Tag Archives: Creativity

Creative Inspiration

I thought you might enjoy sharing the talk I gave yesterday on Creative Inspiration. Here’s the outline of the talk for you – maybe there is something in there that might inspire you too – in this crazy Christmas season, it can be great to find a quiet corner and ‘hide’ for half an hour or so and treat yourself to some ‘creative time’

Alyson Sheldrake

So – here goes – here’s what I talked about:

  • What is creativity and what inspires me?
  •  Being creative and how to nurture creativity
  • Writer’s block – how to be inspired when your brain is blank!
  • What inspires you? The creative challenge

Art by Alyson Sheldrake

What is creativity and what inspires me?

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso

This is one of my favourite quotes! As a child, I was always making things or drawing something – one of my earliest memories is of a kit my mom brought home where you made finger puppets out of felt and cardboard of the Wombles – that’s ageing me nicely isn’t it!

And then adult life kicks in – and work – for me a police career followed by senior posts in education – long hours and late nights left little time to be creative.

But the creative bug still nibbles away inside you!

I honestly believe that we are all designed to be creative – that might be drawing or painting for some people, or writing, photography, sewing, knitting, gardening , problem solving, nurturing a family and children, running a home, having a busy job.

So often, much of what we do in life is ‘reactive’ – we respond to events, people, diary appointments and the ‘stuff’ of life.

But creativity is different – it’s the opposite – it’s the chance to ‘create’ – its proactive – we ‘own’ something, we ‘make’ something – to be able to show someone else something and proudly say ‘I made this!’

It’s not about success or money or fame, it’s simply about creating.

Senhora da Rocha by Alyson Sheldrake

Being creative and how to nurture creativity

So – how can we be creative – and how do we nurture that?

I thought it would be useful to share some ideas and tips with you about how we can inspire and nurture our creative side – whatever it is that you create!

And these tips might be useful for some of you too if you feel that you have writer’s block – a set of ideas on how to be inspired when your brain is blank!

  • One of my favourite things to do is keep an ‘ideas box’ or scrapbook – mine is online on my computer but I also tear out ideas from magazines and keep notes and cards too. That knitting pattern you admire, the colours in a photograph, an inspiring verse or quote. Keep them all bundled up somewhere special, and when you need some inspiration, curl up with a cup of tea and have a good rummage through the box – ideas will follow!
  • Carry a camera wherever you go and take lots of pictures. Try photographing the everyday and the ordinary – or the small details that we often miss – try zooming in on shapes or abstract things – or decide to only shoot blue objects, or red ones, or old rusty things – the choice is yours!

Dave Sheldrake Photographer

  • Look at other people’s work – as an artist I have my favourite artists that I admire and adore – I have copied their work before – merely as an exercise in practising and learning before anyone tells me off for copyright infringement! Looking carefully at someone else’s work – asking questions of how they drew something out, what colours and techniques they used – or perhaps a garden that you admire – how did they plant things, why did they put those two plants and colours together, how did they get those shapes?
  • Listening to music, reading a book, watching a movie – can all be inspiring to us. Sometimes we need to switch off the whirring noise of life and focus in on one thing – and allow our minds to explore and enjoy. Try a new style or genre of book or movie for new ideas!
  • Get outdoors, and go for a walk along a trail or beach, or for a boat ride Nature is always inspiring. There is so much natural beauty that most of us miss out on every day. Legend has it that Buddha gave one of his last sermons without using a word. His disciples were gathered in nature and Buddha stood in the middle of the group holding a single flower, roots and all. He stood there in silence just looking at the flower. He then walked around the group and showed  the flower to each student. Most of them had no idea what he was doing. Buddha is reported to have later said, “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change” – so take time to stop and enjoy the smallest pleasures!
  • Always have a sketch book or notebook and pen with you – that overheard conversation in a cafe might be just the thing you need to write your next poem – or add a plot to your novel (you know the one you have always promised yourself you will write!)

fountain pen

  •  Listen to your dreams and daydream – you have my permission to curl up on the sofa and do absolutely nothing! Dreams have inspired many artists throughout the years.


  • Consider doing a collaborative project or artwork with other artists. Every artist is unique, and has their own unique perspective and ways of looking at things. You may learn to see things differently, and might feel inspired to create artworks that would not have come to mind otherwise. Why not sew a patchwork quilt for charity with other local friends – in America tea and sew parties are very popular and there are knitting shops where you can go in and knit together with others. Being creative can sometimes be quite lonely – linking up with others can be great fun
  • You could take it a step farther and enrol on a course – suddenly having 2 – 4pm every Tuesday down in your diary for your class makes it more real – and more important – and you are less likely to not bother to turn up if you have paid for it!


  • Create for the sake of creating. Many times we get bogged down with trying to think of new themes or views to paint, or ‘creating’ a certain way. Try to paint, write or draw simply because you enjoy it, not because you want to create a finished work of art. Get your paints out or your pen out – and just have fun! Remember that childlike delight you had in sploshing a paintbrush around – let the child in you have some fun!

Alyson Sheldrake PhotographerA3 Art


  • Having your own space set aside is really important too – can you create a little haven somewhere that is yours? Even if it is the kitchen table and you have to clear it at teatime for the family – whilst it is your creative space make it special – put up inspiring pictures or quotes, have your favourite bag or box that you keep everything in – make it special and treasure it.

I think there’s one more really important thing to share here – don’t wait around for inspiration – I’ve found out that it rarely turns up!

There’s a great quote by Chuck Close

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”

You have to be brave and just go for it!

There’s a new book doing the rounds by Steven Pressfield called ‘Turning Pro’ and it is quite inspirational. If you ask lots of people what they do – they will say to you ‘oh I just dabble … I’m not really a writer … I just do it for fun … I’m not really very good…. – and a myriad of other similar comments!

Turning Pro – is scary – suddenly when someone asks you what you do – you have to reply ‘I’m an artist’ – it’s usually accompanied by a big gulp and a ‘hope they don’t laugh at me’ thought!

This year was the first time my husband and I had ever exhibited anything – to anyone! We set up here at the hotel – tried to make it all look professional and inviting – and then sat back looking at each other thinking ‘what if no-one comes?’. Then lots of people came in and started looking round and we thought ‘what if no-one likes anything?’

Then we sold something – and then something else – and we were off! I have to tell you when no-one was looking we whooped and cheered and danced a little jig when we sold our first items – and then I sold a painting and it was a really weird feeling – that was ‘my baby’ … and I wanted to know it was going to a good home!!

A3 Art Christmas Sale

Just do it – then share it!

And don’t be frightened to make mistakes along the way:


Thanks to Creative Something .net for this image – click for the link

 So – What inspires you?

I leave with you a creative challenge

Creativity isn’t limited to artists, musicians and actors.

I believe that creativity is an innate human quality. You are full of creative possibilities.  If I asked for a show of hands of how many people have always wanted to write a book … would you put your hand up?

Or if I asked you ‘Are you creative?’ what would you say? How many of you delight in:

Knitting or sewing

Icing a birthday cake for someone

Gardening and growing your own veg

Doodling or sketching

Writing poetry

Writing a blog

Homemade crackers or Christmas cards

Playing the piano

Taking photographs

Then you are creative!

'Daisy White' by Alyson Sheldrake

Have I inspired you today?! It would be lovely to find out what you might create over the festive season ahead!

If you have enjoyed this you might also enjoy reading about Our First Exhibition

And you can find out more about our art here – click the logo!

A3 Art Logo

10 Top Tips for Creativity

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love” Rumi

A recent question on a Facebook group set me thinking – it was based upon the age-old cry of how to be inspired and create when our ideas and inspiration seem to have dried up.

So here are 10 of my favourite ways of encouraging my creative muse to spark into life – I hope that you find something to inspire you amongst them – however you paint, draw, stitch, collage or ‘create’.


1 Go through your photo albums (real or virtual!) and see what ‘jumps out at you’ – this is usually the image that I use in my next painting! Or take a camera (preferably digital) out with you and just shoot everything that inspires you or catches your eye. Come back home and look through them all, and note what themes or images emerge. Is there a new theme you could explore in your work?

2 Look back through your previous work and see what themes or colours are already prevalent – can you paint another piece similar to these and begin to make a ‘series’ of paintings? For me, I love painting boats and harbours, but I have also been drawn recently into painting large single flowers so I am looking forward to doing more of these.

'Golden Patterns' by Alyson Sheldrake

‘Golden Patterns’ original acrylic painting © Alyson Sheldrake

3 I have an old box file that I keep pictures, quotes, articles, and anything else that I find that inspires me. Sometimes just grabbing a cup of tea and curling up on the sofa and having a quick shuffle through the box is enough to set me off with a new idea – or some renewed vigour to ‘get back to work’

4 Visit an art exhibition or gallery – or look online or through your art books for other artists that you enjoy. Sit and think about ‘why’ you like their work – you don’t have to copy them – but you can be inspired by them!

5 Although … sometimes copying someone else can be very helpful! Take your favourite painting by another artist and have a go at reproducing it – merely as an exercise (I’m not suggesting you try to pass it off as yours!) Try to work through questions like why have they used the layout and focal points they have used; what colours have they used and how did they mix them; and how did they ‘create’ the work – in what order did they paint it, what layers have they used, where is their light source from etc. Even if the finished piece is nothing like the original you will have learnt some new useful techniques and ideas for the future – or even perhaps half-way through you will have ‘veered off’ and made the painting your own!

my interpretation of 'Glints of Gold'

My interpretation of John Hammond’s ‘Glints of Gold’

6 Go for a walk, listen to a piece of music, read a book. Allow your brain time to relax, have a nap, or just rest. Sometimes we can ‘try too hard’ to create and we need time to restore ourselves – don’t fight it – enjoy it!

paints and brushes

7 Try getting out some paints – perhaps a different medium than you are used to – and just paint for the fun of it! Sometimes we are too fixed on ‘creating a finished piece’ and we need to return to a childlike and simplistic enjoyment of just sploshing paint on a piece of paper – it doesn’t matter what the end result looks like!

Aly painting

One of my early pieces!

8 Enrol on a course – on-line or at a local centre – and learn something new. I have always wanted to have a go at pottery and I keep promising myself that one day I will! Being ‘creative’ is transferable!

9 Keep a sketchbook with you – and use those five minutes sat in a coffee shop to good use! Random sketches, doodles and observations can often inspire you later on. You could even sign up for the monthly Sketchbook Challenge online – click the link here:

The Sketchbook Challenge

10 Just do it! Don’t wait around for creativity to come flying through your window – show up and get to work! Steven Pressfield always inspires me with his call to ‘Turn Pro’ and the challenge to see your art as ‘work’ – to take it seriously and to treat it well.

I leave you with this inspiring quote by Chuck Close:
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

Let me know how you find inspiration and the energy to keep creating and enjoying your work … why not post a comment below?

The Creative Path

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself” Alan Alda

Thanks to Jeff Goins for his recent inspiring post – ‘Fueling your creative energy’ a post that explores how we can develop new ideas and keep writing – he often seems to add content that is about the creative writing process – but that could also relate equally well to art and painting. And he set me thinking about how I am creative – how does the muse of Creativity arrive in my studio and how can I encourage her to rest awhile and stay long enough to inspire me? Are there things that I can do to ‘make’ myself feel more creative and inspired to paint – or write?

So here are my thoughts and ideas:

1. Tell yourself “I am an artist”

This might be the hardest thing you actually have to do – to convince yourself that you are actually good enough to call yourself an artist.

Dictionary definition coming up:

Artist     A person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.

A person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a   sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.

So – what’s to stop you calling yourself an artist? This definition doesn’t exactly give much floor time to the usual excuses – I’m only part-time – It’s just a hobby – I haven’t sold anything yet – I’m not good enough….. fill in the blanks with your own excuses….

It is a defining moment – when you decide to just go for it – and call yourself what you actually are – an artist; a writer; a poet… a creative person. Try it today – change your job title in your head and see how it feels. Then start believing it.

Alyson Shelrake Artist Statement

2. Check out other people

Web-sites, books, magazines, Facebook pages – whatever you want. You will find some amazing and stunning work out there for all to see and enjoy – and some art that takes your breath away – and probably makes you think – oh heck, forget it, I can never be that good. Well I am sure that Michelangelo’s prodigies probably felt that way too – but hang on – take another look around… start noticing the stuff that’s ‘alright’ – or even ‘not that good’… or even worse… ‘really bad’.

You see we’re all out there – trying to get better. And sometimes the best way is to be encouraged by someone else (not disheartened) and also perhaps even fired up – I can do better than that!

So have a good look around – bookmark the people that inspire you – and keep an eye on them. But look at the ‘average’ stuff too – and maybe think about how you would improve it – or change it – or re-do it completely.

And then realise that you are in there too – on the same journey – growing and learning – and getting better with each project.

3. Collect things

Some things just inspire you – and may hold special memories and dreams. That pebble from the beach, the candle holder, the shell, the coloured ribbon, the special sunset photograph. It doesn’t matter what it is – as long as it connects with you inside. Surround yourself with things that you love, create a scrapbook, start a notice-board where you work, somewhere that you can look up at and be inspired.

Pebble on sand

Collect quotes and verses that inspire you – don’t hide them away, have them nearby, ready at hand for the days when your mind seems grey and your heart feels heavy.

4. Just get on with it!

Procrastination – it’s a fantastic word – and it covers a multitude of little tasks, jobs that call to you, cups to be washed, washing to be folded, cushions to be plumped. You name it – Procrastination Enterprises has it covered.

Ignore them! The only way to get the Creative muse to turn up and hang around – is to be there – waiting for her – and to welcome her with your whole attention and being. Then just get stuck in – start drawing – or painting – or writing – whatever it is that you want to do. It may not be very good – in fact – it might suck! But that’s ok. Just keep at it. And in time – maybe six months’ time – you’ll look back and go wow! look at me now – and look at what I used to create – how far I have come!

For more inspiration on this, I heartily recommend ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield

5. Then share it!

Get it out there – start a blog; create a Facebook page; have your own web-site; join a group on Facebook – or even send it off for critique to someone you know and trust – and admire. Whatever you do – and however it looks – set it out there for others to see and comment.

Snapshot of A3 Art Facebook page

And then be brave! Because they will give you feedback – they may even criticise your work – or hopefully nicely suggest ways you can improve. Listen to them – and don’t panic! It’s not you they are commenting about – just a piece of work – some paint on a board.

You see, that’s the trouble with creating things. We put our heart into them – we have to – nothing would come out otherwise. And then we have to let go – and the non-creative person doesn’t see it as we do – the work is our ‘baby’ – so be brave – let it go – let it get some air – and then see what people think.

And then learn and grow.

6. Set yourself a target or three

Even if you don’t tell anyone else what they are.

I’ve decided to be completely mad and set up my 101 in 1001 on this blog – so you can see what my 101 tasks in 100 days are.

It’s a shot in the arm for me – a chance to nail it down – and a real spur to encouraging me to create.

My art targets include:

101 in 1001 art targets

1 Complete three new paintings every month

This shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve as I am loving having a studio and being able to paint – I will post my work on our a3art web-site and let you know how things are progressing! 

2 Find gallery representation and have a solo exhibition

This comes under the ‘more difficult’ heading! But a task I would love to achieve!

But whatever you decide to aim for – write it down somewhere – let it be an encouragement and a reminder to you. And when the days come when the duvet just feels to heavy to lift, and the snuggle down and ‘start it tomorrow’ feeling comes over you (and it will – believe me it comes to us all!) – those targets might just make the difference – especially if you are brave enough to share them with the world!

7. Don’t go it alone

Be part of a community. Let people in. I love my blogs mainly for the community of fellow bloggers I have ‘met’ and been encouraged by. There is a whole raft of people doing 101 in 1001 – and lots more diligently completing their ‘6 Word Saturdays’ and sharing their successes and failures. So hide yourself away in the studio by all means – but come up for air every now and then.

Creativity can be lonely sometimes. Just you – the paints and easel – against the world.

And that’s why it’s good to talk to others. I have some great artists linked to me on Facebook (if you want to join me – I’m here! (link) and it’s great to grab a coffee, pull up a chair, and share some thoughts and ideas with others. It can be really inspiring.

Have a good support system around you – people that care about you – in person – or remotely.

And keep away from the ‘doom and gloom’ crowd – you know the ones – the people that just make your spirit sink into your shoes within five minutes of talking to them. Don’t let them steal your joy – your optimism – your heart. Let them go and work their ‘magic’ on someone else.

8. Be creative every day

Collect ideas and inspiration wherever you are. Carry a camera with you – there are some fantastic compact digital cameras you can slip in your pocket or bag. Snap things you see, images, colours, clouds, people – whatever you see that catches your eye. Carrying a camera makes you see things differently, gives you another reason to walk through the park or the market, and helps you to slow down and really see things.

Or why not carry a sketchbook with you – take a look at this blog idea – the Sketchbook Challenge – with a new challenge to inspire you every month.

Or try a ‘365’ project – like the WordPress 365 post a photo a day – or check out this web-site Kristin’s Photo a Day for more ideas.

Carry a notebook with you and jot down ideas as you travel through your day. I have lost track of the number of times I have thought I must remember that – that’s a great idea… and then completely forgotten what it was by the time I arrived home again.

So – create a creative mindset! And carry the tools with you that you need to make it happen.

Footprint in the sand

9. Fight the negative voice inside

Firstly, let’s be honest – we all have one – that voice that sits on your shoulder and laughs at your attempts to be creative.

But don’t give in to it. Name it – own it – then bury it – every day!

He or she will make you doubt yourself – completely – if you let it. So – don’t let it! Be ready for it to turn up – and then firmly slam the door shut in its face. And don’t let it back in!

Take risks and try new things. Don’t just hide behind the sofa hoping your critical voice will eventually stop ringing the doorbell and go away. Swagger out there, thumbing your nose at it – and flaunting your determination to try new things – be bolder, bigger and brighter than ever before. And watch that demon run away.

10. Enjoy this creative life

It’s fun! It should be – it engages our very being and can give us such a thrill inside.

So break out the best paints you have – take the wrapper off the nice shiny sketchbook you’ve been saving for ‘best’ – or buy yourself a new set of pens – and go create!

Find your own path – your own style. Don’t copy everyone else – or anyone else. Just be you. With a big smile on your face. And skip down the high street if you want to. You’ll make other people smile to.

And surely that is what being creative is all about. Being true to yourself. And making other people’s lives a little better along the way.

Soaring birds A3 Art photograph

If you have been inspired by this article, why not consider taking the first steps to a new creative life – and join my ‘Learn how to Draw’ 10 week e-course. 

This is a 10 week pdf course, with weekly guided step by step exercises and lessons.

I will personally support you through the course, via e-mail, and provide personalised individual feedback and support.

You will learn the basics of drawing, and gain confidence and skills in how to draw. This is an often over-looked skill which is the basis of all good paintings and art work, and can be translated into so many new crafts and hobbies.

You can learn at home, at your own pace, at a time convenient to you and with my full support.

Click here for more information.

Learn how to Draw e-course information