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Where do You Get Your Crazy Ideas? Part I

I get asked this question all the time...

Whenever I share one of my drawings on social media with friends, usually trying to direct them to one of my online stores so my buddies will buy one of my shirts or art prints, I invariably get this question:

Where do you get your crazy ideas from?

I usually just brush this question off by saying things like "my brain" and then proceed to change the subject because it's a long-winded answer. When people ask, they want a short and concise solution: something along the lines of "dreams." Those who don't work in the creative fields tend to be fascinated by the creative process. Annoyingly enough, they seem to think that us creative types do drugs in order to fuel our creativity, which at least for me, is simply not the case.

Here are some methods and techniques I use to keep the creative juices flowing, and this is the first blogpost in a series about my creative process.

The Out-of-the-Blue Spark
(a.k.a. the Eureka Moment!)

This happens when I hear a song, hear a word, or notice something out of the corner of my eye, and that just suddenly sparks an image in my brain. It is very satisfying when this happens! It makes me run for my sketchbook to get some ideas down before I turn to my tablet.

Here is an example: a friend at happy hour, mentioned how she was suspicious of a certain politician from her home country, and then proceeded to describe this politician as a "wolf in sheep's clothing." I was already well acquainted with this almost cliché idiomatic expression, but I guess I hadn't heard it in quite a long time. Upon hearing it, I immediately thought to myself "why not a wolf in men's clothing?" That quick turn of thought brought about a whole series of drawings of wolves wearing suits and ties (and even a pocket-square!). Critical to this approach is sketching right away. It's amazing how quickly you will lose that initial spark of creativity if you don't put pen to paper immediately.

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The Limitation Approach

My favorite photography teacher, Kim Kirkpatrick, taught me that creativity can actually be invigorated by placing certain limitations on it. I remember being in his class and producing a series of photos of my sneakers hanging out with other household items like houseplants and tchotchkes. These photos got me the best grades in the class, and the lesson stayed with me and has served me well in my creative endeavors.

The best way to go from one drawing to a series of drawings is to impose some limitations on what these drawings can show. This is how I created my Animal Skulls series, I limited myself to combining three simple visual elements: animal skulls, circles, and stars. This approach might sound like it would curtail creativity, but in fact it sparks a torrent of ideas. After all, there are countless animal skulls, and stars can have an infinite number of points, and circles can be combined in a variety ways. By choosing specific elements, you create a very neat box, and then challenge yourself to think outside of it.

Note: (Ok, I know I cheated with the stripes behind the lion skull, but I forgive myself...)

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Coming up next...

These are just two ways to start your creative juices flowing and keep them going in order to churn out more work. Tune in next week when I'll touch upon two other methods to keep that creativity rolling: The Homage, and The Free Doodle.

If you have any questions about either blogpost, please feel free to contact me via email. I would love to hear from you!

To see how research can only be beneficial to finding creative solutions, please check out my previous blogpost: "Illustration without research is just doodling."