How Do Artists Get Ideas?
As an illustrator (and a content creator), I often get this question: what is your creative process? Where do you get your ideas?
If I’m being honest, unlike the majority of artists out there, I wasn’t raised in an art nurturing environment, and isn’t quite the best artist either. When I was growing up, my home country at that point in time was quite against the creative trade, and actively try to discourage youngsters from taking the path of an artist or even any form of creative career.
In fact, when I enrolled in LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore, years later, it took some convincing before my mother even relented. That is pretty much the common viewpoint of most of the older generation of Singapore at that point in time.
Mother: A creative career? You’re going to starve!
(Funny how I’m still alive and still in the media trade nearly a decade later, huh?)
I majored in Film, and took on roles as a Video Editor with a few production companies after graduation; so suffice to say that I wasn’t exactly surrounded in a very ‘artsy’ environment even after.
Right after my college graduation back in 2014, I was then introduced to a brush lettering workshop held in Singapore, and bought the Procreate art app on my iPad purely for lettering practice after that. However, it was then when I discovered that Procreate is more than something that I can use for lettering practice, and that I can create lots of artworks (even if I can’t really draw at that time).
I think I spent an entire year after getting the Procreate app just doing nothing but tutorials on YouTube to familiarise myself with the program, and in the process, also creating artworks of my own.
Though I only started taking it seriously in the last few years when I upgraded to an iPad Air, and even invested in an Apple Pencil.
Needless to say that these days, I hardly use Procreate for lettering anymore.
But I digress.
So not that long ago, another fellow artist friend (https://www.instagram.com/montagustudios/) that I met through social media actually informed me about a DeviantArt challenge – the #DrawARaven challenge, to be exact.
The challenge pretty much challenges artists to draw a raven in their own style. At that point in time, I was already working on developing my own art style, and I find I tend to lean a lot more towards the ‘chibi’ or ‘kawaii’ style than hyper realism—I drew enough ‘realism’ when I was in art school to grow to hate it.
It too isn’t a total lie to state that it’s through this DeviantArt challenge when I started delving back into the world of art once more, and started drawing again, and I find I like it a lot more than when I was forced to draw nothing but fruit drawings when I was in art school.
It is also through this challenge when I developed my own ‘brand’, so to speak, or my original characters: Sodum the Reaper and Kiki the cat.
I probably delved through Pinterest for days when trying to come up with a Reaper design prior to submitting the drawing for the DeviantArt challenge. My go to answer when I’m stuck on how to draw something: go to Pinterest.
I didn’t want to draw a scary Reaper. I saw enough of it on DeviantArt and Pinterest and even Instagram. I like to draw cute and chibi illustrations, so I wanted to apply the same concept here.
(Poor Reaper. All he does is to take souls to the afterlife. Why is everyone scared of you?)
There was also an artist that I’ve followed for years with her Loving Reaper series: it is a series of comics that depicts the Grim Reaper and taking the souls of abandoned and abused animals to a better life after their death.
It is through her artworks where I got the inspiration to develop my Sodum the Reaper character. Though Kiki the cat is a later addition when I decided that the poor Reaper might be lonely without a companion.
So to recap: getting inspiration and ideas for my artwork pretty much can come out of nowhere. But I find the easiest way for me to ‘get ideas’ for my own artwork is to browse social media—mainly Pinterest or DeviantArt.
Most artists that went digital these days no longer uses pencil and paper for sketches, but I still do, doing the colour and linework in Procreate.
Though certain details in the rough sketches don’t always appear in the final artwork either.
(Though somehow, I always ended up forgetting to draw poor Kiki’s whiskers!)
And through the development of Sodum and Kiki as a whole, I even made a webcomic for Kiki the cat.
Webcomics however is a whole different ball game, as compared to just illustrations. As you not only have to come up with the design, but also a good story for the webcomic. I majored in Film in college, so I was already accustomed to story and character development. But to those that are interested in creating your own comics, I only have this to say:
Take out a piece of paper. Write down the characteristics of your character—whether it be the personality or their physical appearance. Then think of the story you want to tell. Is there a burden or a milestone they have to get through? What will help them to reach that point? And once they reach that point, what then?
Taking Domestika courses actually helped me a lot in developing and designing my webcomic, and even helped with my own illustration skills as an artist as a whole.
What do you want to draw? What kind of message do you want to tell? What kind of story do you want to tell?
Inspiration for me can come from real life experiences, like a recent short comic I recently did up that detailed my experiences with severe aches after cracking out my Ringfit exercise game for the first time in months!
Inspiration for other artists comes from taking a short walk outdoors, or even browsing social media.
But more importantly: have fun!
FAQ: How do I find my art style?
A: Honestly, this is kinda hard to answer, as it really depends on what do you like. Do you like drawing realism? Kawaii? Cute? In my case, I experimented a lot before I figured out what I like to draw and then developed my art style from there. I started out drawing all kinds of styles—from realism to abstract and even kawaii before I figured out what I liked, and then started developing my style to what you see today.
Even then, depending on the kind of illustrations that I’m doing, the colours and style that I use varies. For my Reaper and Kiki series, it is generally full colour illustrations, but normally in dark colours—generally in blue and purple—as I am depicting the afterlife.
But for my more kawaii illustrations, I tend to use more pastels as it is cheerful and cute.
It all comes down to your general preference and what do you like to draw? I hated drawing people, even chibi ones. So generally, if I ever depict ‘people’ in my comics, they generally appear more as stick figures or just white figures without faces.
All I can suggest is experiment a lot until you find what you like, and then develop your style from there.
Drawing isn’t meant to be a chore. You have to like what you do, or you’ll grow to hate it. In my case, this is more of a hobby than anything—also a way for me to destress. But I am also looking into options to turn my art into merchandise or prints and sell them, but that is a story for another day.
It is also why I started webcomics on my IG and Webtoons accounts.
But more importantly, have fun drawing!