So… where do artists get ideas from anyway?

Some ideas may come from the miniature: Watson & Sons, London, c. 1880s, an arrangement of selected diatoms on a microscope slide

The creative muse is an interesting topic… The idea of the Romantic Artist is often clouded with mystery and a sense of the “divine”. As though they were taken hostage by some overwhelmingly brilliant creative epiphany which has lead them to create work that they themselves were powerless but to produce. Sadly, this belief separates the “artistic” (AKA elevated-beings-which-act-as-conduit-for-inspired-creative-genius) from the “non-artistic” (AKA all-the-rest-of-us). I am talking about this in exaggerated terms, but I do think deep down sometimes we feel this way when we are facing a creative block.

Artists sometimes struggle to find that next idea to create work about, but this doesn’t diminish their value of being an artist⁠—it strengthens it. Learning not to give up, but to push through creative blocks is important (as with any other creative field, like music or writing). A wise woman once told me that when she doesn’t know what to do, she spends time in here studio space: tidying, organizing supplies, etc. Consistently being in that creatively designated space is important. She often found while working on random tasks that ideas would start coming. This is such good advice (trust me, I’ve tried it myself)!

Sometimes ideas come from reading about other people’s curiosities: photos of ice crystals by Masaru Emoto

Over time I have discovered that when I am in a creative block and finding it hard to think of ideas, it often is because I have been focusing on “outputting” but not “inputting” and I need to spend some time feeding my curiosity. I find ideas in a few different ways, but the main way is through listening to podcasts and reading books about subjects I am interested in (water, whales, marine life, etc.). Recently, I have been listening and re-listening to episodes from the Whale Tales podcast. I also enjoy following marine researches and conservation groups online because they often share things that I did not previously know. One group that I follow, the Marine Research and Education Society, just announced they are offering a free webinar on March 11th called Collaborating to Protect Ocean Giants about humpback whales and their diet, boater behaviour and studying scarring on whales through ariel photographs. I have have been reading a couple books: The Hidden Messages in Water by Japanese artist Masaru Emoto and How to Read Water, Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea by Tristan Gooley.

Creativity often comes from a sense of curiosity, where we are willing and open to be surprised by discovery. The next time you are at an art opening or open studio, try asking the artist how they find ideas. If you do this, you will likely end up in a wonderful conversation and you may even find your curiosity being fed.

Speaking of curiosity, as I mentioned in my last post, I have been creating a weekend summer workshop called Drawing with Science. Well, here is the inside scoop. Basically, this workshop is indulgently and unabashedly focused on what gets me fired up with creative ideas: the meeting of art and science. Together we will be creating art about nature and scientific concepts, like “the specimen”, and one project even includes using microscopes to make drawings. Lately I have had so much fun researching historic and contemporary artists that make art about science and have had my head filled with inspiration that I can’t wait to share. MISSA workshops are an art retreat and this year they will be running at the lovely facilities of the Shawnigan Lake School and all workshops include lunch (there is even accommodation available if you want to sleep over and have breakfast and dinner there too). My desire for this workshop is to facilitate a safe, supportive environment where we can learn about the connecting of art and science, expand and sharpen our drawing skills, and have fun experimenting.

Maybe you have never taken an art workshop before, or you are a practicing artist or maybe you are a scientist or researcher⁠—you are welcome in this class! If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message.

General Registration opens at noon on February 14th⁠ — Happy Valentines Day!

For more information about the Drawing with Science workshop click here

2 thoughts on “So… where do artists get ideas from anyway?

  1. Hi Natasha: I’ve tried to leave a message previously, using WordPress, (too complicated a process for me, I fear). So I’m happy to have the opportunity to do so again, here, as well!
    My main message was that I really appreciate your ability to put your thoughts together, and to segue smoothly where one idea leads to another!
    I would add, here, that I hope you have an enthusiastic response to the MISSSA event, with like-minded explorers.
    Thanks for this.

    • Dear Shirley,

      Thank you for leaving this message for me. I appreciate the effort that it involved! I always enjoy reading your comments and find encouragement in them. You are so thoughtful and kind!


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