Recording and Storing Your Ideas on the Fly, or I Guess a Napkin Will Work

It’s not easy to be an eccentric artist when you’re kind of a regular person. There’s laundry to be done and groceries to be bought, and kids to placate and a husband who has Strong Ideas About What We Should Do (which, much to my irritation, all involve bettering ourselves through things like exercise or practicing French, and not falling into Reddit holes). Inspiration can kick in at odd, inconvenient, totally mundane moments, and there isn’t often much time to do anything about it when it does. Sometimes the inspiration is just gone, forever, like warm breath on the winter wind.

My favorite totally inopportune times for inspiration to strike:

  • The middle of the night
  • Standing in line at the grocery store
  • Shuttling the kids to and from various activities
  • Trying really hard to give your attention to someone who is going on and on about something that doesn’t interest you in the slightest

Sometimes I have my act together and can take a moment to jot something down in one of my lightweight doodle pads in my bag. For me, this is ideal–I always strive to have something to write with and something to write on, on my person, always. These are super cheap and lightweight for instance:

No sketchpad, or missing your writing utensil? Maybe you can use your phone. I do have some nicer drawing apps (let’s save those for another post) but you can doodle in the native Notes app on the iPhone in a pinch, just as an example.

Yes, I doodled the word “boop”. I WAS INSPIRED, ALRIGHT?

Some more unorthodox sketching or note-taking ideas:

  • Pen but no paper? Make a note on your hand. Possible more socially acceptable for teens? YMMV. Expect judge-y looks¬† I guess.
  • Depending on how dirty your vehicle is, you may be able to do some crude finger drawings in the grime. Bonus on this one because if you spend as much time in the car running errands as I do, it’ll be a pretty convenient surface. Record the doodle with your phone for posterity because it might not last until you get home!
  • The blood of your enemies. (This one is a joke, I promise)
  • Leftover spaghetti noodles. Use the sauce for shading!

I also take pictures, beaucoup beaucoup de pictures, of random things that inspire me. Going to the botanical gardens with the kids? Make sure you’ve got enough storage on your phone, because some of those plant textures are out of this world. See an awesome architectural detail you love? Snap it! I like to think this is why I make my husband drive when we’re all together.

Finally, if you’re like me, you waste gobs and gobs of time falling down rabbit holes on the internet instead of doing more productive things. So make it somewhat useful, eh? Screenshot or save any images you like to an “inspiration” file on your hard drive. I LOVE visiting my inspiration file and remembering things that sang to me ages ago. Turns out my tastes haven’t changed to much over the years.

What is your system for transferring your ideas from brain to real world?


Playlist today: Tom Paul. Because checking my notes on my phone reminded me that I wanted to check that dude out some more.

Sketch of the Day: some things I’m playing around with for an alphabet series. (Note to self, figure out a good place to snag pictures of your sketches because ugh. Maybe a blog post for another day.)

Sketch ya later

Hand-drawn Borders: How Little Lovely Details Can Frame Your Work

I love borders. Specifically, the hand-drawn, perfectly not perfect kind.¬† They have a way of providing a neat little fence where your artwork can flourish in its own enclosed environment. For some of examples on the more lightweight side, I like some of Maurice Sendak’s work in the Little Bear books:

Hand-drawn borders can of course also be super ornate. Some of my favorite artists from the golden age of illustration, like Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham, have absolutely gorgeous, detailed borders that are full works of art in their own right.

Edmund Dulac border example

Arthur Rackham border example

For myself, drawing hand-made borders is an exercise I can do in one of my portable purse notebooks. You can take just a few moments to start a doodled border, and it can be immensely satisfying. Some of them turn out meh (ah, ’tis the nature of sketching) but some get filed away for later–maybe to grace the edges of the next piece of work! These I did over maybe 30 minutes as I was sitting in the car waiting to pick up the kids from school:

Do they need to be symmetrical? No! Do they need to be perfect? Heck no, that’s part of the hand-drawn border’s charm. Do they give your stuff a little extra style? Yes, yes they do.

So border on people. Border on.

Sketch of the day:

(I love lines and shapes)

Peace, Carrie