Creativity doesn’t come from nothing.
The creative mind requires input to create output. I’ve written about how to find inspiration to create, as well as how to find your style as an artist, and in both posts, I encourage artists to look to the outside world for inspiration. It’s an easy place to get the input you need to kickstart your creativity, but today I want to talk about how to find inspiration from your own inner creative world.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating through the inspiration you get from the outside world, but when you are dedicated to finding your true voice as an artist and want to push yourself as far as you can, then learning how to feed off your own creativity is a great practice.
Like an artsy terrarium.
Once you take in enough input from the world around you to get a sense of who you are as a creator, it’s time to let that energy build inside of you and see how you can grow in isolation. Like a closed terrarium, you have everything you need to creatively flourish within. If you have studied the masters, learned basic art techniques and the principles of art and design, and have gotten a sense of your art style, then you may be ready to practice your creativity in isolation.
Here’s how you can learn to feed off your own creativity:
1. Disconnect from other creators’ work.
I did this when I needed an art cleanse for my mental health, but this is beneficial even when you are in a healthy mental state. Mute/unfollow other creators on social media. The reason I want you to do this is because we can’t help but be influenced by the work we consume. If you want to see how you can feed off your own creativity, you have to stop “eating” other content.
Stop consuming the work of other creators in your field. It doesn’t have to be forever. Maybe it will be for a few weeks or a couple of months. It all depends on how you’re feeling. The point is to make your artistic voice easier to hear.
2. Use what you have available.
If you feel you have taken in enough input from the outside world, then you likely have a crap ton of art supplies at your disposal by now. I want you to use what you currently have before even thinking about stepping into a store or researching new products. Again, like a terrarium, you have all you need around you.
Use the watercolors you have stashed in a drawer. Flip through half-used sketchbooks and repurpose the paper. Try that acrylic set you got for Christmas that you still haven’t opened. There is a lot of creative potential hidden in what we already have. If you feel uninspired, go through the motions anyway. Or-
3. Create using prompts/step out of your comfort zone.
I don’t want you to spend too much time online when trying to feed off your own creativity, but prompts can be a really helpful catalyst. If you have supplies that don’t inspire you, do a quick Google search for creative prompts. Or make your own. The goal is to do something you don’t usually do. Paint a landscape, sit in your living room and draw your surroundings. Use one color and experiment with shadows and highlights. Take what you have around you and look at it with a new perspective. Explore how you can manipulate your current style using different mediums or colors.
Don’t look at how other artists do it. All you need when working from a prompt is text. An idea. Paint a red banana. Can you picture it? That image in your mind is yours to feed off of.
4. Create often and complete the creative cycle.
The creative process is a cycle. The more you can work through that cycle, the more work you can create. Input–>incubation–>creation–>rest. Do this weekly, every day, multiple times a day with small 15-minute prompts. Do this as much as you can. The hard part, in the beginning, will be finding input in isolation–but it might not be as hard as you think.
Have you ever tried to remake a piece of your art? Can you replicate it exactly? Probably not, unless you are a perfectionist. Even if we make the same exact piece of art every day, there will be changes from piece to piece. Change is inevitable and this works in your favor when feeding off your own creativity. Start with your current art style, make art inspired by that, do it often, and you will inevitably see evolution.
5. Capture even the roughest of ideas.
This can be as simple as capturing ideas in a journal, doing light sketching, collecting sources of inspiration like color swatches, or testing new techniques and saving the practice work. You can’t predict when inspiration will strike. When you capture ideas and put them away for a later date, they can act as a starting point for your next work. You can stash them in a drawer for a dull day, or you can start pinning your ideas to a wall and look at them frequently. Or try both and see what works best for you.
Capture all of your ideas. It doesn’t matter how incomplete or rough they are. They can help you later.
6. Lastly, look back at your older work.
To feed off your own creativity, you need to look back at your older creations. When you create often and capture all of your ideas, you are going to have a butt-ton of stuff you can look through to spark new inspiration. Don’t let judgmental thoughts invade this exercise. I don’t care if the work sucked. Look at the techniques you used, the color palette, the subject matter, and more. Pull ideas from the past. Recreate the work with your current skills. Interpret the work and figure out what you were trying to say. Can you refine the message? Do you have a different perspective to approach the work now?
When you look back at older work, you go through a creative recycling process. Old ideas get transformed into something new. If you keep working through the creative process (input–>incubation–>creation–>rest) by only using your own work and ideas from the past as input, you will start to see your voice and style develop even more.
Practice and Patience
If you try working through this practice of creativity in isolation and you can’t seem to produce anything, then you may simply need more input from the outside world. There is no wrong way to create. Right now, I try to find about 75% of my creative input within isolation, but I can never completely cut myself off from the outside world. That would be no fun.
So what do you think? Are you ready to try and feed off your own creative energy?
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P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.