Sunday, February 20, 2011

Inspiration Without Imitation - How to Develop Your Own Creative Style

Artists, musicians, and writers all strive to develop their own creative style, a look or sound that is unique to them. How can you do this without simply rehashing the influences that inspired you? To answer this question, we must first look more closely at inspiration.

The World English Dictionary defines inspiration as "stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity." Without this arousal of the mind, the variety of creative ideas in the world would be pretty limited and boring. The challenge of being inspired lies in what you do with that stimulus, what you turn out as a result.

Analyze the Pieces of What Inspires You

To really understand the things that excite your mind, you must first study them piece by piece. If you are particularly moved by a bit of music, listen closely and pick out the traits that stand out to you above the rest. Is the bass line something that resonates in your mind long after the song is over? Perhaps the bridge is particularly clean and sets off the rest of the piece. These details are the core of inspiration, the things that your mind can digest and incorporate into original output.

I am personally quite fond of Mexican folk art. The bold, bright palette and simple shapes are the aspects that attract me to that style, and those are the two things that I most often incorporate into my own artwork. I do not create Mexican-style paintings, but you can definitely see the influence of that color and high contrast in my pieces.

Cross Media Boundaries 

If you are an artist worried about your work looking too much like that of another artist who inspires you, limit your exposure and influence from that person's work. It may seem counterproductive to cut off this source of inspiration, but until your style emerges completely, it is often best to gather your ideas from other areas. Many artists credit this technique as essential to their unique look or sound.

Visual artists might look to music, books, and films for creative spark (like Keith Haring, who painted many of his iconic images while deriving inspiration from DEVO.) Whatever your preferred working media, look outside of those boundaries to develop fresh and original thought for your creations. It is impossible to "copy" a song as a painting, a book as a sculpture, a painting as a poem.


The only sure way to develop your own creative style is with practice. Working with all of the bits and pieces that excite and motivate you, hone your craft by connecting and reconnecting these segments of inspiration until you notice patterns emerging. It may be patterns of contrasting colors (Van Gogh), bold lines (Haring), repeating chords (The Ramones), short, clear sentences (Hemingway), etc.

If those patterns are something you are comfortable creating, then you have discovered your creative style.
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  1. "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

  2. I think I'm in love with that quote.

  3. It really is true and fits perfectly doesn't it? I keep going back to it myself, and often.