Creative Journal Ideas and Prompts for artists and cartoonists

refillable-leather-bound-sketchbookCreative journal ideas can be the most valuable asset an artist or cartoonist can have.  Artistic inspiration can appear at any time, any place with any person. A journal can be used to capture that fleeting idea before it evaporates into the ether of your subconciousness – gone forever!

Art Inspiration Generator

In addition a well maintained journal can become an art inspiration generator as ideas, sketches  and ideas are collected used, recycled and moulded into new artwork and cartoons. Unless you have a photographic memory creating an effective method of netting those great ideas is too good not to!  

How many times have you seen something that either made you laugh or stimulated your creative thought with an artistic idea.  How many times have you wished that you had written an idea down because it had vanished.  

Disciplining yourself to carry a journal may seem to be a bind at first but persistence will turn into habit and second nature.  You will never be scratching around for artistic inspiration again.

Creative Journal Ideas in the right Format

Setting out your art Journal prompts and ideas in a workable format may seem a bit boring and stuffy but a little thought can reap great benefits.  Here are some suggestions of layout and topics that can make your artistic reference really effective:

Leave the first couple of pages in your art journal blank

Use the first page or two as a content index. Imagine researching your past journals after you have been filling them up over several years.  An index at front will provide nice little prompts to find past ideas quickly.  It is also a good idea to put a start and finish date at the front so you can immediatly see which journal was completed in what time frame.

Setting out your artistic goals

Setting out goals is a sure fire way way of achieving them.  Put them near the front of your art journal – right in your face so you are constantly affirming what you want to achieve.  List short, medium and long term artistic and art business goals.  Read through them every single day to lodge them indellibly between your ears.  Some people say that goals should be read outloud – maybe??? If it works for you then try it.


Collect inspiring quotes

Collecting inspiring quotes by others has a twofold benefit.  The obvious one is that inspiring thoughts (as it says on the tin) inspire and can help lift your creative side.  The other use is for ideas related to specific quotes.  

As an example the composer Edward Elgar was attributed to the quote ‘There’s music in the air’.  I used this particular quote as the caption for a cartoon I had published in Brass Band World Magazine several years ago.  

I took the quote and twisted the meaning around to illustrate a brass band in a storm where the music they were playing was actually blowing away in the wind (amongst other things!).

creative journal ideas music in the air cartoon elgar

 ‘There’s Music in the Air’ – Edward Elgar 1905

The quote and cartoon seemed to work and the magazine editor agreed.  The quotes do not have to be art based as you can see and there are literally thousands of quotes out there that you can tap into.  The web site has literally thousands of inspirational quotes for you to tap into.

Gag Cartoon Ideas

Ideas for a cartoon gag line can come when you least expect.  You may overhear someone on the train or a bar.  See a situation when out shopping that can be turned around into a workable gag  or even an idea for a visual image.  

Brian Tracy once said that music is chewing gum for the ears and that we should spend more time listening to learn.  He meant listening to podcasts and online courses to increase our knowledge.  I part agree but believe that sometimes we artists miss a great opportunity by having headphones permanenty stuck to our heads.  Remove the chewing gum from your ears and listen to what is going on around you – there are golden nuggets for ideas to be found when you focus on the real world!

Get them straight into the journal – don’t let that idea float away!  Before you know it you will have a large stock of gags and visuals to draw upon and as you develope this section of your journal it will naturally increase in thought, ideas and viable art.  I use this resource all the time and it saves hours of ‘research’ and thinking time. 

To do lists

Hand in hand with your goals.  It’s good to give yourself day to day high value artistic targets.  Some jobs seem daunting and are sometimes the approach is key to getting them done.  

Writers often set themselves a time of the day to sit and write and a word count target to complete every day. This scheduling approach works for authors and  works for artists and cartoonists. You can set out your workload and carve it up into manageable chunks.  

I am currently working on illustrations for a biography of a musician.  The task is large as there are around 25+ full color cartoons required. To do this all at once is not practical as would mean putting all other work aside.  So the most effective option is a cartoon a day.  It lets me get on with everything else I need to complete, makes it less stressful and I can devote more energey into each cartoon with a better result overall.

I generally only aim at three high value tasks a day.  Any more than that results in brain overload and I usually end up getting nothing done or one or two tasks done poorly.

These are just a few suggestions.  They work for me – I have proved that to myself time and time again.  Yes the internet is a fantastic resource for ideas but the internet will never replace human interaction, live scenery and the sounds, conversation and situations that everyday life throws at you.  So get yourself a journal and fill it up then rinse and repeat.  Before long you will have a library of ideas that is priceless!

refillable-leather-bound-sketchbookCheck out my review of 5 top rated refillable leather bound journals – ideal for creating your ideas library.

Robust, stylish and refillablle – your notes can be taken out and stored.

wacom-bamboo-slate-smartpadAs an alternative the Wacom Bamboo Slate Smartpad is a combination of traditional pen on paper which can be automatically digitally recorded and transferred to any device – See my review here