoy the judging as critiques. You can learn a lot by listening to the perspective of various people toward a single design.
It’s incredibly inspiring to watch the problem solving and creative thinking of designers especially in competition mode. I’m in awe of the out of the box thinking that happens when there’s a time limit and a pile of focus. My own ideas are often sparked just watching techniques and applying them to my own skill set.
I’m looking forward to Season 6 of HGTV Design Star which premieres tonight at 9pm/8c on HGTV. I was watching HGTV’s “House Hunters” the other day and one of the execs was house hunting for a location for the Design Star show. I’m not sure if it was an old repeat or the awesome location just outside of Manhattan was for season 6 contestants. If it’s the most recent location, this is going to be a great season with such a cool space!
As artsy as I appear to be, I’m always looking for new ideas and interesting methods… my house isn’t nearly as finished in the decor department as I’d like. BY the way, no, I’m not trying to add a penguin to every room. I’m excited to see what great creations are thought up during season 6!
Recently there seems to be an unpleasant and somewhat un-noticed by mainstream rumbling of issues regarding “infringement” in my world. I’ve heard of people copying the work of others, using the work of others without permission and others frustrated with others. That’s a lot of “others” . What happened to what inspires the creativity?
Well that’s where the confusion sets in. Where is the line between inspiration and copying or using without permission? It’s really not a complicated line once you know where it is and how it looks. The real nuts and bolts is, if you didn’t originally think of it, come up with your own original thinking to create it. When it comes to art, this means, if you like how an image looks, admire it, hang it on your wall, but don’t try to draw it exactly. Make your own cute bear, don’t copy Winnie-the-Pooh. Let Winnie inspire you, not drive your view.
Ok, maybe that’s still a bit vague. Think of this… No one can own a concept. However, they can own the result of their original creation of a concept. So, for example, although I have a gazillion variations of cartoon penguins, I can’t own the concept of a cartoon penguin. I can only own the way my specific penguin looks… in “interpretation” of a penguin. If someone else wants to make a penguin, cool, do it! I hope I inspire one that is fabulously fun. But, please don’t trace mine or mimic mine or even try to duplicate mine in some way… not to mention, please don’t use my actual penguin art. Instead, create your own. If you must have one just like mine, ask me, I might be willing to make you one, sell you one, license the use or just let you use it… but the permission starts with the request. If you use it without asking , I can’t give you permission, then we could end up in a situation neither one of us like.
Enough of the legal-ish summary.
What really inspires my art? I’m pretty sure I’ve answered this question from some angle or another before – maybe that was just in my head, I do like to talk to myself a bit. However I’m happy to say it out loud again in case you missed it, or really I was the only one in the room. I’ll point out where the inspirations live in my own art.
A few of my favorite artists:
Leonardo da Vinci inspired my love for sketch work, details and observation. He created so many amazing works in so many incredible directions yet his style is consistent. He sketched everything he saw, not necessarily as a drawing practice session, but more for a purpose of documenting what he saw. I think the way we draw has a way of sharing how we see the world… sometimes. I don’t see everything with literal grins and giggles on them. I do however like to think that there’s a lot of potential for moments of happiness all around us, if we stop to notice once in a while.
Ty Wilson has a talent for less is more and from the moment I first saw his work I was in awe. Every line has a purpose and every line displays emotion. Much of his work has a vibrant jazzy feel, yet the pieces I love the most are the couples. They dance, they embrace, they love each other and you can see it, almost feel it in every image. He uses color sparingly but with purpose. His work speaks to the viewers emotions.
Sandra Boynton just makes me laugh. I love the random grins and silly expressions. She adds the fun of silliness to reality… she isn’t making up creatures, she’s stylizing real things in her world, cows, chickens, dancing hippos. Her style is simple but full of personality. I’m sure she could write a book without any words and it would still be hilarious. I also love her artistic technique… it looks to me like she uses markers to create her images, and art markers are my favorite tool (Prisma colors, if you need specifics). I also love Sandra’s story of success, she’s done it herself while staying true to herself.
Mary Engelbreit needs to be included because she brings me back to where I am as a professional. She is an inspiration from a commercial perspective for me. I love her fun art style, but what I appreciated at an early age was how no matter where you went, you could find her art to purchase. As much as I loved the concept, I never really thought others would want my art in their house as much as I would want to see my art in their house. Every time I get a note from a fan or a recent customer I am giddy with excitement all over again. It’s inspiring to have others like something I created all myself.
Can you see the commonalities yet? From my perspective it’s in the simplicity and the unnecessary fluff that I find these artist so appealing. Ironically, my own art has fluff here and there… but I like the texture the fluff creates… that’s the “ME” coming through in my own art.
In the end, we each learn and create from what we’ve learned and experienced. If you love something someone else has created so much that you want to make it yourself… you should instead try making your own rendition and sharing that for others to love as well. If you want to talk about something someone else created, always make sure to give credit where credit is due. We can’t be successful without the creations AND the people that love them, so we need to work together to share in the joy of the creativity.
I’ve said all along that my doodles are inspired by my “every day”. Every experience in any day can be and idea sparker for a design… for any of us. I’m fairly reactionary when it comes to creating new images. Sometimes I’ll sit and think about an idea for a while, but for the most part I tend to think “wow, that’s a neat picture” and I create it right then. Which is why lately I haven’t created much of anything. I think “wow – neat” and then rush off to the next whatever it is I need to handle.
Keep in mind,
It’s always good advice to stop and think before you act. Don’t be reactionary is the general rule. However, I have a new suggestion for you:
Be reactionary about your idea process. If something sparks a thought, write it down, make yourself a note to think about it and consider it. Don’t necessarily act on it right then in the sense of making something happen.. but do let your ideas flow and allow them to flourish. Don’t discount an idea right at the moment you have it… you never know when it might be an idea that goes somewhere. besides, there’s nothing wrong with having a idea book of thoughts that do nothing but sit there and spark new thoughts —
This is what I call long lifetime brainstorming.
Maybe when you have enough ideas piled up, you’ll need a new bag to carry them around… Here’s my favorite idea bag: