Where Ideas Come From . . .

No, ideas do not come from eggs – not directly at least, but it would be great if they did. Just crack one open and there’s a creative idea! Ideas don’t come in the form of light bulbs either – an image familiar to all of us – but there are ways to encourage them to show up, and this post is about one of those.

I am very lucky to live in a virtual flood zone when it comes to ideas. This was not always true.

There was a time when I couldn’t find an original idea with a geiger counter or divining rod.

Getting ideas is a learned thing that feeds itself as you keep it going.

You get it going by learning certain practices that are good idea starters.

Even people who are usually drowning in ideas keep up these practices.

This post is about one of mine.

I get ideas from books.

I love books – especially illustrated books – and have a huge collection which I keep all in one place and visit often to see what jumps out at me. You can read through illustrated books a million times and they never get old.

I recently watched one of Danny Gregory’s videos wherein he shows off some of his favorite books in this category. One was by Sara Midda, a whimsical illustrator who lives in England. She has published several wonderful books, and I happened to have three in my collection – which I hadn’t thought about in a long while – until Danny reminded me.

I pulled this one out to play with. (Love the title!)

One great idea that comes from Sara’s books right off is the idea of drawing collections of things. Everyone has collections of things – teacups, coffee mugs, spoons, plants, hats, shoes, earrings . . . on and on. So, there’s an idea right off that could fill many a journal page. I am about to embark on a project of drawing all the artsy mugs overflowing my cupboard. If I immortalize them I will probably be able to give several away.

I just sit with my coffee or wine (morning or evening – life is what happens between coffee and wine) – and savor the pages in a very relaxed, mindful, and appreciative state. I am not looking for anything – just enjoying.

And the power of association takes over.

It always does, for everybody, but most folks aren’t paying attention.

This is where the mindful part comes in.

If you do pay attention to what you are thinking as you peruse this kind of stimuli, you will find ideas blossoming in those thoughts.

I turned a page and saw this . . .

I LOVE grids anyway and I love eggs, so I got a big idea to draw a variety of ways to eat eggs.

I sat down Sara’s book and made the page that heads this post.

I think it is very important to engage each idea you find – sooner rather than later. The book will be there for more savoring (and more ideas) when you come back.

If you sit and read the whole book – thinking about all the ideas along the way, you end up with a good deal of confusion and a case of the “don’t know where to start” syndrome.

So just grab that first good idea and run with it until you wear it out. It is likely to generate some other ideas itself before you ever return to the book. Try to “harvest” the best of them – even if there is only time for a note or quick sketch in the back of your sketchbook to remember them by.

Here’s an example:

While sketching and painting my egg page, I was still listening to myself free-asssociate. I came up with a couple of painting ideas:

What if a giant fried egg was out lying on the landscape so that the yolk looked the rising sun? “Sunny Side Up” would be a great title.

What if some eggs were behind a fence in a corral and there was a sign on the fence that said “No Poaching”? Or the eggs could be out in the woods hiding behind trees with a “No Hunting” sign.

Those half baked ideas became quick pencil sketches in the back of my sketchbook.

My ideas are stranger than most, but the process of birthing ideas out of association works for whatever kind of ideas. Maybe your ideas are a little more normal – like to collect some egg cups (you can “collect” Google images for reference now days) and sketch a bunch on a page. Or take a photo of some delightfully colored farm-fresh eggs and draw from that. They are amazing to look at . . .

Aren’t they amazing?

And I still wasn’t done with ideas from that section of Sara’s book. On this page, she wrote about how to test eggs for freshness (assuming you didn’t just get them farm fresh).

That paragraph sent a real “draw me” message to my head. So I did.

Sara also mentioned on the next page that it would be easier to draw an egg if it were square, so I drew that too.

Try this approach and see if your idea collection grows. Your collection of illustrated books will probably grow too!

Don’t worry about copying. Your ideas will not turn out like anyone else’s – and artists have been inspired by the work of other artists since the beginning of art. Ideas cannot be copyrighted – only the drawings made from them. But that is all a topic for another post. Just don’t worry about it.

Glass Palette Update . . .

Thank you so much for the great response to my glass palettes! (If you missed this, see the previous post).

I am packing.

I am shipping.

I am cutting.

I am fusing.

I am constantly thinking how I could make this faster or easier.

I am glad I limited orders to only World Watercolor Month!

I am not sure I will do this again.

I do get that it is a great idea with good potential as a business.

But I do have three full time jobs already.

And the beat goes on.

Have a great Sunday. Go get a picture book!





  1. One of my favorite illustrated books is Amarant by Una Woodruff. The imagination! The drawing ability! Amazing. As for eggs. One summer when I was 11 or 12 we prepared 300 chickens for sale. (Yes, from alive to packaged). Never want to do that again. I discovered that the eggs grow over several days and until the day or so before hatching have a “leathery” shell that is malleable and not hard at all. There are several eggs in the “pipeline” at one time. Really cool.

  2. I love this post. It has reminded me to check out my books by Vivian Swift. Your post reminded me of the first I bought, “When Wanderers Cease to Roam”. She is a watercolorist too and her paintings of various collections like found mittens are fun. Now I have to look for Sara Midda’s books. Thanks for this post!

  3. HI Barbara,
    Vivian used to blog with us on Wisdom Woman. I reviewed her book, Wanderers, when it first came out. Thought it was a fine example of an art journal although she did not think of it that way at that time. I have all her books and love them.

  4. PS – Expecially the one she did on gardens (of course).

  5. Wonderful inspiration, jessica! I volunteer in an elementary school library, and I love, love, love children’s book illustrations! The art is often child-like and fanciful in expression and frequently give me inspiration and ideas. I am intimidated by “real-life” art but really like whimsical art, like that of Eric Carle and others whose names I cannot remember. Thanks for the other suggestions too!

    I was wondering if it would be possible to make a slumping mold for your glass palettes?

  6. I love it. You are so inspiring and your blogs are so delightful! What sizes are left for the palates?

  7. Hey Jeanne – don’t I wish! I have done BIG research on casting possibilities, but for reasons too complicated (and boring) to talk about, other methods are possible, but no less troublesome. We shall see. Something will come – or not.

    And Hi Bets – well, nothing is left. The already made stock ran out the first night. HOWEVER, during July (World Watercolor Month), I will make you whatever you want – just order even though it says sold out.

  8. do you have a link for the Danny Gregory video about illustrated books? i see he has several videos, but not sure which one is “the one” … thanks!

  9. “life is (the stuff that) happens between coffee and wine”
    Love that!

  10. I love the idea of the grid and Inclyding all the ideas that come to mind. You have taught me how to come up with multiple ideas. I am going to incorporate some in my art journal. Love Danny Gregory’s videos and books.

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