Inspiration and the Elements of Design

Want to know my secret for finding inspiration? This isn't anything groundbreaking, but it is something I think about all the time. 

Inspiration is everywhere. 

That's it. That's the secret. Inspiration is everywhere. 

So, bear with me for a second here because we're about to dig deep and get into this. As a self-taught artist, I can tell you that the learning curve is steep. I have had (and continue) to immerse myself in self-study. I have taken course after course after course. You know what helped me the most? Learning that there are elements that good artworks share. They're known as the "elements of design". For the sake of keeping it simple, the five elements* I'll be covering in this post are: texture, line, shape, space, and color. Now, what do the elements of design have to do with inspiration? I'm glad you asked. 

 

 

Imagine you're feeling like you need inspo so you decide to go on a walk.  Do you walk outside and instantly move into autopilot? Or do you walk with intention and purpose? Do you look around and search for things that move you? 

Here's my quick tip of the day--keep these elements in mind as you go and you'll always find what you need. 

COLOR: Walk outside and look--really look--at the colors. How does light or shadow affect the colors you see? What is the color like where the sky meets the horizon line? Find your favorite color around you--somewhere, anywhere--and then look at the colors around it. How do they work in conjunction with one another, or in comparison to one another? Do you see stark values anywhere? Lights and darks? What do those colors show you? How do they make you feel?

TEXTURE: Do you see interesting textures around you? How they move in the wind or sit still as a statue? Which kinds of textures are you most drawn to? Ones that are scratchy and rough? Clean and smooth? Emulate those! Find what you love and create it again and again. 

LINE: Which kinds of lines are you drawn to? The loopy lines of vines up a tree? The clean, thin lines of fallen branches? Thick lines on the road? Spray-painted lines on sidewalk to indicate electrical work? Squint and look around at what creates a line--the horizon, a wall, three trees in a row. Think about this as you create. 

SHAPE: Look at the colors and squint at them. Break them into general shapes as you squint. Congratulations, you've just mastered abstraction. K, I'm joking. But also? Kind of not. Shape isn't just a triangle or circle. It's mass. It's depth. It's how space is utilized. It can be solid or patterned or filled with textures! 

Finally, SPACE: Consider how the space around you is utilized. How does it make you feel? Is it busy? Loose? Free? Wild? Cluttered? Look at the location of what you're drawn to: the plants in conjunction with cement block walls, palm trees next to stucco, and even the juxtaposition of a simple building against the flowing clouds in the sky. Make your hands into a "telescope" and look around until you find a composition that delights you. Take note of it. Cover one eye and then the other to see how the space changes ever so slightly. 

 There are hundreds of ways to incorporate inspiration you find!

These are just a few suggestions, and they're by no means an exhaustive list. You can find inspiration anywhere, and I challenge you to take a little inspo walk to find what you love. I guarantee that you'll find something amazing. 

*Please note that there are so many elements you can consider for design. You'll see references to 7 elements of design, 10 elements of design, and even 12. I think the takeaway is that there is no wrong number of elements as long as you're considering what they MEAN for you and your art. 


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