If you’ve always wanted to be an artist, why not start off the new year by making this an achievable goal, or better yet, your New Year’s resolution? Whether you’re eight years old or 80, it’s never too late to start making art. Give in to your passion, find the right inspiration and dive right in.
Take artist Annie O’Brien Gonzales, for instance. She decided to become an artist after completing her education, raising children and having a “real job” while doing lots of arts and crafts on the side.
Ready to get started on your own artistic journey? Below is an expert from Gonzales’ book, The Joy of Acrylic Painting, on how to find inspiration. This book is geared toward those of us who just discovered our desire to make art, or who may have set our passions aside because of other life primaries. Enjoy!
Twelve years ago I decided to pursue my dream and take the leap to finally become a full-time artist. Though I had many doubts, I decided it was now or never. I took painting classes, attended workshops, read lots of books on painting and painted almost every day.
After all, I have tried to remember what Georgia O’Keeffe said: “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life, and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”
I have never looked back, and I kept going forward until I discovered my style and clarified my artistic goals. I have learned a lot about learning to paint — what works and what doesn’t — and I want to share what I have learned.
For many years I taught adults in professional fields, but it wasn’t until I started teaching painting that I ran into adults with so many doubts and insecurities about learning.
For most adults, going to art school is not an option, nor would it be the right option unless the goal is to teach art at the college level. Fortunately, there are so many opportunities to learn to paint. The trick is finding what works for you.
Inspiration is all around you. Start to notice what attracts you and record it as a reference for future paintings. The more you begin to notice the inspiration around you, the sharper you will get at recognizing it.
Open your awareness to your own history, talents, interests and fascinations that make you who you are. What activities bring you true joy — cooking, setting a beautiful table, dressing creatively, hiking, gardening, movies?
There must be many things, and these things tell you something about what inspires you and holds your interest. Make a point of stopping in museums and galleries when you are traveling. They are practically in every town, and you might be surprised by what a random visit triggers in you.
Some artists find inspiration externally and others internally. It’s a personal frame of reference. Think about the direction you consistently look toward for inspiration:
- External Focus: You are inspired by what is around you — travel, people, nature, etc.
- Internal Focus: You are inspired by your own heart and emotions.
- Both: Georgia O’Keeffe, for example, painted what she felt but was inspired by natural beauty.
Check out popular design magazines (home design, gardening, cooking, crafting, etc.) that contain brilliant color schemes and composition ideas created by some of the most talented designers. Start to look at them with an artist’s eyes.
Take note of display windows, nature, clothing, antiques, music, people in cafes, the sky. … there is no limit. The more you exercise your creativity, the more it will grow and show up for your art.
It’s a good idea to collect your inspirations before they fly out of your mind. Three approaches I recommend include Pinterest, inspiration boards and what I refer to as Painting Notes, or art journaling.
For instance, if you haven’t already, join Pinterest so you can create separate boards for your art inspiration categories. If you are fascinated by birds, start a “Birds I Love” board, for example. Additionally, make Pinterest Boards for all your Artist Ancestors (artists who have inspired you).
If you prefer not to share your interests publicly, you can always make your boards private. You could also share your boards with a select group, so it’s possible to form your own critique group online. The possibilities are endless on this platform.
For ideas, check out my Pinterest Boards on the five Elements of Art. I have a board for each one: Line, Shape, Color, Value and Texture plus way too many other boards!
Make Your Own Inspiration Board
If turning to an online platform, such as Pinterest, is not an option, or if you also want to work with something physically in addition to virtually, then create your own inspiration board.
As artists, we respond to and actually require visual stimulation. Inspiration boards are visual references of what excites us at the moment.
Create an inspiration board right away in your studio or painting area and pin on it anything that excites and delights you — color chips from the hardware store, swatches of fabric, photos, postcards, clippings from magazines and quotes that inspire you to keep creating. But be careful not to put your to-do list on your inspiration board or you may decide you never want to look at it.
Here is what you will need:
- Cork bulletin board, largest size to fit your space
- Inspiration — clippings, swatches, photos, quotes, etc.
After you have all your necessary materials, first you should hang your inspiration board in your studio or work area so you will see it every day.