Three super simple top tips to help abstract painters generate new ideas

In this Blog post I want to share how I use photos I took on a recent trip to Cornwall to help inspire my work and share some image manipulation tips to help spark inspiration for generating new ideas.

The trip was a flying work visit and there really was very little time to be creative in my sketchbook as by the end of the day I was totally exhausted and not feeling at all creative. Yet each day during my lunch break I always managed to get out for a walk, the weather was glorious with wall to wall sunshine and as I enjoyed the beautiful weather I spotted interesting things on my walk that captured my attention.

I always carry my phone so I took lots of pictures of an old rusty roller that I stumbled across on the side of the road.

This type of roller is used for rolling the fields. It improves seed to soil contact across the whole field by consolidating any loose soil left after drilling, this promotes successful and consistent germination which is the basis for a competitive crop.

The roller was pretty big, and very rusty with the ends displaying a vibrant shade of teal blue with deep scratch marks. The blue was in such contrast to the rusty shades so it really caught my eye.  Blue and orange are known as complimentary colours sitting opposite each other on the colour wheel, already this old roller has potential. I took lots of close ups of the colours, marks and shapes, I was starting to get a fizzy feeling about this old, rusty roller. 

So how can these quick snaps help me in my painting? It really is quite a simple process; here are 3 tips to help you get started.

Tip 1

Go through the images and edit them using the cropping tool, picking out the details that have interested you, this might be; colour combinations, shapes, textures or lines.

Duplicate the photo so that you can make several different crops of the same image. Try rotating the image to see how it looks, does it make you notice something different? Try putting the image into black and white, and also simplifying the shapes.

Tip 2

Print the images and make photocopies so you have a selection to play with. Next cut them up, rearrange and stick different combinations together. Be discerning in your choices.

Tip 3

Now that you have a few ideas, take out your sketchbook and create rough thumbnail sketches, at this stage you can tweak the composition. Try using black, white and grey. Concentrate on the shapes and negative shapes and keep it simple.

These three easy techniques start to spark ideas which might later end up in a finished painting. This playing stage is so much fun and there can be endless combinations. 

So even on a busy work day I can find time to see the joy in something that I walk past, elevating the everyday! Whether that is shape, colour, line, marks or texture, I pick out the elements that give me a nudge and that is all the starting point that I need. 

Sometimes these studies remain in my sketchbook as a record of the feelings, thoughts or experience I had at that specific time. They may inform other larger studies or even a body of work at a later date. Either way is fine by me, no pressure to create just enjoying something in what some people would just walk straight past.

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