Heading into the new year, we put together this quick list of resources and ideas to help you stay inspired, even when you’re stuck at home.
“Sometimes, inspiration comes in an instant, just like that,” Ukrainian illustrator Irina Trigubova tells us. “But, more often than not, you have to go out looking for it, and that’s just another part of the job. I can spend hours (even days!) gathering inspiration, bit by bit, by browsing the web, looking for color combinations, and enjoying photos and drawings by other people. Then suddenly, an idea pops into my head, and it won’t let me fall asleep until I’ve nailed it down as a sketch.”
During an unpredictable year of lockdowns and quarantines, artists around the world have had to get more creative than ever, all while finding inspiration in unexpected places. Heading into the new year, we put together this quick list of resources and ideas to help you stay inspired, even when you’re stuck at home. Use it as a point of departure and add your own as you go.
1. Art, Design, and Photography Books
“I often find inspiration in the many art and design books that I own,” Canada-based textile designer Elena Belokrinitski, a.k.a. Rosapompelmo, tells us. If you can’t go out and browse in a physical bookstore, you can always shop online or mix it up with an artbook subscription.
Rizzoli Bookstore, for example, offers a few 6-month and 12-month curated book subscriptions, with themes like Modern and Contemporary Art, Interiors and Architecture, Fashion, and Illustrated books. They’re on the pricey side, but the books are the crème de la crème. Similarly, if you’re a photographer looking to start with a single book (or just a couple), feel free to check out this list of 15 Photography Books to Read to Inspire Your Next Shoot.
2. A Book of Prompts
Speaking of books, an activity journal or book of prompts will provide an array of activities for creatives, many of which you can do at home. The best-selling Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith (an illustrator), has tons of assignments you won’t find anywhere else, from painting to adding and defacing photos. Photographers might also be interested in Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs: A Photo Journal by Henry Carroll, which helps you create your own photo book.
Though not a book, we also recommend checking out John Baldessari’s List of Ideas. This is a list of “optional assignments” the legendary artist used to give his students, and they’re delightfully original.
3. Museum Tours (Online)
Museums and galleries are among the most common places artists go to find inspiration. In the last year, their virtual offerings have become better than ever. Whether you want to take a virtual tour of the Musée d’Orsay or participate in an interactive tour at the Rijksmuseum, chances are there’s a museum out there to cater to your inspiration needs. The Met in New York City also offers video tours of exhibitions and more via their media center. Or, if you’re looking for inspiration from history and the natural world, try The Smithsonian’s expansive online collections and educational resources.
4. Virtual Garden Tours
“Our city’s botanic garden is very important to me for inspiration, especially since I live in a metropolis like Moscow,” Russian-based artist Olga Korneeva says. “I also buy flowers from my favorite local florists.” If you’re stuck at home, fret not. Many leading botanical gardens also offer virtual tours. That even includes the famous New York Botanical Garden, which has an “NYBG At Home” program.
If you’d like to follow Korneeva’s lead and invest in plants for your own home, a plant subscription box like The Sill Plant Subscription or Succulents Box might be the way to go. Beyond their inspiring color palettes, shapes, and textures, research shows that having plants at home can actually make you more creative.
5. TED Talks
Tons of TED Talks, including those from leading artists, photographers, designers, and more, are available online for free. You can start with talks by Sebastião Salgado, Stefan Sagmeister, Zaria Forman, JR, Angélica Dass, and more.
6. Shutterstock’s Curated Collections
“When I’m not browsing bookstores or Instagram, I look at popular pictures on Shutterstock for new ideas I can reinterpret and make my own,” Thailand-based illustrator Vividdiy8 says. You can browse Shutterstock’s curated collections for ideas, current events, and trending topics, ranging from magical winter landscape photographs to mid-century modern-inspired illustrations. Some of their most recent collections center around Shutterstock’s 2021 Color Trends, so they’re perfect for building out the perfect color palette for your next photoshoot or illustration.
7. Old Photo Albums
“I have always found inspiration in traveling, whether it’s going into the city to visit the museum or taking a day trip to a village park,” the artist, illustrator, and photographer Maria, a.k.a. Mashakotcur, explains. “But during lockdown, I’ve found that we can also travel inside our own memories.” Photo albums, whether from your last trip around the world or from family events long ago, can help you access these memories.
If you don’t have any archives or albums at home, you can seek inspiration in the memories of others. In recent years, creative initiatives like Beijing Silvermine and The Rescued Film Project have taken forgotten or lost film photographs and made them available to the public. It’s easy to spend hours browsing their collections.
8. A Musical Playlist
“Music is always a great incentive to create, and I love to listen to The Beatles and classic rock when I’m working,” Mashakotcur adds. She’s not the only one, as Rosapompelmo also finds inspiration in music, telling us, “I like listening to music and imagining what shapes and forms would embody the mood and rhythm of the song. The interpretation can be as literal or as abstract as I want it to be.”
If you’re unsure of where to start, Aperture magazine recently asked famous photographers, like Nan Goldin, Jamel Shabazz, Justin Kurland, Alec Soth, and more, to share their personal playlists. You can play them for yourself here.
9. Artsy‘s “How to Be an Artist” Series
Artsy Editorial is a go-to destination for articles on art, and one of their most fascinating offerings comes in the form of “How to be an Artist,” a series of articles based on the life and work of some of history’s greatest minds, from Mark Rothko to Georgia O’Keeffe. You’ll learn more about the artists you love, including anecdotes you’ve never heard, and come away with actionable advice and insights for your own practice.
10. And, of Course, Instagram
Social media is a bit of a double-edged sword since it can easily distract you from work, but a carefully curated Instagram feed goes a long way. Research new artists, and follow those you admire the most.
“This year, I made a point to follow a lot of professionals from fields related to art and design—from surface designers to florists to fashion designers—on Instagram,” Korneeva tells us. “Now I have a beautiful feed on Instagram. Anyone can make an inspiring, curated feed on Instagram or Pinterest—anywhere in the world.”
Looking for somewhere to start? Check out our round-ups of creative Instagram accounts, stock photographers to follow on Instagram, studio photographers on Instagram, and outdoor photographers on Instagram.
Cover image by Olga Korneeva.
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