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Penelope's Guide to New, Fresh Ideas

Penelope's Guide to New, Fresh Ideas

Penelope Dullaghan

October 12, 2009

Recently I was kind of stuck on an assignment… not coming up with any good, usable ideas and feeling that creeping sense of despair: “I will never come up with another good concept again in my whole life. I’m doomed!” (Ok, I’m a little melodramatic, I know this.)

So in the afternoon, after wallowing around the studio and much teeth gnashing, Colin invited me to take a walk through the woods with him and talk about it — saying that I knew what to do in situations like this because it’s been part of the illustration course I have been teaching this year.

Oh yeah. He’s so smart. :)

So we left and ideas started flowing again once we were out there crunching along in the leaves. I wasn’t doomed after all!

In case you ever find yourself in my shoes, I thought I’d share with you one of the handouts I have been giving out at my classes. A fun little sheet on Ways to Get Ideas.

I think one of the best ways to get ideas rolling is to change your scenery. “Fuhgettaboutit” as the handout says. Often times I sit there and try to force ideas out when all it takes it a little down time. Some mind marinating to let the ideas work themselves out on their own. Making tea. Going to the library. Taking a walk. Just change your setting and leave the story be for a while.

It also helps to talk about it with someone. I find that if I explain the story or assignment to someone who’s not entrenched in it, I explain the core ideas first which is really important. Actually saying out loud the key elements of the story. And from there, kicking around ideas seems easier. Also, hearing some suggestions from someone else always starts the ball rolling of “Oh yeah! But what if you change that and make it this instead!” Even if they are bad ideas, it helps to air them out.

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I’m also a big fan of word association. It ties into the key elements again… writing down the core ideas and branching off from there. Like a story about a cat would lead to words like tail, paws, sneaky, curvy, hairy, Halloween, meow, litter, fish, sleeping in the sunshine, etc. Also writing down opposite ideas because sometimes the juxtaposition makes it interesting.

And writing all your ideas down as quickly as possible. Even if they are stinker ideas with no merit at all and you’d rather die than show anyone. That’s ok. Write those down too. And get them down before your inner critic has a chance to censor you. (Cause she can be a real hooker.) Lots and lots of ideas lead to a few good ideas.

I read a quote once that said:

I find that extremely reassuring. Think about all the different perspectives and views out there held by all these unique and different people. Each one would probably have a different take on any given topic. (Just look at Illustration Friday for proof!) So there are always tons of ideas out there. And all you need to do is find 2-3 to flesh out and make good. It’s easy in that light!

Ok, now I’m stoked… time to start on the next assignment. :)

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