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  • Writer's pictureSue Halstead

How artists work

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Welcome to my first ever blog post! This will be a monthly series which will hopefully shed some light into how artists work. Or, how this one works, at least.

I'll be using my own design work and daily working practises, along with my knowledge and skills as an art teacher of many years to take a deep dive into what artists actually do, and how we think.

I hope you'll find something informative here!


Today, we'll start at the very beginning - Gathering inspiration for new work


As a visual artist, I am also a collector. Of imagery, ideas, colours, patterns, textures. I collect physical objects, such as buttons, beads, seedheads, pebbles and feathers. These are things I might want to draw from later, or I might be interested in for their colour, shape, or textures. this is a bowl of colourful delights I keep on my studio window ledge!


I collect images, such as postcards & magazine cuttings and fabric samples l like. Below is an inspiration board in my studio




I also collect, by taking hundreds of photos of things that interest me - in my case that's usually flowers and plants, trees and birds. My partner says I photograph plants more often that I photograph my son, and that's probably true!

I collect books as well: on design; on other artists; on trees; birds; flowers; children's picture books. I have little piles of them, and shelves like this, in every room of our house!


And of, course, I also collect digitally. Pinterest is a great resource for artists and designers, to pull together ideas, imagery, colours for new work. Here's a snapshot from just one of my many boards on Pinterest.



I am not collecting any of these things to copy them slavishly, and neither should you.But I find it easier to work, and gain new ideas for work, when I am surrounding by beautiful things. Things that I find inspiring and interesting. I'm sure you will too.


I am not suggesting it is necessary to spend a lot of money, or have a large space to start collecting things that inspire you. Why not start by taking your own photographs, making a Pinterest board, and foraging for interesting shells, or seedheads? You can sometimes get free fabric snippets or wallpaper samples from stores too. Make a digital collage, or create a physical inspiration board ,folder, or sketchbook, to collect your finds.


I believe that the more we can define and refine our own sense of taste, what we like, what we don't like so much, AND WHY, the more we hone our own artistic style, and can narrow down the type of work we want to make. You inspiration boards can tell you a lot about what things you might like to draw, what type of media you might like to try, what colours you are most drawn to. And all of this points you towards something we will talk about more in future posts: your signature style.


So start a collection of some kind. And don't just add to it, refine it, hone it, edit it. It's not a static collection - it's ever evolving, as are you.


I'd love to know if you action anything in this post. Let me know if you do!


Next month, I'll talk more about how I use all of this inspiration to generate work. I hope you'll join me!


Get a free art print, worth £10, to download, when you join my monthly emailing list. Every month I share '3 good things' happening in my studio, and subscribers get special offers, discounts and sneak peaks at new products and designs. It's a little shot of colour into your inbox!



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