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Art Right Now (or Write Like an Artist): Creative Prompts


New month, fresh motivation. Looking for a starting point, or some inspiration for your artistic work? We’ve assembled a list of creative prompts for encouragement.

Although this post’s exercises were written with visual artists in mind, writers can make use of them, too: write with tape, limit your pen strokes, create a textual sculpture from cereal-related words, etc. Happy making!

  • Draw with tape. Tape comes in almost every color imaginable. Get some different tape colors, or different tape types (e.g., packing, duct, painter’s blue). Cut or tear the tape into different lines and shapes and use them to make an image.
  • Limit yourself to a certain number of marks or strokes. For instance, try the lucky number 7. Make just 7 moves on your canvas or paper. No more and no less.
  • Try ‘blind drawing.’ Look at anything in the room. Use a pen or pencil to try to draw it just by looking at the object. Think about varying the pressure of your drawing utensil based on the strength of the lines, angles, and shadows of whatever you’re looking at. Don’t look down at your surface (You’ll find it’s hard to stay true to this rule). Try to keep drawing for as long as possible.  
  • Mix black from other colors. Black is always a useful color for making contrast in a drawing or painting, but black from the jar or tube can be boring and bleak. Try mixing other colors to make your own dark tones. For instance, mix dark blue, dark green, and alizarin crimson to see what dark tone results.
  • Focus on space. Use diagonal lines, differing object sizes, overlapping shapes, and atmospheric cues (e.g., details up close, haziness, and fading detail in the background) to create a 3D illusion on your 2D surface.
  • Drawings that are too balanced often don’t keep our attention, because they don’t have enough tension. Try using the 80/20 rule. Make a drawing or painting that is 80% warm colors and 20% cool colors, or 80% angled shapes and 20% rounded shapes, 80% large shapes and 20% small ones. 80% lines and 20% solids. And so on.
  • Make your own pigment from an unexpected source. Defrost some frozen raspberries and smash them up. Save that now-cold black coffee from this morning’s pot, crush up some green cake sprinkles, and add water. Put some bbq sauce on the brush!
  • Make a sculpture out of breakfast cereal and glue.
  • Create a dynamic ground. Instead of starting with just plain paper or canvas, change the ground you work on by putting down a wash of color, or creating an even pattern across the surface with a graphite rub (e.g., put paper on concrete and rub a light layer of graphite all over the surface). See what kind of new ground results.
  • Draw a piece of garbage, instead of a more common subject like a portrait or landscape. Try drawing a discarded paper bag or candy wrapper. See if you can elevate something that is generally not considered beautiful, by making a beautiful drawing of it.

Did you miss earlier creative prompts in this series? Here they are.

Like what you’ve created? Looking for a market? Check out Discover. If you have feedback, or ideas for creative prompts, please get in touch.

[Art: From genus series, by Submittable team member Ben Bloch]

Emily Freeman