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Invent, Sketch and Page Turn Your Way to Inspiration
How inventive can you be? The following art projects highlight inventive solutions developed or adopted by artists throughout the ages. They’ll test your ingenuity and may involve a little research — but don’t let that stop a creative problem-solver like you.
#1 Mix Your Own
John Goffe Rand patented the metal tube for oil paint in 1841. Today, there are so many tube paints on the market, the problem is deciding which to buy. There was a time when artists made their own paints.
The Lascaux cave painters probably even found their own pigments. Try creating a sketch or a painting without colors from traditional tube paints or markers.
You could definitely start with household spices. Turmeric is where to start for mixing bold yellows and oranges. And other items or those found just outside your door can give you all the colors of the rainbow (albeit muted because they are au naturel!).
Even if you don’t create a full-fledged painting with these decidedly bespoke color mixes, you could devote several pages in your sketchbook to this color adventure — recording how you mixed a pigment and what the results were.
#2 Palette Potential
The earliest known depiction of an artist’s palette appears in the book De Mulieribus Claris (On Famous Women) by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–75). The artist in the picture is Iaia of Cyzicus (116–27 B.C.), shown in the act of painting, with her palette at her elbow and her supplies on a nearby table.
Are you 100 percent happy with your palette? If not, design one. Make it as practical or funky as you want. Make it as big as a grand piano’s top (Sorolla did!) or as small as you want (Some artists use an Altoid box!).
If you don’t want to stop at palettes, then ask yourself: Do you dream of an art station or carry-all for your pens and markers that NASA engineers would envy for its efficiency and design? Sketch this out too for further utopic explorations!
And you can level up by bringing pieces of scrap paper together or incorporating dried flowers, grasses and seeds into a surface you sketch or paint on.
Best thing to do is experiment in the pages of your sketchbook first. Use different materials to see what combinations give you the look you want — plus you can see what they will do over time.
And if you really want to get daring, scoot on over to your sewing table and sew swatches of new material into your sketchbook itself. Cut out the sewing machine by just gluing — that’s always an option.
Experiment! Trial and error! Explore! You can definitely find ways to cover over any pages you’d like to see go bye-bye or add texture and enhancement to your surface with ease.
You can also take the opportunity to re-use old sketches or drawings and give new life to them (you know, the ones you can’t get rid of but don’t know what to do with?). Learn how to recycle and revamp old artworks with Pam Carriker’s Art Journals Prompts: Ideas for Reusing and Reinventing video download.
#4 Points of View
Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446) is credited with the development of linear perspective. Draw the same building in one-, two- and three-point perspective. Too easy? Try four-, ﬁve- and six-point perspective.
To truly see the power of the spiral, cut and paste several of your favorite images into your sketchbook (don’t use any precious images as these are going to be marked up).
Roughly overlay the Fibonacci spiral to see if its the reason why the picture is so pleasing to you.
In reverse, lightly trace the spiral on a page of your sketchbook or on the surface of the paper or canvas you are working on. Then start to build out your composition keeping those hot spots of the spiral in mind. Is your composition better for it?
Take the opportunity to draw your favorite pencil in your sketchbook. Is it a nubby, humble No. 2 or a fancy drafting pencil? Or something else altogether?
#7 Brusha Brusha Brusha
Paintbrushes of some sort have been used for millennia, but around 300 B.C. the rise of calligraphy in China brought about brushes that resemble those that artists use today.
What if all paintbrushes disappeared? Would you use a toothbrush or scrub brush instead? Maybe a stick with a frayed end or a sponge would work — or your hand. Create a painting without using paintbrushes.
If you are mostly a sketcher, use an unorthodox implement or one that you’ve simply never used before and see what kind of marks you can create.
#8 Making Faces
Check out the ﬁrst animated cartoon, Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, released by its creator, J. Stuart Blackton, in 1906. Try your hand at creating a cartoon character. Develop the character by redrawing it in various positions and with diﬀerent expressions or stances.
And don’t think you have to go farther than a mirror to find your character. Self-portraits will do you fine! Devote an entire page to these in your sketchbook.
Simply grid the page off and do a small sketch of yourself with a different expression every day. Smile, frown, furrow the brow or show off your Instagram-worthy duck lips.
#9 Art Bytes
Professor John Vincent Atanasoff and graduate student Cliff Berry developed the first electronic digital computer (the Atanasoff-Berry computer — or ABC) in 1937. It was a far cry from a laptop or tablet. Today you can use computers for everything from buying art materials to creating art itself. Create an artwork using computer technology in a way you haven’t tried before.
Create wallpaper just like artist Ben Copperwheat has using Photoshop and other imaging software to get the looks you want. Print it and use it in your next mixed media work, wrap it around your sketchbook for an updated cover, or use it as your next sketching or painting surface — allowing the wallpaper to peek through in some areas and paint over it completely in others.
Looking for More Ways to Be Creative?
Danny Gregory, founder of the Sketchbook Skool, offers up an additional 11 Ways to be More Creative Starting Now. Be sure to soak up all his wise words and fun ideas then get to the art in whatever way suits you right now — on paper, with painting, or via a napkin doodle when you sit down to dinner.
And once you’ve unleashed your muse a bit, think on unleashing it a bit more by joining us at the first ever SketchKon event. That’s right! An art event devoted to you, your pen or marker and the oh-so humble sketchbook.
Four days of inspiring instruction from awesome teachers that get you out in the world, opening your eyes to all the wonderful ways art is right there in front of you — and the ways you can capture it all in the pages of your sketchbook.
Article by Holly Davis and first printed in Artists Magazine. Get your subscription now and let the artistic inspiration and instruction greet you all year long.