Visual Inspiration: When it is OK to Hoard

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Shrine, Collage from Magazine Images by Kat

As artists and writers we get inspiration from many sources.  Being a visual person I find that I often need pictures, not to copy, but to stimulate my imagination for painting, drawing, poems or blogging.  I collect different types of images for this purpose and have amassed quite a collection.  To avoid hoarder chaos I have organized these so that they are easy to find.

Images of artworks, figures, nature, patterns and textures are all helpful resources and are good things for the creative person to have at hand when a bit of inspiration is needed.  It can be quite expensive to buy art and illustrated books, especially those that contain a lot of colour reproductions.  Ellie and I do have quite a good library but if we do not have a particular image it is easy to find an example on the Internet.  I download those that I like into my computer’s photo library so that I can refer to it at any time.

Many designers and artists pin paper copies of all kinds of images on pin boards in their workrooms for visual stimulus.  Printing out copies from the computer can use a lot of costly ink so for this purpose I have a large collection of postcards and greeting cards, either bought on holidays or from friends and relatives.  These are less expensive than buying books and are easy to find when travelling.  Advertising cards that are free in your letterbox, found at movie theatres, art galleries, museums and other public venues often have interesting depictions and are worth grabbing.  So that I can easily access these individual images I have put them into photo and postcard albums, display books, plastic pockets in ring binders and small boxes.  If you keep your reference material organized it is less likely to be accidentally thrown out by someone else.

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Display Books with Paintings, Decorative Arts, Nature and Textile Images

Inexpensive visual reference books can be found at op shops, garage sales, and markets. Vintage books that were designed for children often have clear, simple images of nature, science and other subjects that can be really helpful for creative work.  Second hand magazines are also invaluable for doing collages and for pin boards.   If you had to buy these new it would cost a fortune.  It also pays to ask your friends and relatives to pass any old magazines in your direction.  Good quality advertising catalogues can be used as well.

A creative person needs to learn to be a scrounger but be selective.  I do have favorite subjects and have quite a collection of the works of Australian women artists for motivation.  I love paintings from the Medieval to contemporary, all kinds of textile works and fairy tale illustrations and have a bit of an obsession with butterflies so will keep any image that possesses these.  Only store what really grabs you so that you do not end up suffocating under piles of paper.  You can add new images and discard others as your library evolves.

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Post card Album with Australian Women Artist Cards (Margaret Preston Prints, Clarice Beckett Oil Painting and three Joy Hester Water Colour Paintings).

You will be surprised at how often you refer to these visual resources once you have your own personal collection. You can use them in many ways to trigger all kinds of original ideas and images.


I’ve been on a bit of a Paul Kelly binge lately.  He is such a great songwriter and I have his Memoir How To Make Gravy that is an inspirational book with all its helpful advice to songwriters.  The following live performance of his beautiful ballad Midnight Rain was recorded on his Stolen Apples Tour in 2007.  His nephew Dan Kelly (on the left of screen), a terrific guitarist and performer, plays lead guitar on this song.