Inspiration is an unconscious burst of creativity. As a miniature painter or other artist, inspiration fuels our desire to make our visions come alive. It is an empowering intellectual and emotional energy. Without inspiration, there is zero internal motivation and all of our efforts are cold-hearted and dull. How do you find and nurture inspiration for your work?
In this article, I share my simple ways I try to find and protect my creative inspiration.
Whether you’re painting miniatures, models, or other traditional art forms, inspiration and motivation are two important pillars for enjoying the creative process. When you fall into a rut, these tips may help you plow through the rough patch and rediscover the internal drive to create your best work.
Tips for Finding Inspiration
- Take a walk (engage with nature)
- Inspiration emerges from exposure to other art (be observant)
- Producing art breeds creative inspiration (a cause-and-effect)
- Retrospection is often a clear path forward (embrace the paradox)
Introduction: The Abyss of the Mundane
If you are a veteran miniature painter, you are probably aware that of the motivation you need to follow-through in a big project, e.g., a huge Warhammer 40k army. The end result, of course, is a work of beauty that you are proud of, displayed in a big glass case for all the World to see.
On the other hand, the lack of any motivation, the abyss of the mundane, where your emotions go to die, is a horrid place. Any artist walks through this veritable rough patch, and it takes a giant shake-up to get back in the saddle.
Maybe, you have to go back to the beginning, or an entirely new place and time in your head, where you remember what got your creative sparks flying. Here are a few tips for finding inspiration and moving forward with your work again.
Tip #1 – Take a walk (engage with nature)
Maybe you’re experiencing that empty hole that is depression. Depression is a weird mental state, where you feel nothing and too much (negativity) at the same time. It is a profound observation that many masterful artists in history experienced severe mental anxiety and depression. In fact, there is a notable link between depression and highly creative individuals.
While I don’t get into the relationship between mental health and the therapeutic benefits of creating art, there is something to be said about the purity of creating things with your hands–or stopping for a while. Rest is often the best remedy for any activity, even those that are supposed to be enjoyable and fun.
When you’re stuck, lost, taking a break outside in the fresh air and sunlight may work wonders for your mind. Indeed, there are very few artists in history who did not get some kind of inspiration from nature. If you are keen to re-energize your miniature painting work, then you should always consider embracing nature for an ounce of help.
The simple act of going for a walk in the woods is often enough to breathe some extra new life into your work. Before you know it, you may just find yourself feeling the mood again.
Tip #2 – Inspiration emerges from exposure to other art (be observant)
If you are struggling with the drive to create your own work, it is possible that you’ve gotten bored with your process. Performing the same method to blend paint colors over and over the same way is bound to drive you insane! When I get stuck with my miniature painting projects, I often try to change how I approach my work. I experiment.
In fact, when I’m bored or driven into madness by a formulaic workflow I will try to find other people’s miniature art. I search high and low for awe-inspiring work that I simply cannot replicate. Here is an artist whose work I’d admire, but may never be able to match (which is a-okay with me!).
Interestingly, I also find ways to move forward with my work by going outside the miniature painting world. I enjoy art museums because at the center of all created works there are universal themes you can engage with. Ideas and concepts like structure, form, shape, and color and contrast all converge in any visual art.
As a miniature painter, seeing how other traditional art appears has helped me decide on color scheme and composition. With photography, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of contrast and visual structure.
In another example of going beyond your field of art, Marike Reimer, an award winning artist, has used video games to help her with paint scheme decisions. Have you considered video games or card games “art”? Does the art from World of Warcraft, Skyrim, or Drift Hunters inspire you? What about the covers of books and novels, i.e., Black Library?
The more you think outside of box in regards to art, the better your ability to find inspiration around you.
Tip #3 – Producing art breeds creative inspiration (a cause-and-effect)
I’ve shared a bit of my doodles and sketchbook. A part of this reason is to show you that painting miniatures and modeling hobbies often drive (and are fed with) other artistic outlets. Sometimes the inspiration for one art form comes from simply letting go of artistic expectations and allowing yourself to openly create other art for a while.
The simple act of doodling freely can work wonders in terms of freeing up your mind from doing the same thing. Putting pen or pencil to paper and making shapes this way and that is a breath of fresh air. Try it! Look, we’ve all be stuck in a meeting or class where we didn’t want to be there. What did you do? Did you squiggle, swirl, and dance your pen in the margins of your notes?
Doodling, drawing, and sketching are a great way to find inspiration. Somewhere in the middle of the blank space you’re filling in with ink and graphite, is the fuel that drives your other artistic endeavors. If you’ve not been able to create that “thing” you wanted to make for a long time, stop trying so hard.
Grab a blank sheet of paper, or use my favorite sketchbook, and draw and doodle yourself back to freedom. It’s amazing how much making other art quickly and simply can really help free up your miniature painting mojo.
Tip #4 – Retrospection is often a clear path forward (embrace the paradox)
Look back to go forward. I highly recommend that any miniature painter should document their work with good photos. When we face difficulties in life, we often lose track of how far we’ve come. We get stuck in a moment of discouragement.
The depth of trouble is a hard place to live when you want to make progress. To get out, it is helpful to find reminders of where you’ve been. Look at the milestones. I see in my work-in-progress photos that I worked out the problem spots of that model and overcame them with simple techniques.
Ah hah! I remember how I got through that part. Let me try it again.
Things were tough when you tried to complete that large, complex miniature painting project. But, you did it! The model is done. It looks amazing!
How often do you look through your half-finished models and realize you had some good ideas that you abandoned? Maybe it’s time to revisit old attempts with new miniatures. Or, try and finish something you started a long time ago.
Reflection and revisiting the past is a trick many artists use to find their way forward again. The past reminds and informs how you make decisions in the future. In many regards, your old work (finished or not) are the best points to find inspiration again.
Reuse old ideas, or recycle those concepts into your new work. For example, the color scheme that failed on your Warhammer 40k Space Marine collection may actually fly with your Stormcast Eternals. Who knows? Try it!
Painting miniatures and other creative hobbies stop being enjoyable after a while. It’s a normal cyclical effect of being human. We have to learn to embrace shadows and light at the same time. This gray zone is where we must live and thrive.
Inspiration is this unnamed source of human motivation. Where it comes from and whence it goes, we actually have no true idea. But, there are ways to fish for it. I only shared a bit of my experience here with how I tend to look for it.
Do you have more ways to find inspiration for your work, miniature painting, or other art?
Until next time, make more art!