How to be Original

I know, I know, so the cover photo isn’t so original. But I swear, if there’s anything that I stress most it’s being original. Coming up with unique ideas is a huge part of being an artist. Thinking outside the box goes without saying. But what does it really take to maintain an original thought process?

1. Always be aware of what other artists are doing. No matter what kind of artist you are, you should immerse yourself in the entire art world. Illustration can be heavily influenced by fine paintings. And sculptures can go on to influence paintings. Everything lends something to something else.

2. Be a movie buff or a book nerd. This is especially important if you’re working with stories, character designs, or book illustrations. Think about what kinds of imagery the text gives you. Movies are just as useful. Dynamic poses and various perspectives are important things that can be literally drawn from movies. Watching movies and reading books gives you a better idea of what’s already been done.

3. Be cognizant of cultures outside of your own. Looking into the cultures of other countries, it’s easy to identify patterns and trends. Art in other countries, however, could be vastly different and become an invaluable influence. Be aware of their popular culture as well as their histories.

4. Go back in time. “Vintage” is making a comeback. As boring as a history class can be, history itself is pretty interesting if you know what to look for. Propaganda posters, mythology, and ancient architecture are all super inspirational things to artists. And remember all of the great artists that existed way before your time.

5. Never confuse appropriation for inspiration. It’s okay to be inspired by another artist’s work but just because you like a character’s name or appearance doesn’t mean you can just take it and make it yours. This seems super obvious but it’s surprising just how many people rip off other people’s ideas. Homage is great but loosely base, don’t baselessly take.

6. Take your own reference photos. The notion of never using reference is completely ridiculous but using photos that aren’t yours for reference can get you into trouble. If you change them enough you’re more than likely okay but if the idea of using someone else’s photo bothers you, you can always take your own photos and be 100% original.

7. Google it before you just go with it. This is so so so important! Every project you start you should look up beforehand. Your gut idea might be a good one but even if you thought of it on your own, there’s always a chance someone else thought of it before you. If what you wanted to do has already been done before, it might not be the best solution. Or there might be a way that you can tweak it to make it different.

8. Avoid the cliché. Of course if something’s cliché, it’s been repeated over and over again. But that’s not without good reason. It’s only repeated because it has worked time and time again. As often as possible though, definitely try to avoid it.

9. Don’t lose sight of you. Getting inspired is one thing but there’s something to be said for your own thought process. You are already original because there is no one like you. You will have thoughts that will set you aside from the rest. Be open and let them come to you.

It’s not easy and some might even say it’s impossible to be 100% original. But it doesn’t mean it’s something you can’t strive for. Always dare to be different and think outside the box!

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