This is the second part in a two part series about finding inspiration for your art and translating that into actual paintings. You can find the first part here.

Today I’m looking at the ways that I record what I find when I’m hunting for inspiration, or when it just appears!

Ways of recording what I find


I use the camera on my phone every single day, many times. Since I have my phone with me all the time, it’s the quickest and easiest way to record what I see when it catches my eye. It also acts as a tool to focus my attention on the unusual or the beautiful around me. And it means I can share favourite images on Facebook or Instagram; I like to share what I’m doing and what inspires me, and the beach and studio photos always go down well, sometimes even inspiring others.

You can see how my painting ‘Fiesta on the Wharf’ was inspired by, although not directly worked from, the colourful beach huts along the seafront:

painting inspiration - beach huts {Tara Leaver}

I also use Instagram images by others; I take a screenshot of photos I love and then can refer to them later. This isn’t about copying or ‘stealing’ other people’s ideas; it’s about using visuals to prompt ideas in myself. For example, both images below:


beautiful sketch on the left by Carmel Jenkin :: unfinished interpretation on the right by me, using circles and some Manga pens I was given. I’m planning to add some colour at some point

I also have various apps installed on my phone so I can mess with images, either simplifying them for future paintings or playing with colour, composition and light to see what effects I can make. Currently I have Paper Artist, Shape’d, Photo Editor, PicsArt, Snapseed, LittlePhoto, MagicHour, and I just downloaded VSCOCam. Which is a lot of apps and I don’t use them all! I just like to download them and play and see what works for me.


the photo on the left is by Jill Bliss :: the drawing on the right is mine {ink and feather on leftover ink and paint background}

Recently I’ve been taking short videos with my phone camera too, for capturing scenes, or for example the movement of waves or the murmurations of starlings that fly past my window every afternoon.


I covered using sketchbooks in detail here, but it’s worth noting how I specifically use them to capture inspiration, which often comes in a moment and can be gone just as quickly.

charcoal mood

here’s a sketch I did with charcoal sitting on a bench overlooking the beach – a rare drawing of a mood!

I don’t tend to carry a sketchbook around with me unless I’m going specifically to a place where I know I’ll be still and focused for a while, even if it’s just fifteen minutes on the beach. But I do keep them around the house, especially by the sofa {as part of my coffee table art kit}, as that seems to be a good place for me to check in on the photos I’ve taken and transfer any drawings or scribbles I’m particularly inspired by onto paper.


a very quick {and slightly creepy} sketch from images I was seeing in my head and wanting to capture a certain look and feel


As you may know, words inspire me as much as images, sometimes featuring in paintings or inspiring them by the feel or mental pictures they give me, so I do carry a notebook around. {I’m also a total list obsessive so, you know. 🙂 } I’ve been known to pull over in the car to make notes when hit by a sudden bolt of inspiration.

I also type them as notes into my phone if there’s no paper to hand. I keep meaning to explore recording my voice but that hasn’t happened yet because I never think of it in the moment and also have some issues with hearing my voice recorded. 🙂

Here’s a sketchbook page with words that just came to me as I was doing it {actually I don’t remember if these words prompted a poem or came from one I’d already written; round and round!}:


Probably as a sub-heading here I should put in ‘Scraps of Paper’. I have a wire picture holder behind my desk full of scraps of paper with half formed thoughts and ideas on them, like my list of names of stars, for which I’m percolating some painting ideas. I also have them slipped between pages of sketchbooks, in drawers, pockets and my bag. I figure I’ll find them at the moment I need them. 🙂

A quick note on using the computer

This is more like the stage BEFORE translating ideas into actual paintings. I find a huge amount of inspiration online {surprise}, and it can be easy to get carried away clicking this and that, and before you know it two hours have gone by. I have installed the Evernote web clipper so every time I find a page that inspires an idea, I can file it into Evernote very quickly and carry on. It means that Evernote, and similiarly Pinterest and the ‘Inspiration’ folder of images in my computer, is always there with a ready source of inspiration should I need it.

These are my main ways of capturing inspiration before it flies away. What’s your favourite way to catch the sparks?


If you’re feeling like you need some help getting started with making art, or want to have a go but are holding back because of fears or resistance, registration is currently open for my ecourse, Creative Spark, beginning in February. Just the thing to blow away winter blues {if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere; otherwise it’s just the thing to do when it’s too hot to be outside! 😉 } You can find out more and sign up here, and I’m always available to answer questions.

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