In last week's blogpost I talked a bit about where I get my ideas from. Following up on it, here is one technique I use when ideas are just not forthcoming, and a simple exercise that usually helps light up a spark in my imagination.
So you know you should be adding some promo pieces to your portfolio, or some new designs to your t-shirt/poster online store and you can't think of anything to draw. You've got a bad case of writer's block (or whatever the equivalent is for illustrators) and your mind is a blank. You've had the coffee, you've gone for a swim, you've binge watched the latest season of Black Mirror.
Why not think back to one of those iconic images that inspired you to start taking your drawing seriously in the first place and pay it a proper homage? Change up the style, play with the content, or just use it to inspire your next drawing.
Below there are two examples of homages, the first one is an homage to the iconic Jaws poster which is inspired my Atari-like drawing entitled Sharkpixels. Now that I think about it, the fact that Atari and Jaws were both such 80s pop icons must have inspired that particular mashup in my mind. And after that is The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and my own take on it called From the Depths.
I like to call this technique the "free-doodle" because it is freeing (and even meditative) in a very distracting way. Find a time when you are distracted and you are actually not trying to draw anything, and let your drawing hand lose. Don't think about the subject of the drawing, just simply pick up your pencil and just start drawing whatever flows from your hand. The perfect time for free-doodling is when you are on the phone, watching TV, shooting the breeze with someone who doesn't mind your doodling, or maybe even at a meeting your presence is an accident of scheduling and not a necessity (don't get busted!). I actually find that when free-doodling, I often retain more from whatever experience is at hand: I remember the meeting's content better, I recall what the TV show was about with more clarity, it really does help with memory.
If you keep up with this exercise, you will soon find that certain patterns and, even characters start emerging and repeating themselves. I'm not a psychiatrist so I can't tell you if this is tapping your id or drawing from your superego, I'm not even sure what that means, but I do find the tiny sketches that come from this exercise to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
Below you can see how simple line drawings of repeated patterns eventually became one of my latest drawings, Alien Landscape. I added the colors, textures. ominous tentacles, but the core of the drawing — the sinister totemic symbols, the lined up planets, the flying saucer, the alien planet rising, are all from dozens and dozens of free-doodles I had created previously.