Where Do Good Ideas For Art Come From?

“Contemplation” Oil on Canvas. K Longden-Sarron

“What to do? What to do?” is a question any painter or photographer, or creator of any kind, surely asks sometimes. While its normal for any creative person to experience ‘voids’ or ‘blocks,’ I think it’s often the catalyst to an extraordinary breakthrough – because the brain processes the problem/s and simplifies them and the results can be spectacular!

I’m not going to repeat Steven Johnson’s explanation of this key question “Where do ideas come from” in his amazing video I’ve posted below, but to first offer my take on how artists, specifically, can reap ideas for their projects.

The innovative process is sometimes daunting. We wonder “How can I be original?” or “How could my work stand out from the rest?”

I too have spent hours viewing other artists’ work seeking inspiration and making lists of subjects I could paint, but at the end of it I land up with a zillion ideas and notions to try them all. The result – not much gets done. Whilst I incubate this phletora of visuals of all I’ve seen I end up more confused than ever! At the end of it I realize that whoever inspires me and whatever subjects I could paint, I need to paint what’s true to ME. That’s what being original means! That’s how my work could stand out from the rest! And to do that I need to paint what interests me, the things in life that brings me joy. In short – things that I love and make my soul sing.

So, that been said, I’m back at square one aren’t I? Where do I begin?

  • Everything starts with what we know – our visual library. Everything we remember, or from our cultural beliefs, or from events we have experienced, joyful or tragic alike.
  • It also comes from our present environment; what we see around us, or from the sounds we hear. It comes from images we see and words we read.
  • It also comes from our imagination.
  • It’s true that ideas come from observation, but they also come from seeing things differently. Exciting art can be achieved from trying new things to offer a new perspective on that subject, or to arrange things in a new, unusual and interesting way.
  • Making new connections between different, even sometimes unlikely things, also lends itself to interesting compositions and subject matter.
  • Artists who portray the beauty in everyday things or situations don’t seem to have had any particular “lightbulb” moment in making their photo or painting, but they are telling a story all the same, and sometimes to the viewer that image strikes a deeper chord than ever imagined by its creator.

“Stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places–you may find marvellous ideas.” Leonardo da Vinci

“I Hear You My Brother” Oil on Canvas. K Longden-Sarron

Ideas are all around us. I was motivated to paint this canvas from a picture I saw when viewing old photos one evening with some friends and knew it just had to be a painting!





“Gladiola!” Oil on Canvas. K LOngden-Sarron


And this one was painted from a silly photo of myself singing into a gladiola. I even titled it “Gladiola!” The idea to paint it was sparked simply because it makes me giggle! Nothing wrong with adding a little humour into your work! I believe that’s what being true to yourself is – portraying all the facets that make up YOU. Quirky, silly, sympathetic, activist or whatever you may be.



Don’t over think things, be willing to take risks and perhaps prepare to accept a few failures. The truer you are to yourself through your work, the easier it will be for you and the more fulfilling in the long run. Don’t let society quasher your zest for innovation and originality. Let your soul sing! Because it is this that develops a following. And not always because what you produce has such major appeal alone, but because you do as an individual. And it’s from you, the individual, where the good ideas for art come from!

“Art is an adventure into an unknown world which can be explored only by those willing to take the risks”            Mark Rothko 

Watch and enjoy Steven Johnson’s innovative video, and then please comment and let me know where your good ideas for art come from!



3 Replies to “Where Do Good Ideas For Art Come From?”

  1. I have just one remark. You said “We wonder “How can I be original?” or “How could my work stand out from the rest?” I never had such thoughts though I have arranged more than 50 art shows already. As regards originality, it always follow each of us – consider the fingerprints or the uniqueness of our handwriting. Each of us has his own style without any attempts and the criminology successfully uses that in their searches. If one thinks How could his work stand out from the rest?”, he is not the artist but just handicraftsman. If such thoughts bother the artists they appear in the writer’s block.and only the mourning comes out in result then.
    All the above is JUST ONE REMARK -Your post was good…much better than my English. http://arthiker.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/1616/ .

  2. Thats a very nice article< thanks for sharing. I'll comment on facebook when I go on next.

  3. Thanks Thomas for your comment. You make an interesting point! Artist vs craftsman is also an interesting idea for a new topic to write about too, and maybe you’re right that until one acquires confidence in their unique style and does not doubt themselves, he or she is not yet a true artist. Congratulations on arranging 50 art shows, that’s wonderful and quite an achievement. Well done.

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