Posted by on Oct 3, 2012 in inspiration artist | 6 comments


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different ways we use inspiration. I’ve said before that sometimes it’s okay to copy… but sometimes it’s really not.

So the question is, how can we digest all the juicy input we get from the internet in a good and responsible way?


Borrowing images to use as a jumping off point is almost always a good thing. Taking beauty that has been shared and using it in a whole new way only adds to the creative community. And community it is. Even as it expands to welcome ever more people, the online art world is also getting more and more intimate. We are forming real friendships with people all over the globe, and that deserves some respect, a certain reverence for one another’s work.

In that spirit of reverence and appreciation for the art that inspires me, today begins what I hope will be a long-lived series of collaborations between the inspiration and the inspired.

Today I’m sharing a new painting by me — a painting inspired by the work of an another artist — and, as the uber-awesome bonus, the original artist of my inspiration piece is here to share her thoughts on how to stay creatively inspired.


Today’s creative inspiration is Sarah Stevenson of the beautiful website, redlinedesign. Sarah works to help busy people find space to nurture their creative mojo, and I can tell you first hand: she’s good at what she does. Already an admirer from our days in the now defunct Creative Coconuts community, I met Sarah in person for the first time last year at her luxurious art retreat, Create. Explore. Discover. (you can read more about that here). With Sarah herself hosting some delicious artist interviews on her blog, and her retreat about to begin again, it seemed the perfect time to ask Sarah to share some of her best ways to stay inspired.


INSPIRE SarahS original

Denice: We often hear the phrase inspiration is everywhere; what are your favorite sources for inspiration?

Sarah Stevenson: My favorite sources of inspiration are from architecture and nature. I love looking at magazines and books and will often tag what inspires me with a post-it or tear out the pages and add them to my inspiration files. I love flowers especially because of their intricate design and their vibrant colors. I often use them in my photography and my sketching and love to view them up close in order to see all the detail and different colors that are found below the surface.

Architecture has always been something that inspires me. The built environment so often comes from the design of nature and the two seem to always intersect for me. I love photographing details and often look to hand drawn architectural drawing for sketching inspiration. The parts and pieces of the architecture are always a little more interesting than the whole. I get a kick out of the attention to detail and can feel what the designer must of been thinking throughout their process based upon the details used in a space.

D: I can definitely see those influences in your photographs, and even in your choices in venue for your art discovery retreat! Both at the the retreat and in your everyday work, you help people reclaim their creativity. Can you give us a “starting exercise”  for those who are feeling the call but don’t know where to begin?

SS: The easiest and most fun of all my projects for starting out is a photo walk. Grab a camera (any kind will do, including a phone), a notebook, and a writing instrument. Go outside for a walk and document what catches your eye as you are walking. Take notes in the notebook and photograph what you see. At home print the photos on regular copy paper and add them to the pages of your notebook. This is a really simple exercise that can become the starting point for many projects. It will also tell you a great deal about what you see and what you enjoy documenting.

D: Can you share some tips for finding creative time in the middle of a busy schedule?

SS: It is often difficult to find creative time in the middle of a busy schedule. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I take my camera everywhere with me and if I have a few moments of waiting or something captures my eye, I will stop and take a few photos. Just that brief moment of stopping and reconnecting with the world around me can be enough to keep me going on schedule. If it doesn’t happen, I often remind myself that it is time to slow down and see the world around me. As you grow into a creative discipline you will find it easier and easier to find time in your schedule, even if you are busy.

D: Stopping and reconnecting. Love that… What’s one of your favorite things to do when you are feeling particularly stuck?

SS: When I am particularly stuck I stop and spend time with my kids. They are huge sources of inspiration for me and they have the most fresh and new ideas. They are not afraid of art or creativity and I often talk to them about how I can change or make something better. Never underestimate the creative power of a child! They are not inhibited by structure or preconceived notions of how something should or should not be and can get you through that “stuck” moment with humor and an innocence that you cannot find most places.

INSPIRE SarahS inkstitch painting

This has been so much fun! Sarah, thank you so much for kicking off the Inspiration series with me! I know you are super busy putting all the finishing touches on the Create. Explore. Discover. art retreat… Having been to this retreat before, I know how yummy it is and I can’t wait to hear all about it!  {Psst: If any of y’all are going to be anywhere near the area, you should definitely check it out. There are even half-day and full-day packages if you can’t make it for the full retreat!}

I hope you’ve all loved this as much as I have! Have a wonderful and creatively inspired week, friends! xox!


** A word about the art: Original architecture photographs by Sarah Stevenson; painting by Denice Barlow Brown. Sarah’s photo made me imagine a bright little shop, like one that might be in a sunny square in Mexico… even her  comments on the original photo were part of the play, as they were the inspiration for adding my lamp post. :)

Sarah Stevenson is the owner of redlinedesign® and the founder of Create. Explore. Discover. art retreats. She is dedicated to helping artists and creative people in all fields carve out space in their daily life for their own creative exploration.


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