Children know how to create art from their imagination. But at some point, we tell ourselves (or are told) that we don’t have the skill, or we aren’t that creative. This stops us from showing up and making the art we feel called to create. As adults, we instead show up to our home studios and draw a blank. (Or we never pick up a paintbrush at all). I have a question for you: Do you want to create art from your imagination? Click to read/watch and learn more.

I taught elementary art for one year. It involved 25 children running around me in circles. 10 of them would be hugging each other with glue filled hands, 2 would be picking apart or ripping the paper we were to be gluing, while the rest would either be doing the task at hand or asking to go the bathroom. (And as soon as one asked it was a deluge!)

I was fortunate to teach a range of ages, from pre-K to grade 5 (US curriculum).

And I could ask those little people to draw or paint anything and they’d just dive in. 

They didn’t need image references. They didn’t worry about what it looked like. 

They worked from their imagination without fear.

Until about grade 4. 

Then I started to see children say things like, “I don’t know what that looks like,” or, “I can’t draw it.” (And they really meant they couldn’t draw it realistically).

They started feeling less permission to be creative with their artistic expression.

There’s a famous quote by Picasso,

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain one once we grow up.”

I see this in my daughter, who at the time of this recording is about to turn 4. She is so willing to explore materials and play. She doesn’t question whether she can, she just wants to jump in.

Children know how to create art from their imagination. But at some point, we tell ourselves (or are told) that we don’t have the skill, or we aren’t that creative. This stops us from showing up and making the art we feel called to create.

As adults, we instead show up to our home studios and draw a blank. (Or we never pick up a paintbrush at all).

I have a question for you:

Do you want to create art from your imagination? 

Hey there! 👋 I’m Carrie. Here on Artist Strong I help self-taught artists who have a home studio, feeling stuck with their art, move from wondering what’s next to confidently expressing themselves through unique, original art.

Today let’s explore some strategies for putting the ideas in your head to paper or canvas.

First: are you confident with your skill level?

This is key to achieving your goal. If you can’t draw or paint it from photo reference or from live observation you certainly won’t be able to from your memory or imagination. However, it’s important to recognize that skill level is not solely determined by your skill level. Confidence in one’s skills also involves a deep understanding of artistic concepts and techniques, as well as the ability to adapt and innovate. For instance, artists with advanced skill may still struggle to realize their ideas if they lack creativity or have the willingness to take risks.

Regular practice (see my post Why Artists Should Practice Like Musicians linked below), drawing from observation, and studying the elements and principles of art and composition are essential to any artwork. Additionally, exploring diverse styles, experimenting with different media, and seeking inspiration from various sources can help expand your skill set and foster confidence in your artistic abilities.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 How do you think skill level impacts our ability to realize ideas we have? Tell me more in the comments below.

And if you feel like gaps in your learning hold you back from making your best art, sign up and watch my workshop, called How to Create Art from Your Imagination, for free. It’s completely free for you to watch and the link is in the description below.

Skill level not only affects our technical proficiency but also influences our creative vision and problem-solving abilities. Artists with higher skill levels may find it easier to translate their ideas into tangible artworks, as they possess the skill to execute their vision effectively. However, even artists with limited technical skills can create compelling and meaningful artwork by embracing their unique perspective and honing their creative intuition. Ultimately, it’s a combination of skill, creativity, and passion that empowers artists to bring their imagination to life on paper or canvas.

Second: can you work with sketches and image references to realize your concept?

In the early phases of artistic expression,  (see post or video: What are the 3 Phases of Artistic Expression?), artists often focus on honing their skills by replicating objects, people, and environments from life and photo references. While this approach is valuable for developing your skill, it’s equally important to explore alternative methods of visualizing concepts.

For example, you can consider experimenting with collage techniques to generate new ideas and explore complex themes. I started using this strategy when I enrolled in coursework to write and create a graphic novel. Collaging elements together was one way to plan out the many compositions you need on each page of your comic.

Collage allows you to combine different elements to create visually compelling compositions. By combining images from various sources, you can convey nuanced perspectives and invite viewers to engage with their work on multiple levels.

For example, in a self-portrait I completed, I began with the concept of being a new mom feeling out of control. Instead of relying solely on traditional drawing or painting techniques, I embraced collage. I searched for image references, including selfies of myself and my daughter, and carefully selected elements to incorporate into the composition.

You can see a draft of this initial composition here:

When you feel like you can’t put the ideas or pictures in your mind to canvas, often people mean using a specific medium and being very realistic. So why not try getting something down that acts as a starting point for the work?

The image reference above led to this artwork titled Self-Portrait at 7-Months:

By leveraging the power of collage, I was able to capture the essence of my concept visually. This has given me even greater confidence to explore new ways of storytelling and self-expression.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 Now I’d love to know, how could you use collage, or another medium or technique for that matter, to help you communicate your ideas? What could be a beginning or a start to communicating that vision you hold? Tell me more in the comments below.

Next time you’re faced with a creative challenge, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and experiment with unconventional techniques or materials you’ve never explored. You may be surprised by how easy it becomes to communicate your ideas.

Third: have you explored concepts through experimentation and play?

Even with all the skill available to us, translating the vivid imagery in our minds onto paper or canvas can still pose a challenge.

In two decades of teaching, I’ve had ONE student who could realistically draw or paint from memory—only on one topic: horses.

Misconceptions about success in skill and art persist. Many artists feel they ‘should’ effortlessly draw from imagination. But why could that student draw horses so well? Because she spent countless hours WITH horses!

Between drawing and stable visits, she studied picture books, and dedicated time to a subject she loved.

This anecdote underscores a crucial point: true mastery in art often stems from a combination of skill, passion, and exploration. Rather than fixating solely on drawing from memory, embrace experimentation and play as vital components of your artistic journey.

Fourth: is it really about imagination?

Many of the conversations around art are: can I actually achieve a certain level of realism? Can I draw a dog and make them appear three-dimensional on this flat surface when someone asks me on the spot to draw one. (Often without something to look at).

And I’m curious: is that what you really want?

Too many people tell me they don’t have a creative bone in their body. Here’s the thing: you are creative! Human beings, by our very nature, are creative. But somewhere along the way someone convinced you you’re not.

If drawing photorealistically is important to you, let’s make it happen. But if you are prioritizing this kind of study and practice, which keeps you from making the real art you wish to make, you can do something about that, too.

So, how can you infuse your artistic practice with experimentation and play? Start by venturing beyond your comfort zone, trying out new materials, techniques, and subjects. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. Whether it’s through sketching, painting, or sculpting, embrace the joy of discovery and let your imagination wander.

By nurturing your curiosity and passion, you’ll not only expand your artistic horizons but also uncover new depths of creativity within yourself.

Now, if you’re saying you want to draw from your imagination because you see it as a measure of success but you don’t know what you want to explore, you’re skipping some steps.

Regular practice, skill development, consistent art engagement, and exploring various concepts and media will help you find your way.

If you’d rather not go it alone and have been feeling stuck in your studio, wondering what’s next, I’m here to help. My program Self-Taught to Self-Confident is an A-to-Z method that walks you through filling in gaps in your foundations so you can show up regularly to make art that comes from your mind. You walk away with a series of artworks that showcase your unique voice.

You can finally create original art people will recognize as yours AND feel proud and excited to share it with others.

Choose a time on my calendar or comment below YES to learn more.

As always, thank you so much for watching, please like and subscribe if you enjoyed today’s video.

And remember: proudly call yourself an artist.

Together we are Artist Strong.