Inspiration is everywhere — from the words of your favorite writer to the blooms and leaves on your morning walk. You just need to open your eyes, and breathe it in.
Sometimes it helps to talk to others who are creative to get ideas about what gets their creativity juices flowing.
Here, 10 creative people share the various things that inspire their beautiful works.
Breanna Radermacheris a print and web designer in the Minneapolis area.
As a designer, I find myself planted in front of a computer screen for long hours at a time; it’s a part of my job, after all. While it’s easy to say that I find loads of inspiration through visual blogs and social media websites like Pinterest (which I do), the truth is that I’m most inspired by stepping away from the screen.
Whether I’m going for a walk around town or road-tripping across the states, it’s always a breath of fresh air. Intriguing and different. Inspiration, truly, is everywhere. You just need to open your eyes a little bit to see it all around you.
Melissa Tydell is a Chicago-based freelance writer.
It sometimes feels so innate, so natural to me as a writer, and I think I find inspiration in many places and spaces…Reading other people’s writing gets my imagination working.
I do some of my best thinking when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night or when I’m away from my computer; in those quiet moments, I sometimes practically “write” an entire piece in my head before I actually sit down to type it out. But in thinking more about your question…
I find inspiration in the everyday. I am fascinated by relationships of all types–happy ones, complicated ones, unusual ones. Through writing, I often attempt to dissect the meaning behind something that has happened or to describe a particular feeling or emotion.
I enjoy the challenge of communicating what we each experience in our everyday lives, bringing those unique moments to life through words and sentences.
And what is really wonderful about writing is that I can pass on that inspiration; if I can clearly communicate some aspect of life, if I can inform or entertain the people who read my writing, I may also have the opportunity to inspire them as well.
Laura Simmsis a career coach who helps creatives discover and thrive at work they love.
I’m inspired by risk. Starting something I have no idea how to finish, witnessing people go for something new – anything that has the potential for failure (but not total disaster) gets my heart and creativity pumping.
[For instance], a few years ago I got really into “The West Wing” and Aaron Sorkin’s writing. I wanted to get in touch with Aaron, but figured getting past his people would be difficult. I went an unconventional route and started a blog called “Letters to Aaron Sorkin” where I would write short letters to him on a regular basis. I made it a game with rules for myself like I couldn’t directly try to contact him other that through my letters. He eventually discovered the blog and emailed me. It was such a fun experiment, but definitely riskier than writing his agent.
The best part was that friends found out about my mission and got really excited about participating. One friend surprised me with a ticket to a screening and talk-back of a Sorkin film, so I got to hear him speak in person. It was fun to know that my game inspired people to take action on my behalf much more than asking around for favors.
Jess Constableis the designer and founder of Jess LC and author of the blog Makeunder My Life.
For topics on makeundermylife.com, I’m most inspired by things I face and work through in my daily life. Those lessons learned are perfect for posts that may help others as well. When it comes to Jess LC, I get inspired by color and pattern in interior design and love to translate that to lifestyle accessories in a new way. It’s a great place to look, which translates so well!
Elizabeth Patchblogs, writes and illustrates on the topic of positive body image for women and girls of all sizes. She is the author and illustrator of More to Love and is currently working on a children’s book to encourage girls to follow their dreams, regardless of their weight.
I’ve learned that when I am feeling uncreative and blocked, I need to accept this as a time to read and research, and allow the input to stew in the back of my mind until it is ready to appear. And then my ideas often spring out fully formed when I am engaged in some sort of simple, quiet, solo task not related to “art:” weeding the garden, knitting, taking a walk, arranging a bouquet of flowers, sitting on the swing in my backyard.
I have also learned that my best work comes when I don’t really care about the outcome, when I am just messing around with the art supplies. True creativity requires a willingness to play with the raw materials, whether those materials are words, paint, pixels, fabric, whatever!
Jessica Swiftis a full-time artist and surface pattern designer.
I get a lot of inspiration from long walks through my neighborhood. Being outside and moving my body gets my creative juices flowing! I love nature and the organic shapes of flowers, leaves, and trees, and I often use these types of shapes in my work.
I’m also hugely inspired by color and am constantly saving images online and in magazines for color inspiration. I love combining colors in unusual ways, and the act of simply playing with color, whether it’s on a canvas with paint or on my computer screen, inspires a lot of ideas for me.
A lot of the messages in my artwork are uplifting, positive, and hopeful; I’ve always been a worrier throughout my life, so I often use my artwork as a way to reassure myself that everything will be OK.
I’m also inspired by the idea of creating artwork that lifts other people up and reassures them in their own lives. I find that people are always looking for more positivity and happiness in their lives, and my art is my way of offering that to people. It’s endlessly inspiring to know that I can make some sort of difference [in] people’s attitudes toward themselves and their own lives.
Catherine Just is a photographer and creator of Soul*Full e-courses and retreats.
My photography is inspired by both internal and external realities. For the series called “ Nap Time” I took a situation in my life with my son that was stressful for me. My son would not nap and I wanted more “me” time. So instead of suffering, I created a ritual of taking photos of my son and I as soon as he fell asleep. This transformed a situation that caused me stress into the most amazing experience. I now have hundreds of these photos of our naptime together and have documented our relationship during this once-in-a-lifetime experience with my son.
I also get inspiration by investigating my life. Pulling it apart at the seams and seeing what’s inside. A bit like an archaeologist who is digging for clues. I look underneath the surface of what is seen, to find the places that are not seen but felt. The spaces and places that have no words. The spiritual aspects of life.
The creative process itself brings me to a place of being totally present and that process itself is inspiring. Just the act of looking through the viewfinder slows me down and I am at once connected with what I see. I would say that I see my version of God or the energy of the Universe through the lens. The way the light falls on a leaf, the way your eyes sparkle in the sunlight, the way the shadows dance on the grass. The experience of really noticing the world around me and within me is the greatest inspiration of all.
Amanda Gentheris a graphic and web designer working with passionate creative businesses around the world.
My biggest source of inspiration is nature. I’m drawn to green plants and bright flowers. I almost instinctively choose the more natural products to represent my own brand (natural wood USB drives, kraft envelopes).
In order to be surrounded by inspiration and find new inspiration, I think it’s important to get out of your office every week to take a walk, go for a run or drink a cup of coffee. For me, surrounding myself with this inspiration keeps me motivated.
Since I am a designer and could be working on up to 7 projects every week, my source of inspiration is constantly changing and evolving. For each project, the client and I create an inspiration board, and it helps if I wait around 1 week to even start sketching to allow the inspiration to sort of sink in. Sometimes I’ll infuse a source of inspiration from one project into the next and the outcome is so much more developed.
Flora Bowley is an internationally celebrated painter, teacher, author and inspirationalist.
Although the source of my creativity is fueled by many things such as nature, travel, personal transformation, textiles, poetry and all things colorful, I find my deepest well of inspiration simply in the *process* of creating something out of nothing.
As a rule, I never know what my paintings will look like before I begin and this mystery is exactly what creates the excitement and curiosity I need to stay inspired. I rely on my intuition and the concept of “working with what’s working” to keep momentum as my paintings emerge naturally on their own time.
I also embrace the freedom to change courses many times along the way, knowing each and every choice will be an important part of the finished painting. By letting go of desired outcomes, I open myself to a world where anything is possible and there are no mistakes–a great place to find inspiration!
Alexandra Frazen is a writer, blogger and digital entrepreneur.
I am inspired . . .
By yoga. Specifically, folding upside down. It’s where I get my best ideas. Go figure.
By magazines. Good ones. The kind with exquisite photography, fascinating essays, and ads that aren’t about melting your belly with mystical tablets. My favorite magazines are: Travel & Leisure (I love fantasizing about renting a private island & stone castle, off the coast of Scotland!); Martha Stewart Living (elegant food porn); Real Simple (an OCD gal’s organizational dream!); The Atlantic (makes me feel smarty-smart, like NPR); and the lil’ magazine they tuck into the Sunday NY Times.
By off-line conversations. Kicking it old school over tea & red velvet cake truffles. Giggles don’t translate on Twitter.
By problems. As a writer, I solve problems with words. There’s nothing more satisfying that finding the right turn of phrase to transform the murkiest muddle of madness into something so elegantly precise.
By my mom. She’s just brilliant.
By myself. I aim for astonishment, daily.
We may live in a digital world, but our love affair with paper art has by no means diminished. Folded into origami and kirigami, laser-cut, layered and made into sculptures, paper artists can transform a humble sheet of old tree into a spectacular artwork.
Here are some great of examples of paper art being used imaginatively within contemporary design, giving new life to one of the most ancient arts. You're sure to find the inspiration you're looking for...
01. Self Preserving
The Self Preserving campaign from cosmetics company Lush to promote its use of natural ingredients saw shop windows all over Europe fill with epic paper art. It was a collaborative effort, with artist Charlotte Day creating original illustrations of the natural ingredients found in the product range, which were then brought to life in 3D using textured paper to create shop window displays designed by Owen Gildersleeve.
A special hero installation in Lush's flagship store in London's Oxford Street even moved, masterminded by 3D designer Thomas Forsyth. "Many hours were spent experimenting with different algorithms and code structures so that we could give the flowers more believable and animated movements,” explains Forsyth. “We’ve actually ended up creating a program in which the flowers randomly generate their own movements, so when it feels like one of the flowers has turned to look at you, it kind of has.”
Paper art duo Julie Wilkinson and Joyanne Horscroft aka Makerie Studio design and create showpieces for window installations, advertising and editorial clients. "Circling is an extremely personal project, one that came from trying to deal with a period of intense fear and worry," says the duo. "Bright colours and happy thoughts are usually our driving forces, but some days take their toll, and this was our way of dealing with anxiety. Making something constructive out of a stressful state of mind was a way of feeling less helpless, literally turning darkness into beauty."
Each piece was handcrafted from iridescent gold and black paper, and features a central creature surrounded by circling predators.
Virgina-based designer Eric Standley takes paper art to a new level with his incredibly intricate, multi-layered creations, often inspired by Islamic or Gothic architecture.
This detailed design is based around the fractal geometry that occurs naturally in the universe. "When a DNA braid is viewed from the top down, the layered double helix rotation abides by the golden ratio (phi)," explains Standley. "I began applying phi to the drawing processes of Kismet and Phidala."
Take a look at his website for more breathtakingly detailed creations, or read our article on his laser-cut paper art.
04. Tissue series
Lisa Nilsson works in a variety of media, but for us her stand-out work involves quilling. We can't resist her Tissue series: a collection of anatomical cross-sections rendered in paper.
Says Nicholls, "I find quilling exquisitely satisfying for rendering the densely squished and lovely internal landscape of the human body in cross section."
05. Forest Folks
French artists Lucie Thomas and Thibault Zimmerman make up renowned paper art studio Zim & Zou. The duo's colourful paper sculptures appear all over the world – including in this series of installations in a new Hermès store in Dubai.
The series is based around the theme of nature. "In this project, spectators have a sneak peek of the curious characters living inside this environment," the pair state. "This microscopic point of view, where plants... reign as masters, is like a kind of picture, a flash, a precise instant in nature’s unrestrained run."
06. European Birds
Colombian-born Diana Beltran Herrera specialises in amazing paper recreations of nature, her work featuring wonderfully detailed flowers and plants and the most incredibly realistic birds of all shapes and sizes. Recently, the Bristol-based artist has also started incorporating insects, butterflies and fish into her work, demonstrating the same level of attention to detail.
07. We Sent Their Briefs Back
South African agency TBWA needed a way of getting clients' attention, and hit upon this novel way of tackling a brief: taking actual paper briefs and turning them into eye-catching paper art incorporating concepts relevant to the specific brand message, and then sending the briefs back to the client. The project was a huge success, attracting new work within five days.
08. Nissan Juke
Nissan wanted to create a life-size origami version of its Juke car to celebrate the model’s fifth anniversary. Inspired by its Japanese origins and the craftsmanship of UK manufacturing, the company turned to British designer and illustrator Owen Gildersleeve to make its vision reality. As with the Lush project above, Gildersleeve brought in Thomas Forsyth to lend his 3D build expertise to this epic undertaking. The final car was built from heavyweight card over a foam board skeleton.
09. The Tree of Knowledge
There's plenty of paper art out there that incorporates books into the design, but Spanish designer Malena Valcárcel's designs are particularly magical. "I transform books into a new story in a way to make people stop and appreciate, if just for a moment, the magic of books," she says. Take a look at the range of book paper art designs in Valcárcel's Etsy store, along with some delicate paper jewellery.
10. Cut Scene
Making a living from paper art is a difficult task, but thanks to his talents and enthusiasm, Marc Hagan-Guirey – aka Paper Dandy – has done just that. For his Star Wars-inspired Cut Scene exhibition, the artist create 12 kirigami models of different iconic scenes, each cut from a single sheet of paper. The project received rave reviews.
Hagan-Guirey has also released a book entitled Horrogami, which includes 20 Kirigami projects inspired by cult horror tales such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Sleepy Hollow and King Kong, along with step-by-step instructions to make your own.
11. Decorex Expo
Just one example of Marc Hagan-Guirey's work in this list would seem like we were short changing you. So feast your eyes on his kirigami design for Decorex International, a company that puts on big interior design expos in the UK. Read more in our article here.
12. Fiat Dobló
Brazil-based illustration agency D'Avila Studio created this vibrant paper art piece as part of Fiat Motors' campaign to promote its SUV, the Dobló Adventure. The team created two prints, both of which placed the paper overlapping on layers to create an impressive depth effect.
13. Paper Dragon
This majestic dragon was created by a group of artists at INK studio in Belgium. It stands at above knee height and was made entirely of paper – it's definitely worth taking a look at the studio's website for some making-of photos. The dragon now resides peacefully – we are told – in the studio's offices.
14. Day of the Dead
This incredible paper art series from Bulgaria-based designer Tsvetislava Koleva celebrates the Day of the Dead with intricate and colourful masks that quite frankly, took our breath away (read our article here). Each creation takes a different theme and a different colour palette (shown here: Lace and Gold). Koleva specialises in paper art creations – her beautiful but slightly unsettling fashion masks are also well worth a look.
15. 360° Book
Japanese artist and designer Yusuke Oono creates books that open up to tell their stories as a multi-layered 3D scene. Each page is a separate laser-cut plane, and together they make up deep and gorgeous 3D images that reveal the story as you make your way from the front to the back of the book.
Next page: 15 more incredible examples of paper art