For many artists, choosing what to draw next comes naturally. And most of the time your interests (hobbies, activities, etc) are probably the best sources for your drawings and paintings.
For example, I’ve always liked the look of horses. I like the way they’re put together, the way they move, the shine of light on a sleek coat, and those long manes and tails have always appealed to me. So when I began drawing and painting, it was a foregone conclusion what my subjects would be.
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That was forty years ago and horses are still among my favorite subjects. But I didn’t JUST draw horses the exact same way for 40 years.
So if you’re stumped for ideas on what to draw next, start by thinking about something you’re passionate about. Is it a sunset? A bowl of fruit? A classic car?
Then, check out my three suggestions below—I guarantee you’ll come up with a great idea for your next drawing before the end of this post!
1. Try narrowing your focus
Sooner or later, even the most passionate artist will experience a need to do something different. When that happens to you, don’t forget to look at smaller segments of your favorite subjects.
I’ve already mentioned that I’ve always taken special pleasure in drawing horses. It might surprise you to learn that I’ve drawn studies that show nothing but an eye, mouth, hoof or leg joint. Once or twice, my subject has been the sheen of sunlight over a hip or shoulder.
So take a narrower look at your favorite subjects. Specifically look for parts of those subjects that would make great detail studies. For example:
If you love classic cars, the crop above (or something even closer in) might be just what you’re looking for in presenting a fresh perspective on your favorite subject.
2. Alternatively, expand your focus!
Another good way to find interesting subjects is to investigate the subjects associated with your favorite subject. My specialty has always been horses, so that’s what people know me for. But some of my most interesting artworks have been drawings of a piece of harness or bridle or a leather strap or the folds of a horse blanket.
If you enjoy motor sports, you’ve probably painted or drawn cars. But what about the equipment along pit row on the race track or drag strip? Or the car haulers or people associated with the cars. A series depicting tools could be a source of fascination for you and your fans for weeks.
3. Try something completely unusual
Writers are often told to write what they know. My first advice to artists looking for subject ideas is to paint what you’re passionate about. That’s usually the best place to begin. But it is only the beginning.
If you have an artistic eye, subjects can come from anywhere. The cut glass candy dish on the dining room table. The flowers in the garden. The trees across the street or the fields just outside of town.
Even the trash can against the fence—or the fence itself—could make for an interesting and unique work of art.
Some artists paint everyday items. Wrapped candies. Empty snack bags. Soda cans. Stopwatches. If you like doing something different every time you paint—and some of us do—don’t overlook the normal, day-to-day items all around you.
Or how about the food that comes in some of those empty containers? Or the tools that go into preparing recipes?
A potential subject should grab your attention and draw your eye immediately. It should really move or inspire you. Those first responses are usually also the most important factor in identifying subjects.
Before you get started, though. . .
Try to keep from drawing subjects just because they’re marketable right now.
No matter how hot a subject or topic may be, if your heart isn’t in your art, the lack of enthusiasm will show in the finished work. Besides, chances are good that unless you’re a very fast painter, the trend will have changed by the time you’re painting is dried and framed.
Here’s the key takeaway:
You can always find something to paint or draw, no matter where you are or what your current skill level. Don’t limit yourself by considering the routine subjects or the routine ways of depicting them.
Remind yourself of things you enjoy, then dream up a way to give them a new spin, or a fresh look. That’s all it takes to get inspired all over again.
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