Ideas come and go. Sometimes you can feel overwhelmed with possibilities, other times ideas can be a very scarce commodity. I often hear from people who are trying to stretch their artistic skills that they want to do things, but they don’t have any ideas to work on. It can be hard to keep ideas around for when you need them.
Ideas can strike at a moments notice, and come from anywhere, and is hard to relocate afterwards. – just try Googling for “that light that inspired me in the park last month” and see how far that gets you. Often the things in the world that spark our imaginations are fleeting and hard to locate afterwards. Clearly recording inspiration takes a bit more work.
This post is about the method I use to overcome this issue. It is not the only way to do it, but it is my way, and hopefully will help you get started storing your own ideas.
It all starts with ideas from an ancient civilization.
A Bit Of History
If you watched the modern BBC version of Sherlock Holmes, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, you may recall Sherlocks use of a mind palace. It is a technique he employed when he needed to recall an obscure detail from his memory. This is actually a technique invented by the ancient Greeks as a way to remember details, like ideas for speeches or philosophical arguments, in a time when writing things down was inconvenient and very expensive.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to lack the mental discipline to train my brain to be able to recall obscure pieces of information at a moment’s notice. Luckily I live in the age of cloud computing, so I can substitute my own memory for one stored on the Internet (yay for modern geekdom!)
The Method to The Madness
The concept is simple. You can use any storage you want – Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, a personal NAS, whatever. The important thing is that the folder is available from any computer, phone, or tablet you use on a regular basis. In my case I use Google Drive.
As I go about my daily life, if I see something that catches my eye from an artistic way and makes me say “hey, that would be the basis of a great photo!” I grab a photo (download, or use the camera phone) and store it in my ideas folder. Then I forget about it, and keep going about my business. This often takes only a few seconds.
Whenever I feel like being creative, but don’t have an idea handy, I grab a minifig or action figure (or two), then look thru my ideas folder and see what may fit. Often I come up with a few ideas I can then implement.
For example, when I was doing the review for the LEGO Slave 1 model, I wanted to take a good shot of the Boba Fett minifig, I went thru my folder, found a movie poster of The Punisher movie (left), and came up with the following shot (right).
What Goes In My Ideas Folder?
So what goes into my inspiration collection? The answer, in short, is anything that catches my interest, photos mostly. Things that in the moment make me think “that would be the basis of a cool shot!”. What catches my eye can be anything: the way the light is used in a photo, the expressions, the processing style, the gesture of the model, the theme of a painting, the energy of a movie scene. Anything, really.
Some things currently in my own ideas folder are:
- Screen capture from the music video for the Sound Of Silence cover by the band Disturbed
- Photo of a painting hanging in the local coffee shop of a girl lost in the woods
- Movie poster for Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring of Gandalf walking down a pathway
- Photo of the artwork on a t-shirt a co-worker was wearing in the breakfast line one day
- Photos from the last eclipse – good background for a future shot
- Snapshot of some artwork in a book I was browsing in Barnes and Noble – kept for the concept
- Screenshot of animals at sunset from BBC Earth – amazing light, dramatic gestures
- Multiple fan artwork from the Star Wars and Batman universes.
- A screenshot of an alien abduction scene on X-Files – mostly for the amazing light
- Etc.As you can see, the breadth of ideas in my folder are wide and varied.
Some More Examples
My ideas folder has paid off time and time again. For example, many years ago I found this image of an elephant somewhere out on the Internet:
I really liked the intensity of the animal and the dust cloud, so I squirreled it away in my ideas folder.
Several years later I purchased a LEGO AT-AT. When I looked back through my ideas folder I rediscovered the elephant. Shortly thereafter I was inspired with the idea for this shot:
Sometimes multiple ideas images come together to inspire a new image. I stored these Deadpool images in my ideas folder:
Which, combined, lead to the inspiration for this image:
Things that go into my ideas folder do not have to start off as visual inspiration. One time I was watching the BBC show Big Fat Quiz Of The Year. One of the questions brought out the fact that David Tennant once did Hamlet using a real human skull as Yorick. This fact piqued my interest. I didn’t have an image of this, therefore I did a quick internet search to find a photo of David Tennant doing Hamlet and saved it to my ideas folder.
As a result, a few years later, that image led directly to the inspiration for this image:
I have found currating my ideas and storing them in an ideas folder is a handy way to get inspiration when I need it, and to keep creating. There are many ways to implement an ideas folder, but this way works for me.
I highly recommend trying out this method, then adapting it for your own needs.
If you already keep a record of your ideas, tell me about them in the comments below. I would love to get some more tips on how others do it.
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