Many people view learning art is a process about knowledge of visual things. Undersketching, anatomy, copying references, and so on. Then, people start pushing for more complexity in shadows, and compositional elements, texture, and such things. We often look for help on developing the various techniques in art, but sometimes the most difficult part is turning your imagination into reality. As artists we draw to share who we are and what is important to us, and every skill set we learn allows us to make that possible.
But like all other things in art, creativity takes knowledge and practice. Understanding how to look into yourself and the world around you can be a confusing and frustrating process. Let us ponder a few ways to discover our minds before we draw – before we even think about the physical processes of creating art.
Perhaps you want to draw a picture based on how you feel, or have felt in the past. The key to turning this kind of inspiration into something special is how you specifically and descriptively identify your emotion. Saying that you feel good or you feel bad is not descriptive enough to create a full composition. Saying that you feel happy or you feel sad or you feel lonely or you feel love is perhaps still not enough. Drawing a pony with a smile or a frown ... is not expressive in a meaningful way.
To make your emotions descriptive and interesting, using metaphors to view life can be a helpful creative exercise. Let's use a few examples.
Today, an artist might feel ... 'happy,' but that sentiment could be expanded upon. Perhaps the artist feels like his warmth could illuminate a dark and wet cave, causing little grass and flowers to bloom in his presence. He feels like he could leap out of a window and glide over the rooftops. He feels like his body is made up of a thousand fluttering butterflies that move as a single beautiful wave of color.
How do you feel? Ask yourself honestly, and try to find a unique yet descriptive answer. Sometimes, the way we feel can be directly depicted as art. Sometimes, the way we feel can be shown in a very simple picture with colors and lighting and an expression that all reflect a very deep mood. Sometimes, we don't know how we feel, but even that emptiness can be refined and manifested into art.
Emotions are complex, and they can be represented in unique ways. This is one way to utilize art. To use art to explore what you feel in a way that no other form of expression can capture, so that artists may feel your emotion.
Characters are often very important in art, especially in a community dedicated to drawing fan art of sorts. Whether you are drawing fan art of an MLPFIM pony, or you are drawing an Original Character, you can often find great ideas for interesting pictures by drawing a composition that emphasizes and expands upon the personality and the viewer's perception of the character.
There are lots of ways to make a character's identity important and real to the audience. Examples: drawing a well-known character experiencing something new to him or her; drawing an established character in extreme circumstances that causes them to do something we wouldn't expect; drawing a character in a situation that exposes his or her true values. Maybe an artist will try putting a little bit of him- or herself into a character that they identify with. Or one might put characters together who share a common emotion towards an external influence, in order to explore the resulting interaction. There are unlimited ways to find interest in a character, and these examples only scratch the surface of how deep your portrayal of a character can become.
In the absence of other inspirations, you can explore a character in new ways. A character is not just an appearance -- it is an identity. A great source of inspiration can be exploring how you view a character, what you think is special about them, and to put them in the situations that you have always wanted to see. Draw the identity behind the pony, not the body in front of it.
There is a world around every character, but exactly what that world contains is up to you. Many times people draw with no background, or solid color, or just a grassy ground and sky. These are standard choices that lack individuality or interest.
Perhaps start a picture by imagining how a character can interact with an environment. Focus on your imagination, rather than the technical aspects of art. Just think about ... Daring Do holding a treasure in a lush jungle overlooking the landscape in peace, and how calming and rich the environment is despite the turmoil of Daring Do's adventure. Imagine Rarity standing in front of a canyon full of glowing precious gems, and how the beauty of each gem competes with the beauty of the pony. Imagine the contextual possibilities that could make your pictures more complete. Build environments that supplement a character, or create a character who interacts with the environment.
There are times where we simply imagine the mood, or emotion, of a more simple environment -- one that your pony does not necessarily interact with, but one that builds upon the visual impact of the character. An environment that is dark and speckled with red, where we could place a gore-splattered Pinkamina who matches the mood. Or maybe we want an orange sunset that will illuminate Rainbow Dash a brightness that reflects her emotions of appreciation and wonderment.
If you're having trouble thinking about what to draw, maybe start with a background. Make an environment that builds mood and relevant context, using tools of value, saturation, shape, or any other ideas that you study as an artist.
The bottom line of this guide, is that art is all up to you. You are free make pictures about anything you want, and other people can only give examples and suggestions. Think poetically, feel emotions for what you do, and try to turn your ideas into a visual reality. Allow each picture to be an experience, even if you're just drawing to practice. You never have to draw a simple character and background again; there is always some part of your life that could be represented in art. Art is not made in a vacuum, and you can find inspiration from any number of places.
The possibilities don't stop with my suggestions of this guide. There are more routes to creative art than what I have mentioned. Using the same general techniques of exploration that I mentioned (metaphors, interaction, emotion, character development, and so on) you can also interact with other art forms and with life itself in magnificent ways. I can't tell you where your mind should travel, but after a little wandering you may find a path to creativity.
Challenge yourself. Take away the physical process of art for a brief brainstorm, and you might surprise yourself with what you decide to create. Any level of artist can make a meaningful picture, so try it for yourself!