Capturing an Idea Spurt

As methodical and orderly as I usually am, the way my ideas come to me is anything but organized. Most of my ideas for art projects come to me in bundles. It will usually start with a small observation, nothing that I’ll particularly think too hard about, but an observation nonetheless. It could be the way old paint is chipping off a door frame, or a peculiar smell emanating from my fridge.

Then, out of nowhere, that small observation pops back into my head later in the day and somehow my subconscious connects some dots buried deep within my brain (very scientific, I know) and WOOSH, the floodgates of ideas opens.

This happened to me on Sunday, and I want to use this event to walk you through my method of handling this information overload.

Nowhere else will you find fish and laundry detergent in the same image

I typically reserve my Sunday afternoons for doing weekly chores, which includes laundry, groceries, cleaning, and cooking. As I grabbed my laundry detergent, I noticed how interesting the colorful patterns on the Tide Pods were. But it wasn’t until I opened my freezer to thaw out some tilapia filets that my mind made a connection between the delicate pattern on the filets and the bright colors of the detergent.

Thus, an idea for a new series of paintings was born. I had so many images popping up in my mind for compositions, and I knew that if I didn’t record my ideas right when then come to me then the memory of them will disappear. I dropped everything I was doing and grabbed a pad of paper.

To facilitate the process of capturing my ideas, I always keep a small sketching bag handy near my desk with pencils, charcoals, pens, and markers. It’s so much easier having everything handy in one pouch when you want to collect ideas as quickly as possible since you don’t lose time searching through all your materials.

One of the many sketch pouches I keep available in easy-access locations

Then, I start putting my ideas on paper. I don’t care about getting any of the details right, because my only goal is to record the general mental pictures that come into my head as I have my “revelation.” If I think about something unusually specific but can’t quite draw out on the paper, I write it down on a sticky note and attach it to the sketches.

In this case, the colors and patterns brought kaleidoscope images to my brain, so that’s what came out in my sketches. Whether or not that’s what this series becomes, I’ll be glad I have this baseline to refer to. As of now, I want this to be a series of medium-sized abstract oil paintings with a strong reference to pattern.

The primordial material for a new abstract painting series

But, as I was finally emptying my head of these images, I looked at the floor and noticed I had dropped a sock on the wood-patterned linoleum where a square of light from my window happened to be shining. And again, the idea bubble bursted and I knew I had to record this observation in my sketchbook. From this, I got the idea for another series of pieces of clothing painted against the floor.


The birth of yet another project

From start to finish, only half an hour elapsed from the moment I held the laundry detergent to the moment I finished sketching the pair of shoes. But for some reason, after any one of these “idea” sessions occurs I feel completely drained, almost as if I had already completed all of these paintings in that time.

When it comes to art I value the ideas behind pieces above all else, so these moments of rushed excitement offer a mental high not replicated during any other stage of the art-making process.

Today’s post has offered a little glimpse into the workings of my mind and some of the art I’ll be sharing with you in the future, so if anything I hope this post encourages you to reflect on how you come up with your ideas, and feel free to share them in the comments!

Until next time,





  1. I liked hearing about how you handle inspiration. Having sketching supplies on hand is a great idea.

    I find the same thing happens to me. One little moment can expand to fill weeks of artwork and the key is grabbing that bit of inspiration from the air and being able to preserve it for later. Look forward to what you come up with.


  2. Hey Daniel, great post as always. I get my artistic ideas in a similar fashion. On my laptop, I have a OneNote notebook for storing ideas that I find interesting, and if I do not have access, I jot it down or repeat it in my head until I can put it into my digital notebook. Otherwise, if a project is coming up and I need an idea under time constraints, I would “brute force” the project and just start drawing something interesting. As I draw, the rest of the idea comes together because the mind keeps working even while focusing on something else.


  3. This is something I need to learn to do! When I do get inspired I often let it fade into the background of the day and then have no inspiration when I want to get down to painting. Maybe I should leave strategic materials lying around the house too!


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