Monday, 13 January 2014

Art I - What Should I draw? Ideas for Prompts

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Craving to draw?
Stumped on WHAT to draw?
If only there was an unlimited supply of ideas?

During my 5-year stint answering questions on Yahoo!Answers daily , especially in the Drawing & Illustration sub-category (of which I am still currently among the top 10 leaders], one of the Most frequently asked questions was : "What should I draw?"
Whether it is a person who is starting off, or who loves to draw, or an art student who needs to fill in a sketchbook, some time or other, we all face this dilemma. We either run out of ideas or encounter a tabula rasa where our brain was once so prolific with creativity & creative ideas !

This post is mostly about generating Generalized Idea Categories, each of which can then contain loads of very specific prompts. I will come to more specific/elemental sub-categories in a future post.  
Following is the first part of my answer (slightly altered) when the asker does not elaborate much :
I have uploaded a few of my watercolors done on card stock. These are almost 30 years old, hence the jaded, faded, & stained look.

In general :

  • Nature, the great outdoors, the scene from your window, anything & everything around you, ....can tell a wonderful story.

"Over the Crest, No Time to Rest"
An original, impromptu water-color on card,
a scene through my window. ~ 1985

  • From A to Z, think of a thing starting with each letter every day & draw it. eg. A for apple, apostrophe, apparition,... today ; then stuff with B tomorrow; & so on. Think of more than one thing, that will go together meaningfully, for each letter, & compose your sketch.
  • Pick up a random word(s) each day from a dictionary & try to write/sketch a composition.
  • Similarly with geometric shapes. Choose one (or 2) & develop some images with it. Combine into designs & patterns; play with angles, perspectives; create abstract & symbolic art forms.
"A Flowing Sun"
A simple, abstract composition using simple shapes.

  • Free-flowing artwork, stream-of-consciousness type of art. Draw random lines, shapes, elements – line form or solid forms. Then sit back & let an image(s) emerge from the random chaos. Something like Blind Contour drawings but without any pre-conceived image/object. Highlight the images & figures that emerge from within - something from nothing. 
  • Try to visualize quotations, lyrics, jokes, quips, tweets, slogans, etc. - give it your own interpretation & impression.
  • Ask "what if....?" questions. eg. What if we had only 3 fingers in each hand? What if the stage curtain does not drop at the right moment? What if a character from Shakespeare met a character from Victor Hugo? What if we forgot how to smile? .... When you think up answers to some such  Qs, you can get some unique material for your drawings, besides stimulating your imagination & creativity !
  • News items, current events, human interest stories, weather, etc. also offer you a Daily opportunity to draw something. The emotions they generate, the impressions they form/leave behind, the people & psyches you vicariously encounter, …
  • Dreams, fantasies, interpersonal experiences, feelings & emotions, colors, ....
  • Visualize & draw Traits – human/animal - & emotions, etc. eg. Courage, Love, Fear, Hate, Perseverance, Peace, Joy, Kindness, Naivety, etc. Make lists of words - adjectives, nouns, adverbs, .... Then conjure up images by randomly choosing any one from each list! A never-ending supply of inspiration for ‘stories’ by combining 2 or more elements .
  • Depict Life stages or Rites of Passage such as Birth, Death, Adulthood, Maturation, Childishness, Teenage years, Mid-life crisis, Old age, Senility, Marriage, Widowhood, becoming a grandparent,....
  • Think of some "story", incident, issue, anecdote, ... & try to depict them through your sketches.
  • Choose characters from any book, comic, film, poem, etc. that you like & develop them visually. Draw them as you "see" them – your personal interpretation & impression.
  • Mythological characters  & symbols. World cultures, religions, traditions, folklore, …. All provide a vibrant source of material.

TIP : For any or all of the above, you could do a whole Spectrum of emotions, expressions, positive-to-negative, and so on.
Pick one element each, from 2 or more categories to create a meaningful drawing.


Whenever an idea strikes you, jot it down immediately [yes, always carry some writing implement – pen & paper/notepad/post-its]. You will soon have a stupendous list!

I like the idea of making your own paper cuttings with tips & ideas & prompts. This idea was born from a pdf download of 100 ideas by Keri Smith
Write/type & print out Each idea Or each Element on a separate piece of paper. Fold & dump in a jar or bowl. Whenever you are in the mood, pick any one (or more) randomly & implement the idea. It can be like a never-ending Surprise stream of ideas & stories ! Keep adding to the jar whatever you find amusing, creative, any idea, website, activity, project, etc. etc. Oh what a stash you will have collated in no time !

These prompts can also include 
  • different art genres/styles - challenge yourself to try something out of your comfort zone.
  • different drawing implements - pencils, pastels, ink, paints, graphics, digital, markers, ...
  • different times of day/night - play around with light & dark, hues & shades, shadows, ...
  • different 'time-zones' - combine the traditional with modern, fantasy with reality, ...

At the cost of repeating myself, Combine 2 or more prompts/ideas to create Innumerable New versions :-)

TIP : Rummage through magazines, old greeting cards, old calendars, online drawing sites, etc. for tons of ideas to include in your prompt-jar.

Happy Drawing :-))
Would love to see your sketches & ideas !

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