To Find Inspiration, Look Outside Your Medium

As creatives, we all need a form of expression. But as humans, we all lack motivation at times. So with a brand new year upon us, how can we bounce back and rekindle a passion when the candle for creating starts fading. How do we make ourselves want to make art?

My first and foremost advice, is to never look at what others are doing when researching ideas. It’s good to be inspired by your heroes and friends, but you also need to leave your imagination clear preventing inspiration becoming imitation. Personally I find that it subconsciously clouds my mind to a point where I can think of nothing else – I see where they are and I can’t think of another location, I look at what they’re wearing and I can’t think of any other outfit. I can’t create what I want to, because their ideas are already fixed in my head. I don’t want my work to be compared to others, so instead I begin to look at other forms of art.

When people ask me about concepts, I always tell them to go to the theatre. The use of props and basic costume stir a sleeping imagination in us, as it fills in the gaps that the theatre cannot physically complete for us like the movies. For example, a home is instantly created using just a door frame and a table, or a garden by the placement of a single tree. Location is an important story builder but we need little visual guidance to remind our creativity where we are.

modeling inspirationDo you remember being a child, when a broken stick was a sword and a bin lid was a shield? Remembering how to think like a child, prevents that immaturity from fading and your creativity will be there for life; for it’s not what you see with your eyes, but what you see with your imagination that counts, more specifically with fine art and conceptual work. Finding food for my thoughts is my absolute priority to create, I cannot imagine a life without wonder.

The study of light on a stage is also inspiring and transferable into the way we shoot images. Theatre light is adventurous, provoking all kinds of emotions through the use of spotlighting, shadows and by inducing colour gels to create atmosphere. Audiences are lured into a collective feeling, as the beams and strobes guide viewers through a story. Controlled light is of course essential on stage to portray emotion. So by studying it closely, we can learn so much about creating a character with light – from a soft diffuser used for a motherly role, to a harsh horror lit monstrous personna to create anger; it all derives from the light that we can project into creating images. We can learn so much about character from the way they are lit and dressed at the theatre. If you get the opportunity to see even the smallest budget production this year, you won’t regret it as food for thought.

If you can’t make it to a theatre, then I highly recommend watching films. Immerse yourself in a narrative and let a story steal you away, because if you haven’t got time to read a book, then following a film is a quick and easy replacement. Some of my favourites movies include Mary and Max, Atonement, Big Fish, Edwards Scissorhands, King Kong, Blackfish, The Cove, Romeo and Juliet, V for Vendetta, Perfume, Leon, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Blackfish, Into The Wild…the list really does go on and on. These films leave me with strong emotions and the want and the need to create.

Personally, I’m not particularly interested in a happy ending of any fictional story. I morbidly love tragedy and I seek a story that leaves me reeling for the characters, remembering them long into my sleep. These stories make me feel. To truly feel something, is to believe something…and that is the strength of the art in it. In fact, my favourite movie quotes inspire me every day to create. When I hear one I love, I write it down and revisit it when I need that ignition of a creative spark. Having my notepad of quotes and concepts, really is my saviour at times, regularly leaving myself notes on scraps of paper and voicemails on my phone when I’ve no pen. My memory can be like a sieve so I preserve my thoughts on anything that’s available to me at the time. Recalling characters of film and theatre and the script of which they speak serves my creativity immensely.


I also find that listening to music, focusing more specifically on the importance of lyrics, really helps inspiration. Much like movie quotes, I like to use voices like scripts and pick out the words that I relate to. Not all of them make sense and not all of them are meant to, because like any art form, others connect with some more than most.

I am also a big fan of music without lyrics. One of my favourite pieces is The Ice Dance by Danny Elfman from Tim Burton’s film Edwards Scissorhands. It’s so beautifully crafted and alluring to listen to, that my imagination is carried off to another place each time I hear it. Icelandic band Sigur Ros are also wonderfully peaceful and emotionally engaging to encourage creativity.

Last year I wrote a blog (titled ‘For Sale, One Platinum Diamond Ring’) about the day I realised I was over my eight year relationship and published it together with a solitary photograph shot on film along with a piece of music that is not only titled perfectly, but every note connotes how I felt. The music is called ‘The Arrival of the Birds’ by The Cinematic Orchestra – a collection of music I cannot recommend enough. Depending on the mood of my concept, I’ll strive to seek out the right sounds to suit my idea.

As a writer and lover of literature, the importance of words is always at the forefront of my mind. I spend a lot of time researching literary quotes and find that any text spoken by the right person, can be just as moving and empowering, as any picture. Anything from the prologue to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet;


” Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows

Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.

The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,

And the continuance of their parents’ rage,

Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,

Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;

The which if you with patient ears attend,

What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.”


…To the simplistic scripture of a child, who, upon reading it, melted my heart and broke it two, all in one beautiful sentence; “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” (Anne Frank’s Diary).

It’s about finding what inspires you to think for yourself and not what encourages you to replicate. The world is your studio and there is so much to see. So this year, spend time people watching, cooking new foods, learning new tricks, writing old fashioned letters with a pen to old friends and opening your eyes to all that’s around you. Challenge yourself to push boundaries and bury yourself in good art this year.


Images: Taken from the blog ‘For Sale: One Platinum Diamond Ring’, an unedited photograph shot on Portra 160 film by Francis Pierre. Make up and hair by Donna Graham.

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Jen Brook is a fine art and fashion model, as well as a freelance photography writer. Follow her work on her Tumblr and her Facebook Page.