If you freak out about the idea of having no idea - I'm here to help you.
I don't ever find myself with a shortage of ideas. In fact, I'm so time-poor that it is the least of my worries!
First things first...
So the first thing you should do is get an 'ideas notebook'. Keep all your notes and ideas in one place so you can dip back into it - you never know when that terrible idea might evolve into something fantastic.
Now that you have a blank notebook you need to fill it with something! Here is a process I often use.
The Pick & Mix
First, I do a brainstorm/ free word association around the prompt.
For example: Flower.
I write down everything that springs to mind for 'flower'. Write it down, even if the link is tenuous.
flowers in her hair
garden in bloom
hot house flowers
flower arranging, repotting.... the list goes on and on. And it will be different for everyone.
Here's another one:
take your medicine
ocean rhymes with potion
Some of these might already be generating vivid mental images for you. Great! Draw some quick thumbnail sketches if you want.
But why, tho?
Next, I have a think about the kinds of illustrations I might want to create. What is the purpose of this illustration/painting/print/drawing? Maybe I need some more patterns in my portfolio, or something for a greeting card with lettering. I choose one of these.
Here's a quick list:
A collection of things
A how to - instructional illustration
Something seasonal, like Valentine's or Christmas
Make a Chunky Connection
The last step is to go back to my first list and see which of these talks to me and how many ideas I can 'chunk' together. Perhaps you decide to create a how-to infographic on 'how to prepare and arrange a bouquet of spring flowers'. Or maybe you create a greeting card with lettering and a lady with sunflowers in her hair. Or a repeat pattern with gardening elements inspired by repotting plants, like pots, seedlings, a trowel, and gloves. The combinations are endless!
You can see from my second list that a whole pile of these ended up in the final painting: an ocean potion in a cork stoppered bottle with moonlight and stars.
If there are any on-trend colours or trends (like crystals, flamingos, indoor plants) you can consider which of these might also fit your brief and your concept.
The birth of an idea
After I complete this brainstorm process, then I'll likely start a Pinterest board to group reference images, colour ideas, and research.
My last step is to start sketching thumbnails to develop and refine the composition of my illustration.
Not all of your ideas will be good ones and you'll probably have some good ones that you don't get to birth. But at least you won't be short of them! Keep all your planning and ideas in your notebook to refer to down the track. Sometimes a different state of mind spawns a whole new perspective.
Let me know if this process helps you! If you have another process you like to use, why not share it in the comments? Happy designing!
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Surf Artist, Hannah Katarski is based in Fremantle, Western Australia. She creates ocean-inspired art that is bohemian, retro and fun.