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Where To Get Inspiration Ideas and Prompts

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

The Boy of the Red Twilight, an illustration from The Fairytale Alphabet Book

The Boy of the Red Twilight, an illustration from The Fairytale Alphabet Book

My Art Sped Up

I love art. I love the hours invested in art. It doesn’t seem like a job to me. It’s fun and fascinating. When I create a video for YouTube, I usually do a voice over after I have sped up the action. That’s when I get so fascinated with my own hands flying over the work that I forget to talk about how I did the piece. That’s pure joy.

Woman Reading Collage

The Woman Reading Collage

The Woman Reading Collage

The Motivation Inside

So where does the inspiration to do art even when the monetary rewards are minimal? I always thought it came from inside me. Somewhere deep inside I have an ambition and a drive that will not let me rest until I have created some art every day. I know great artists who don’t work their craft every day but most days. Still when you draw, paint or create that often, sometimes you run out of ideas and subjects.

Jim Kwik

Jim Kwik is a lecturer and teacher on speed-reading and memory techniques. He says, among other things, that the place between awake and sleep is one of the most creative spots where mentally you can work out problems and solutions. He says that the same state can be achieved in the shower. I feel validated when he says that because I get some of my best ideas there. He says that there are many things that you can do to encourage and promote that creative state. You should watch his YouTube video.

Inspiration List

If you have ever had trouble thinking of ideas, I found the perfect inspiration list. It was created for photographers but it works just as well for artists. I’ve added a few things to the list. It works for any creative: writers, photographers, artists, etc. Think of these as themes or titles. If you saw this word, what do you think of first? There are almost enough here for a full year. Pick and choose your favorites. Keep the list near you or posted on sticky notes of your computer or art board. A little inspiration jumpstart is always helpful. Feel free to copy and use these ideas.


1. Amphibian

9. Farm Animals

17. Marine life

25. Squirrel

2. Bees

10. Feathers

18. Mice

26. Toads/Frogs

3. Birds

11. Feline

19. Odd Couples

27. Ungulates (hoofed animals, pigs, goats, deer, horses

4. Butterflies

12. Fish

20. Peacocks

28. Visitors

5. Cats

13. Horses

21. Pets

29. Wildlife

6. Critters

14. Hunters

22. Skulls

30. Zebras

7. Dogs

15. Insects

23. Sleeping Animals


Kiigbo Kiigba illustration for the Fairytale Alphabet Book.

Kiigbo Kiigba illustration for the Fairytale Alphabet Book.


1. Bald Heads

10. Friends

19. Reading

2. Bare Feet

11. Geriatric (older folks)

20. Self

3. Bones

12. Human Hands

21. Skulls

4. Catching People Unaware

13. Indigenous People

22. Sleeping People

5. Eyes

14. Kids

23. Smiles

6. Fairies

15. Kin or Families

24. Visitors

7. Fairytales

16. Legs

25. Xenophobia

8. Feet

17. Odd Couples

26. Zombies!

9. Femininity

18. People

Old Boots Collage

Old Boots Collage


1. Abandoned

16. Custom Cars

31. Railroad Cars

2. Arches

17. Fences

32. Railroad Tracks

3. Architecture

18. Fire Engines

33. Red Barns

4. Back Alleys

19. Freeways

34. Roads-capes

5. Barns

20. Hallways

35. Structures

6. Bridge

21. Harbors

36. Steam Railroads

7. Bridges

22. Hot Rod Cars

37. The Local School

8. Buildings

23. Indian Ruins

38. Urban

9. Campsites

24. Jails

39. Yachts

10. Car Details

25. Jets

40. Zoos

11. Churches

26. Junk Yards

12. City Hall

27. Monuments

13. City Skylines

28. Movie Theater Marquees

14. City Street Scenes

29. Quad

15. Covered Bridges

30. Quarters


1. Blimps

19. Graffiti

37. Pictures in Pictures

2. Bolts

20. Handles

38. Piles of Things

3. Books

21. Indigenous Things

39. Porches

4. Bottles

22. Industrial

40. Round Things

5. Broken Things

23. Iron

41. Rows of Things

6. Broken Glass

24. Isolated Objects

42. Signs

7. Bump

25. Keys

43. Smoke

8. Church Windows

26. Letters

44. Smoke Stacks

9. Columns

27. Locks

45. Strange Signs

10. Computers

28. Machine Parts

46. Stacks

11. Disappearing Technologies

29. Mirrors

47. Stairs

12. Environmental Trash

30. Money

48. Statues

13. Flags

31. Neon Signs

49. The spot (X marks the spot)

14. Fountains

32. Objects

50. Tombstones

15. Framed

33. Old Everything

51. Tools

16. Gardens

34. Olympic

52. Ugly Everything

17. Gates

35. Paper Abstracts

54. Valves

18. Gears

36. Peeling Paint

55. Weathered Wood

My husband, The Writer

My husband, The Writer

Clothing Things

1. Boots

7. Objects

13. Uniforms

2. Dresses

8. Old Everything

14. Watches

3. Eye Glasses

9. Shoes

15. Wedding Dress

4. Hats

10. Suits

16. Zipper

5. Jewelry

11. Tattoos

6. Masks

12. Umbrella

Eating Things

1. Dishes

4. Glass

7. Spoons

2. Drawers

5. Jugs

8. Table Decorations

3. Forks

6. Knives

9. Utensils

Carpet, the Cat

Carpet, the Cat

Scroll to Continue

Play Things

1. Balloons

5. Kite

9. Teddy Bear / toy

2. Bicycle Parts

6. Rocking Horse

10. Toys

3. Bikes

7. String Instruments

11. Wheels

4. Blocks

8. Swings

12. Yo-yos

13. Xylophones


1. Black and White

5. Colors

9. Orange

2. Blue

6. Gold

10. Pink / Purple

3. Bronze

7. Green

11. Red

4. Brown

8. Iridescent

12. White


1. Abstracts

14. Fetish

28. Masculinity

42. Seascapes

2. Choice

15. Glamor

29. Night

43. Shadows

3. Circles

16. Graceful

30. Nonsense

44. Silhouettes

4. Close-up

17. Hidden

31. Numbers

45. Soft Curves

5. Cold

18. History

32. Opposites

46. Speed

6. Contrasts

19. Horizon

33. Opulent

47. Superstitions

7. Culture

20. Hunger

34. Pairs

48. Sweets

8. Curves

21. Inclines

35. Parallel Lines

49. Textures

9. Diagonals

22. Inspiration

36. Patterns

50. Transport

10. Digital

23. Joints

37. Perspective

51. Vices or Habits

11. Dominating

24. Kindness

38. Reflection


12. Dots / Dashes

25. Lazy

39. Reflections in Glass

53. Wet

13. Duplicates

26. Little

40. Reflections in Water

54. Wide Angle Everything

Thumbelina from The Fairytale Alphabet Book

Thumbelina from The Fairytale Alphabet Book


1. Autumn

10. Fireworks / Fire

20. Spring

2. Birthday

11. Flood

21. Summer

3. Celebrations

12. Embrace

22. Sunrise

4. Documentary

14. Folktales

23. Sunset

5. Easter

15. Games

24. Seasons

6. Emergency Situations

16. Halloween

25. Vacation

7. Events

17. Harvest

26. Vignettes

8. Fetes & Festivals

18. Holiday

27. Weather

9. Fire

19. Sports

28. Winter

My Fire Fighter tribute collage inspired by the recent fires in California.

My Fire Fighter tribute collage inspired by the recent fires in California.


1. Dancers

5. Jobs

9. People Walking Dogs

2. Demonstrations

6. Journalistic

10. Queens

3. Disappearing Professions

7. Learning

11. Polished

4. Hunters

8. People At Work

12. Reenactments

Zoulvisia from The Fairytale Alphabet Book

Zoulvisia from The Fairytale Alphabet Book


1. Anger

6. Elation

10. Happiness

2. Demonic

6. Elation

11. Joy

3. Devilish

7. Enthusiasm

12. Mood

4. Doom and gloom

8. Feisty

13. Muse

5. Eager

9. Friendly

14. Sorrow


1. Food

4. Nut

7. Noodles

2. Fruit

5. Nuts

8. Vegetables

3. Mushrooms

6. Peppers



1. Bad Weather

13. Light

25. Sand Patterns

2. Bark

14. Lightning

26. Sea Shells

3. Clouds

15. Lights

27. Sky

4. Rainbows

16. Mass flowers

28. Snow

5. Flower Petals

17. Night lights

29. Spanish Moss

6. Flowers

18. Nighttime

30. Still life

7. Forests

19. Raindrops

31. Tree Knots

8. Forms in Nature

20. Rivers

32. Trees

9. Frozen

21. Rocks

33. Vines

10. Ice

22. Rust

34. Water

11. Landscapes

23. Rustic

35. Waterfalls

12. Leaves

24. Sand dunes

36. Woods

One-Inch Boy from the Fairytale Alphabet Book

One-Inch Boy from the Fairytale Alphabet Book

Things To Keep In Mind

Then when you are painting or creating, you want to keep in mind the things that make a painting successful. Having a focal point is key. Then having some repetition and color variety. Remember the foreground, middle ground, and background. Also the 5 values; where a dark shadow is present you need a light highlight.

Many artists keep a list next to their computers, drawing boards, or easels. These lists help the artists keep track of all of the areas to consider while composing. Many of the points to consider seem elementary but are often overlooked. Here are a few:

  • awareness of audience
  • use of opposites
  • positive and negative space
  • variety in shape
  • variety in size
  • symmetry of positioning
  • tangents
  • consistency in lighting
  • cast and core shadow separation
  • angles of imagery
  • cropping
  • point of view
  • foreground, middle, and backgrounds
  • overuse of verticals or horizontals, unless desired
  • value pattern
  • focal point
  • value pattern through entire piece
  • unity
  • repetition
  • similarity
  • proximity
  • color harmony
  • edge control
      • based on placement
      • based on shape
      • based on color/value

Others may include:

  • gesture
  • proportions
  • application
  • size/dimensions
Ivy and the Chicken Collage

Ivy and the Chicken Collage


Another concept that isn't on the list, but should possibly be heading all lists, is simply "Why?"

  • Why are you doing what you're doing?
  • Why did you choose this subject?
  • What is it that pushed you in this direction?

It happens altogether too often that we forget the original reason behind the work. When your art starts to become a chore, ask yourself why. Where was the original fun? If you can’t find it, then your audience won’t be able to find it either.

Creative and Inspirational Comments Welcome

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 29, 2021:

Prompts are sometimes a good thing when the voices all around are hard to drown out and the world keeps crowding into my creative time. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 21, 2019:

Time to peruse my list. I feel like I need some inspiration today.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 19, 2019:


Thank you. I love painting and creating but I find myself keeping them to myself too often. Sharing them so others can enjoy them too makes my heart sing! Thanks for commenting.



Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on April 19, 2019:


I started keeping a list of some kind and 'outlining' some of the stories I want to write, I've got eight two paragraph outlines written out and about forty more that are 'in my head' that will just have to come out at some point.

I've decided to work on them one at a time as there's just too much goes on to write more than that.

Loved the paintings by the way.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 05, 2019:


Thank you for your good thought. I believe you are right that inspiration is from the divine. I know my inspiration comes from above. I thank God for all He has given in my skills and talents. Thanks for commenting.



Bede from Minnesota on March 05, 2019:

It’s a very helpful hub, Denise. And as always, your collages enliven my day. They are unique and beautiful. I try to have some quiet time each day where I have some good inspirations. The relaxed environment makes it happen. It could be the Holy Spirit is involved also. After all, doesn’t the word “inspiration” have divine connotations?

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 27, 2019:

Oh, Mary, thank you, but I know there are quite a few collage artists who are better than I am. Sweet of you to say though. I do try to get better with every one I create. The pages are from my newly published Fairy Tale Alphabet book. If you're interested, it can be found here:



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 27, 2019:

John Hansen,

Thank you so much. I appreciate your kind words. I have been working on a collage called forest fire (mostly because we had so many here in California not long ago) and because fire was one of the prompts on the list. Unfortunately, it isn't ready to include in this article. I can't wait to show it. It is really awful and awesome. Thanks for commenting.



Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 27, 2019:

There are so many ideas here worth keeping for future reference. Thank you as they are really from your experience. I, too, love creating and I am so excited now that I have more time to do it. Yours are the best collages I have ever seen.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 27, 2019:

Wow, Denise, what a comprehensive list of prompts.I am sure I can find quite a few ideas among them. You are a wonderful artist, and those collages are amazing. The videos are also wonderful. Thank you for sharing this creative process.

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