Inspiration should serve as a motivator and guide.

Much more than superficial beauty can be found within the depths of that which you find intriguing. A beautiful piece before you shouldn’t be looked at and seen as pretty then discarded completely—it should be explored.

Yet most just look. They scour through a hundred beautiful images by this designer or pertaining to that theme and are somehow able to get through it all in minutes and consider themselves inspired.

Is this a real, luscious inspiration that has been found or is it something superficial? Has no more than an idea that can be lifted from the beauty before them been recorded in their mind? An idea remembered for their own projects?

This isn’t inspiration. It’s plagiarism.

Inspiration should be seen as a journey

Enter the train station and buy a ticket to a far away destination. A destination deeper that most dare venture.

Inspiration can be found in almost anything if we are willing to give up a bit of time and look at more than just the surface. When we’re willing to break things down and look at each individual piece, something great can always be found.

Sometimes the journey can be tricky and unexpected turns can present themselves and other times it’s smooth sailing. Either way, you will be a better creative for the travels taken.

First Stop – Pretty Pictureville

The train leaves from the station. We look at beautiful things along the way, until one ignites a fire within our souls. Then we stop.

Think about this piece that burns a white flame inside you. Perhaps it is an image that causes the illustrator’s heart to ignite a wild beat. Or a single sentence that causes the writer’s cheeks to dampen.

There is something about this piece that brought an emotion to the surface, that’s why it stopped you dead in your tracks. The real goal is to understand why this is so, with the hope that you can do the same to others through your own work.

Second Stop – Blood Stained Falls

Take what was found at the first stop and pull it apart. Spill its blood upon the floor and dissect what is left.

Really look at the beautiful work.

Ask yourself why your heart pounded when you took it in. Was it the way this element was juxtaposed with the other, or was it because it was an echo of past experiences? There is an underlying reason why you feel the way you do. Try to understand this feeling as best you can, so that when you get to the next stop you have something to gauge your discoveries against.

The key here is to constantly be asking your self why. Why did it do this to me? Why did I feel a flutter?

Third Stop – Measured Mountain

The next stop is to find out how. How did they do it? How can I do the same?

For a moment you need to look without seeing the aesthetic surface. Instead, you need to see the structure that helps create that surface. Get out your ruler and measure, get out your dictionary and define. The psyche of the character must be appreciated.

If it’s a design, sketch it out as a thumbnail and assess all the elements and the relationships they have with one another — be it texture, spatial, size or contrast. If it’s a paragraph of text, rewrite it and look at it sentence by sentence, word by word.

The reasoning for the decisions made must be found and understood. Use what you realised at the second stop to understand how this collection of marks managed to do something so powerful.

Final Stop – The Subliminal Sea

This is the most exciting place to visit. But you won’t even know you’re visiting—you’ll think your journey over and return home well before you arrive.

It is exciting because you will take what you have learned and apply it to your work.

When you sit to develop a new concept, the memories of your trip will come back to you.

At first you may have to remind yourself of an idea that’s locked away, but once you do, it will come through strong. This idea that you absorbed and found in that image, will be strengthened by all the others that are locked away. The new ideas absorbed will tangle with all the others hidden away, as well as every experience you’ve ever had.

All because you decided to look at a single piece of work for five minutes
rather than five pieces for one minute.

So it will be an original thought given to you through instinct. An instinct developed in such great ways that your skills, and the enjoyment you have in your work, will increase dramatically as you grow your wealth of experiences and knowledge. All this because you decided to look at a single piece of work for five minutes rather than five pieces for one minute.

You take these trips for the strengthening of knowledge and to give yourself a far greater resource to pull ideas from. Real ideas with foundations upon which beauty can be built. It’s a better plan than building beauty upon beauty, which is far too delicate a structure for any message.

An exotic destination

The quality of a purchased item decreases over time,
while the quality of an experience increases.

I truly wish I knew who to attribute this [paraphrased horribly, I’m sure] quote to, but it is far too relevant to not be included.

Illustration skills improve dramatically when an artist looks at a piece of work that ignites a fire in their souls and asks “Why is it so? Why do I want to devour this piece before me?” A writer’s skills will grow in leaps and bounds when a single sentence causes tears to run or hearts to pound and they ask themselves “Where is the secret? How was that done?”

While looking at a piece of artwork—be it a series of words, an arrangement of elements or a symphony of marks—let it give you an experience. Delve deep and travel along the tracks laid. It’s far more rewarding than briefly saying “oh, that’s pretty” and moving on aimlessly.

So rather than take a trip that lacks in excitement, visit exotic new lands instead. Visit the lands of those creatives whose work means so much to you. Discover their home towns—how their reasons and personal style developed—and your trips will float from your subconscious when you least expect it.

Traveling these tracks might mean that the work you produce today will become a must-see destination on a trip taken by another tomorrow.