Emma Block Illustration


The creative life of an illustrator living in London

Finding Inspiration

emma block gallery sketch

In this blog post I wanted to talk a little bit about inspiration. I personally define inspiration as feeling motivated to do something or create something. It's that feeling when you read a great book and immediately want to sketch the main character, or you go somewhere so beautiful that you can't stop taking photos, filming or sketching.
In interviews I often get asked how I stay inspired, which I've always found a really odd question as I'm inspired pretty much 100% of the time. There is never really a moment when I'm not planning new ideas or thinking about things I want to paint in my head. I actually dream about paint, it's a bit odd.

But I think for most people finding inspiration and staying inspired is a bit more of a challenge. I think for a lot of people there number one destination for inspiration is Instagram and Pinterest. I love Instagram and Pinterest, I think they are amazing places to share your work, build a community, find new customers and clients and to get a general idea of what's going on in the creative industry is. However I don't think they're good place to seek inspiration. What normally happens after a Instagram binge is that you end up getting slightly overwhelmed by image after beautiful image. The problem is there is no context to these images, you have no sense of how long they took to create, or even when they were created chronologically, and how many first drafts had to go into creating the final piece. You might have scrolled through two years work in 30 seconds. What I generally find happens is that seeing so much beautiful work by other people in a short space of time makes me doubt myself. It makes me feel that simultaneously my work should be more colourful yet more muted, more complex but more simple, basically less like me and more like everybody else that I admire. And what usually happens is that I don't feel motivated to create at all, I just get stuck in a cycle of endless scrolling. Not that I don't love seeing beautiful work on Instagram and discovering new illustrators, but if you're starting to doubt your own work it's time to put the phone down. Best case scenario and you feel a bit down and wonder why you bother, worst case scenario is is that people actually try to imitate what they are see on Instagram and end up copying the artists that they admire. My work has been copied many times by students and amateur painters. I understand why it happens and how easy it is to do. If you are spending a lot of time looking at the same few artists work it's natural that your work will start to look like their's. The best antidote to this is to seek inspiration from as many different sources as possible, preferably away from a computer screen. 

So where do you find inspiration? 
This will vary for everyone. What inspires me may not inspire you, and that's a good thing. Peoples unique and diverse sources of inspiration are what makes their work unique. 

emma block ming vases

Museums and galleries
I always find walking round a museum with a sketchbook or visiting a beautiful exhibition really inspiring. There is something about seeing great works of art close up, seeing the texture of the paint and the individual brush strokes that makes me want to pick up a paintbrush soon as I get home.

emma block brooklyn peonies

I find travelling so inspiring, and when I travel I deliberately pick places that I know want to sketch or paint. I love going to the colourful cities like Seville or Marrakech or places with a strong history of folk art like Mexico or Peru.

emma block gran cenote

People watching
People watching is such a great free source of inspiration. If you draw people in your work it's great to spend time observing real people, their body language what they wear et cetera. My favourite well-dressed old people and adorable children.

emma block man with dog painting

Old films and documentaries
I love the costumes and sets in old films. Anything with Audrey Hepburn oh Marilyn Monroe is a good start. I also love watching documentaries about inspiring creative women. Iris, and The Eye Has To Travel are two of my favourites. 

emma block mad men

Vintage shops and antiques fairs
If you like drawing objects then vintage shops and antiques shops are great places to find inspiration. I don't know why it is but I find old objects have so much more character and are just more drawable than new objects. I would rather draw a typewrite than a MacBook any day.

emma block books painting

Colour combinations
Keep an eye out for beautiful, accidental colour combinations in every day life. An iPhone is a great way to record these little moments of colour inspiration that might otherwise be forgotten. 

So basically every time you leave the house or switch on the TV the potential for inspiration is there! These are just a few of the places I find inspiration, hopefully this has encouraged you to try something you and seek out inspiration.