How to Gather Inspiration and Reference for Your Art


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When I first started embroidering It took me awhile to figure out where the best resources were to find inspiration and reference. These days, the internet is full of online resources and even amazon has a ton of books you can order with one click. DISCLAIMER: First off, I am self taught and do not have an art degree nor traditional experiences in the art world, so these tips are ones I’ve gathered over the years from personal experience and that have worked for me. I hope this helps you out too!! Here we go. 

Take photos of real life. Take photos of whatever subject you want to use in your piece. When I do pet portraits for people, I ask for a couple of well lit photos of the animal so I can see the fur pattern, the true color of the animal, and get a general understanding of how they look. I usually select one photo to reference for the actual portrait, but having a few photos guarantees that I get the color right and the fur right because angles and lighting can vary!

Go for walks around your neighborhood. Not only does this help you find interesting foliage, plants, flowers, etc. I find that this really sparks my creativity and it’s neat to walk around and gather inspiration from the unexpected. You never know what you’ll find! I have a whole folder on my phone of flower reference that I pull up from time to time of when I’m designing embroideries 

Look at several different photos or reference of one concept, object, or animal.  Gathering images of different angles, poses, or perspective and really studying how to draw or stitch something helps to give you options of what features you want to incorporate into your piece. You can combine little details from every reference photo and make it your own!

Don't use other people’s art as reference. It’s one thing to admire and look at and study the execution of someone else’s art, but using their art as reference puts you down a slippery slip of potentially outright copying them. Not using someone else’s art as reference in your piece is the best solution to avoid this problem altogether. 

This website has pictures of the human body posing that are great and they’re free. I don’t do many embroideries with the human figure, but when I do I use places like this to get proportions and anatomy right.

>>Buy books specifically made up of royalty free reference images.  Here are some I use that are good! 

 from the flower designs book. This book has a great variety of flowers in it!

from the flower designs book. This book has a great variety of flowers in it!

 if you need reference of pretty much any animal, this is the book for you.

if you need reference of pretty much any animal, this is the book for you.








>>Still stumped? Look into taking an online class about learning to draw and referencing images. I’ve personally taken this class and it really helped. Yuko Shimizu has several skillshare classes that are also great. In this class she goes over how to select reference and draw it from real life. She goes over a few exercises that are fun and helpful!

 "Learning How to Draw: A Mindset, Method, and Exercises" an Online Skillshare Class by Yuko Shimizu

If you don’t have Skillshare and would like to sign up for two free months, you can through my link!