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As artists, sometimes our ideas seem to overflow. At other times, ideas slowly trickle out like water from a faucet that is disconnected from its water source.
Either way, it never hurts to discover new ways to stir up art inspiration.
Today’s post will place emphasis on activities more closely related to summer. But you can consider these suggestions any time of the year.
So, here are 15 ways to stir up art inspiration this summer.
15 Ways to Stir Up Art Inspiration this Summer
1. Switch it Up Outdoors
If you normally drive, consider walking to run errands or if possible, while traveling to work. This way you might discover paths that can be missed when driving.
When working out, bike or walk down a different trail. You may discover a bed of wildflowers that only grow off the beaten path.
New discoveries ignite new ideas. Your mind might form a connection that helps you complete an existing project. Or, you might find fresh subject matter for a new art project.
2. Summer Travel
Get outta here! No, really, get out of town.
Visit a new city, state, or country. Travel is a gateway to creative ideas through new experiences.
Pay attention to building heights and shapes. How does water reflect off of a glass skyscraper? How might you paint a patina (tense?) bride along a shallow creek?
Are there many people or few? How do they interact with one another?
Allow your mind to wander as you meander through new towns.
3. Local Trips
Explore new neighborhoods near your home. In the Chicagoland area, there are cultural hubs in every direction.
Chinatown, Little Italy, the Greek village, and so forth. In most large cities, there are ways to get a taste of different cultures without traveling too far.
If you can’t get out of the country, consider visiting a part of town largely occupied by a different ethnic group. I am almost positive that it will be a pleasant experience.
Some neighborhoods are very colorful and vibrant, others are more subdued. What kind of music do you hear? Is there public art and sculptures? If so, how are they made? With what materials? Is there a theme amongst them?
Even local trips can offer a wealth of information and inspiration.
4. Same, but Different
Consider traveling the same route you normally do while using the same mode of transportation as you normally do, but then challenge yourself to discover something new.
For instance, most of the pothole covers in my area are from Neenah, Wisconsin. But sometimes I stumble across pothole covers that have originated elsewhere. Sometimes the metal looks different or there’s a different pattern on the cover.
Noticing subtle differences helps strengthen your observational skills. And recording texture variations (like with a photo or by rubbing graphite pencil over a sheet of paper that’s been placed on the texture) might add more depth to your artwork.
5. Window Shop
In some towns you can find a “Main Street” (in parentheses because usually it has a different name, but the feel is the same) lined with little shops that have large windows inviting you in for a shopping spree.
Instead of going inside, linger around the display window for a while.
What stands out to you? The color combinations? patterns? The manner in which fabric falls on the mannequin?
Store windows typically display visual eye candy that draws you in for more.
But not every person walking by will find the display to be alluring. Understanding what draws you in to a particular window can help you get a deeper glimpse into your artistic style.
You may want to take pictures for reference later.
6. Festivals & Markets a’Plenty
Summer time serves a long list of festivals and markets that you can visit for art inspiration.
Simply being around a different group of people can ignite a creative spark.
You will see new color combinations, patterns, textures, facial expressions, fashion accessories and more – all waiting to give you the creative kick you need this summer.
7. Museums & Libraries
This again might be easier for those living in larger cities but if there are museums and/or historical libraries nearby, then consider taking a trip to one of them.
Examining old master’s paintings – their color choice, use of support, subject matter, the size of their work – and so forth, can help place your artwork in context.
You may want to look closely at a Seurat and then try your hand at pointillism. Or you might visit a section on Japanese earthenware and then practice painting similar patterns.
Consider visiting one section every few weeks or so to study a specific art period. This might help you incorporate broader applications into your work in your own style, but in a more structured manner.
8. Botanical Gardens & Conservatories
If nature is an art theme you tend to gravitate towards, then a botanical garden or a conservatory is a great place to stir up art inspiration.
Many conservatories are divided by climate, such as a tropical plants section, a desert section, and so forth. And some house a few animals as well. There is a talking parrot at one of the conservatories near me. I have seen fish in a small pond at other locations as well.
One of the primary benefits of visiting either a botanical garden or conservatory is that these plants are maintained by botanists and other scientists who ensure that they are well taken care of. So you can not only ask questions, but you can expect that flowers will bloom according to their seasonal schedule.
So if there is a specific plant or flower from which you would like to get inspiration, consider locating a botanical garden or conservatory to see if they might be cultivating it there.
9. Take a Trip to the Zoo
Animals are amazing. They have so many peculiarities that it would be a treat to observe them at the zoo for art inspiration.
Watching them in their natural habitat would be optimal, but it is not always possible to do so. Zoos are sometimes the next best option.
An aquarium can also be a great source of inspiration.
10. Art Supply Switch
Try out a new art supply.
If you solely work with watercolor paint, try gouache. If you are more likely to pick up a sharpie, try a fine line pen instead.
The art you create with this new art tool may not end up in your final piece but by challenging yourself to try something new, you might begin to use your go-to art supplies in a different way.
Looking for inexpensive art supplies to try? This post might be helpful.
11. Look Down
When you walk into municipal buildings, libraries, museums, and even the mall, you may find visual delights right beneath your feet.
Can you guess which materials were used on the floor? Is there a pattern? Are there emblems? Other symbols?
When walking down the street or along a boardwalk, what do you notice? Is it made of concrete? Stone?
You may be surprised what you find right where you land your feet.
12. Visit a Home Improvement Store
“Can I help you with something, ma’am?”
“No, thanks,” I say with a smile as I collect color chips that will likely get tossed out at some point. (At least that’s what I tell myself to justify collecting so many).
I am unsure of what happens to color chips inside home improvement or hardware stores over time, but I am sure that they can help you create color combinations you may not have otherwise considered.
So collect color chips, take a few floor samples, peruse the kitchen countertops aisle. Spend some time observing customers’ preferences.
The idea isn’t to follow trends but to be mindful of what exists and then consider ways you can contribute to evolving currents going forward.
13. Read an Art Book
We have to practice in order to develop our art skills. Even veteran artists continue to practice and learn new skills.
Check out an art book from the library or order one online. Here are some of my favorites.
Many art books are instructional, so you can create new art projects using the methods described.
There are also a lot of great art history books that can stir up inspiration as well.
If you are lucky enough to live near a bookstore, even better. You can walk into the art section and get an idea of different styles. Or you can flip through various books to see their content before making a purchase.
14. Take a Local Class
Many artists offer classes related to their specialization. I get emails all the time from artists whose lists I am on. They let their subscribers know that they will be in town hosting a class.
If this is of interest to you, be sure to join mailing lists of artists whose work you follow.
There might be local art organizations that offer classes as well. And many will offer weeks-long classes that you can take throughout the summer.
Community centers, junior colleges, and local organizations might also be a good place to look. Auditing a class (or taking one for credit) at the local university might also be something worth considering.
If taking a class locally isn’t an option, consider taking online art classes. Skillshare has hundreds of art classes to choose from in many different categories – drawing, painting, photography, and so forth.
With my link, you can try Skillshare free for two months.
15. Notice Nest Changes
As the weather changes, usually our homes do as well. What is different inside of your nest? Have you pulled out sandals? Are your flowers beginning to bloom?
Sometimes inspiration surrounds us – it is often closer to us than we think.
Look around your home at the changes you have made. Chances are others are making similar changes.
Maybe draw and paint what’s popping up in your flower bed. Or, maybe pull out your summer wardrobe and photograph outfits to post on Instagram with quirky messages or as part of your portfolio.
Care to Share What Inspires You to Create?
That’s all I have for you, but I am interested in your suggestions as well.
How do you stir up art inspiration during the summer months (or any other season)?