Secrets to Success | Finding Inspiration


As a designer it is important to maintain the separation between copying and being inspired. It may take longer to navigate the road less traveled but the rewards are greater. Not only will you be set apart as a leader you can also take pride in the results of your own creativity. 

Maintaining originality is an ongoing process. If you have any visibility or a measure of success you will be copied. In order to stay ahead you must constantly seek new sources of inspiration.

One way to bring a fresh approach to the easel is to step outside the industry for which you are designing. Here are a few ideas to show you what I mean.

Meander the aisles of antique venues.  What’s old is new and often dripping with character. A recent trip of my own unearthed and array of charming vintage toys and holiday decor.

View your architectural surroundings with an artist’s eye. A favorite wrought iron fence can be a wonderful starting point for creating trim.  Buildings can have curving, boxy or angular lines which, can influence color placement and layout.

Nature surrounds you with inspiration, you need only to recognize it.  Look beyond the obvious like flowers to the oft overlooked elements.  A pile of rocks can reveal beautiful shapes and hues that become fodder for a background treatment or a tone-on-tone color palette. The image at right is a close up photograph of a beautiful array of moss, lichen and other flora, growing on a granite boulder, that I spotted during a walk through the woods.  It struck me as a miniature forest, I could just imagine hearing a who.  (If you don't get the reference, google "Horton Hears a Who")

Put those catalogs to good use. They are a wealth of information about current color and design trends, color combinations that work well together, and to just get your creative juices flowing. Go beyond color to notice the lines. Are straight lines common or are there an abundance of ruffles? This can influence taking a minimalist approach with clean and simple lines or inspire an abundance of detail with many layers and elaborate finery. 

Browse through your local fabric or quilt shop. You will find lots of color combinations among the bolts of fabric. Buy ¼ yard pieces of those that appeal to you and bring them home for inspiration while experimenting. Many fabrics even have a color “chart” along the selvage edge that breaks the design down into each individual color that it contains.  This is especially helpful when choosing companion colors for walls or decorative accents. A word of caution against using the elements of a fabric design to inspire works of your own. Fabric is designed by artists and licensed to companies.  Duplicating the imagery is a violation of copyright not a legitimate source of “inspiration”.

Challenge yourself to design on unusual or awkward shapes. Trace the outline of a few paintable surfaces to establish the boundaries of your design and start laying in various components. Rearrange the components and create thumbnail sketches of the ideas that form.

What inspires you?  Are there specific events or locations that are a catalyst for your artistic visions?  Do share!  I love hearing your thoughts.