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How to create original illustrations and overcome creative block


If you're a creative designer-maker-illustrator type,, you'll know all too well what it feels like to encounter the dreaded 'creative block'. It usually rears its ugly head when you have a pressing deadline, and no matter what you do, you can't escape it. When I run into such an issue, I have a few go-to methods to help get me back on track.


Make use of social media

Social media gives us access to thousands of artist's profiles, all over the world. When I am feeling stuck, I jump onto Instagram or Pinterest and start browsing. I saving any images that spark emotion to a collection as I go. I might spend hours exploring different accounts or hashtag feeds, but it's important to see this as time well spent, certainly not wasted. At the end of your digital journey, you'll find yourself with a really useful mood board, which can then be used as inspiration to create an original piece.


Define a colour palette

Before I start thinking about composition, I like to define my colour palette. Pinterest is, again, a go-to site for helping with this. It is important to take your colour inspiration from a wide variety of sources instead of searching for ready-made palettes or 'borrowing' from other artists. Inspiration for colour can come from literally anywhere: nature, jewellery, fashion, food and cooking, technology... the list is endless, which also means that so are the possibilities! I like to choose at least one contrasting or dark colour, and add touches of white if I feel my design is looking too 'hemmed in'. When creating a series of images - such as a set of five greetings cards for a collection - having a set colour palette makes it much easier to tie your designs together. And remember: you don't have to use all of the colours you've picked out in every image you create.


Create thumbnails to assist with composition

I never used to sketch out my artwork before starting on the final design, but how I wrong I was with this approach. I took a class led by Charly Clements a while ago and she stressed the importance of using traditional methods (pencil and paper, or digital pencil and iPad in my case) to try different ways of laying down your idea. They only need to be super quick sketches, but they will revolutionise the way you create images. I usually test out 3-4 different ideas before marking out something more final. The absolute last step is to add in the colour and texture; it's much harder to adjust anything once the colour has been added. If you do end up colouring in your image and then deciding its just not working, Procreate has got your back. Whilst it can be fiddly to adjust colours, the app has some really useful time-saving tools such as 'drag and fill' which enables you to flood solid colour areas with a new tone, and the recolour tool, which can literally transform the entire colour balance of your image in one step.


Take a class

There are so many online courses that are great for getting your creative juices flowing and challenging you to try new skills and techniques. I have a subscription to Skillshare, an online platform filled with thousands of courses for creatives. Whatever your discipline, you can find something that will grab your attention and help you develop creatively. The next one lined up for me is an 3D rendering course on how to create realistic enamel pin mock ups using Adobe Illustrator, Blender and Adobe's new dimension software (exciting!!) (https://www.skillshare.com/classes/Design-and-Mockup-Your-Enamel-Pins-in-3D/155061972?via=search-layout-grid), as well as some super interesting classes on hand lettering. If only there were more hours in the day!


Seek the opinions of others

I am lucky in that I can always count on my colleague to offer her honest, but always constructive, opinion when it comes to analysing an illustration. Quite often I find myself with an image I am 90% happy with, but something is not quite right, and i've spent too long on it to work out what the problem is. In these instances, I will ask her what she thinks would turn it around. It can be something really tiny, but one change can make all the difference!


Get out of your workspace (and headspace!)

Sometimes it's just not your day. On those days, when you've tried everything else and nothing is helping, its time to stop. Don't punish yourself or force yourself to work, you will never be happy with the end result. I have days where I can easily roll out several illustrations which I am really happy with, and others where I've spent eight gruelling hours working on something completely underwhelming. That's life. Instead of wasting those precious hours like I have done so many times, grab your boots and seek a change of scenery to clear your head. And take a sketchbook - you never know what might inspire you when you're out and about!

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