One of the things people say most when talking about art is: “[sigh]…I am not as creative as you are. I wouldn’t know what to draw and paint like you do. I never have inspiration. ” And then I always reply that often I have no idea either. I simply sit down, grab some stuff that I feel like working with and then something starts to happen. Only very rarely my fingers won’t move. But showing up is the greatest part of the work – or at least for me.

a shelf of picture books in mandy van goeije book case in which she finds inspiration

Sparks for Art Journaling inspiration:

That being said, though, there are moments I need a spark from the outside world. Here’s a few things I do then:

1. Finding inspiration in Picture Books

I have a pretty massive collection of picture books that I use to seek inspiration in. I buy a lot of them second hand or at the library clear out. And the thing I watch out for, is the techniques and styles used by the illustrators. I tend to buy books that are unique in both ways because they are most inspiring to me. Only a few illustrators fascinate me enough to collect their work.
My top illustration heroine is Rebecca Dautremer. She is da boss in the field as far as I’m concerned. I own quite a few of her books. Her work got me into gouache and a tiny video of hers on facebook a few years back helped me enormously to conquer the battle with this peculiar medium.
Another really great illustrator is Kaatje Vermeire who works in mixed media in a really great style.
And then there’s illustrators from the past that I really adore like Stasys Eidrigevicius, Adolf Born and Arthur Rackham. Sticking my nose into their books always produces an itch in my mind and fingers.


Mandy van Goeije work top scattered with art supplies during a crazy professor experimentation session with art supplies in which she finds inspiration

  1. Being a crazy professor with Art Supplies
  2. When even picture books don’t help, I get this gnawing sensation in my gut and sometimes become a little cranky. That’s when you know there’s an egg inside of you that needs to be laid; you just need to find a way to do it. Inspiration is pretty much just that, eh? The spark to lay your egg… So then I drag out lots of art supplies and simply start experimenting! My studio and I look awful when that’s done. And sometimes there’s little result to show for the hard work. But it always takes off some steam!

  1. Spinning worlds of color
  2. If both picture books and art supplies fail to make my fingers itch, then I know I’m in a bad place. This is usually a day when my kids say: “Mom, shouldn’t you be painting in your studio? I’ll do the dishes for you.” On days like that, I open my little black cupboard and take out my collection of kaleidoscopes. Yup, really!
    I install myself in a comfy chair with some calming music. Say that of Erik Satie and simply turn them kaleidoscopes in front of my eyes. Color therapy! Sometimes it takes a while, but almost always the rotating color combos helps release some energy to get going. Sometimes it’s literally a color combination that gets me to work. And at other times it’s just the colors that trigger something in my mind that gets me going. A great way of finding inspiration!
    This little video above here is a video I once recorded of some of my own kaleidoscopes…I thought I’d add it for those who have yet to do without…
flickr group art journal and diary pages homepage in which mandy finds inspiration

  1. Sharing inspiration in the Flickr Art Journaling group
  2. A few years ago I set up an Art Journaling group on Flickr for people to share their art journal pages in. To inspire and to be inspired! The group now has 1240+ members and more than 31000 photos for you to enjoy! It’s great fun to see what other people do in their journals on a daily basis!!! It’s hard not to get any inspiration out of that!!! I sometimes see work passing by that makes me think: why didn’t I think of that?! And then my hands get busy again…
online art class mixed media character faces workshop by mandy van goeije in which she finds inspiration

  1. Let your self be inspired by Online art classes
  2. Sometimes taking an (online) art class can be truly transformative. I will never forget Carla Sonheim‘s first online drawing class. I was in it. And that lady simply sparked my confidence. She was the first art teacher who showed me that there was no one correct way of drawing and that I could draw very well if I simply got myself to do it.
    Another really great class I once took was by Mindy Lacefield. I never kept working in her style. But I loved her joyful approach and very much admire how she keeps on working in her own style. In her class was a guest teacher, Lana Guerra. And that lesson was just simply marvellous. Where mixed media techniques were sometimes a bit too good-girl for my liking, suddenly there was this awesome punk-doll like artist showing me that it didn’t have to be good-girl at all. I painted in that style for weeks. And a lot of that sense of freedom is still with me today.
    Not having been very good with color pencil, I took a class of Peony and Parakeet last year. And even though I’m quite an advanced student, I still picked up a thing or two that has been important in my work. I learned to love the color pencil and the freedom of working in color, color, color and color. That class has seriously impacted my own work since I’ve begun to use that free layering of colors as a basis to work on.
    And even though I don’t follow classes as intensely anymore, this year I enrolled for Erin Faith Allen’s class Metamorph. Her work is so different from mine and I love how she lays down meaning in everything. I had been on the lookout for a real-life workshop by her, but that wasn’t feasible, so I decided to join her online. I may not learn much from the techniques anymore because I’ve seen a lot. And…progressing in my development I find I’m beginning to stick to my tracks more and more. But still…it’s that spark you want sometimes. And I still find that in her class, making it worthwhile still.
    Being around other artists and learning how they work, think and live is simply contagious! It’s pre-packed and well-presented inspiration to take from what you need…
life book 2017 button contributing teacher mandy van goeije

Finding sparks in Life Book

I think that passing the spark on is why I have begun teaching online classes myself. I want to help people find their spark. And that’s why I’m so glad to be teaching on Life Book next year. It’s great to be part of such a big team of inspiring teachers who are all so very different. That means you will definitely find inspiration there! Maybe not in everything. But there is so much variety that you will most certainly find lessons in there that will affect your work permanently. And they get delivered right in your mailbox for a whole year.

If you want to take a look at Life Book 2017, it’s good to know you can sign up as of 3 October, so in a few days already! Lessons start 1 January. I’ll be in the classroom for questions and feedback on your work for both of my classes! I hope to see you there!

art photo by mandy van goeije on layered background with transparent color over black and white

And the winner is…

Before I announcing the winner of the free spot for this wonderful art journaling course, I’d like to thank you for the many, many shares and newsletter subscriptions and for your beautiful comments here on my blog. Many of you seem to be looking for inspiration…so it’s a good thing I wrote this article 😉
I read all comments and there was no way of choosing one person who deserved to win most. So many of you have such good reasons to win, but I can give away only one spot for free. So in the end I ordered all entries and used a random number generator which rolled out Number 22. And on that spot was…..drumroll….Rachel Evans White!!!
Congratulations, Rachel with your spot in this really awesome year-long art journaling course. We’ll see each other in class!!! I do hope to see the rest of you there too…you all deserve a really big spark of inspiration and art to make your lives richer!!! Keep an eye on my blog for another giveaway this fall when I release my new online class…you might get lucky this time!