How often when we begin thinking about a new painting do the words “what shall I paint” preface any actual start but this can be put on the back burner if we – dare I say it – have a bit of preparation ready to be accessed - when you get an idea jot it in a notebook or in this day of technology on your ipad /iphone. Collect reference data or in the case of “objects on hand” get in the habit of setting up some subjects in your studio (if you have one) - or in the spot where you generally paint. As you walk past you can rearrange and replace - if this is done over a couple of day you will find that you can see when a compositional hitch rears its ugly head and fix it. This can make the difference between feeling relaxed about starting a painting and casting around desperately to find some inspiration.
I have an 8 drawer trolley file in which I store my photographs and the clippings that I can use as a starting point for my paintings – they are sorted into various subject matter ie landscape, seascape, still life etc. Most of them have been used several times in my paintings and as well as photos, beloved objects like jugs, silver pots and flowers litter the studio but that is the great thing about painting - by surrounding yourself with interesting objects all you need is in the one spot (or in my case on shelves, around the walls and on top of the cupboards) – lovely clutter.
You also can use times when you are touring around to keep your eye out for interesting places – not being much of an en plein air painter I do so admire those hardy souls who do paint outside and with the availability for most of us to take great photos with the many point and shoot cameras available today resources for subjects are many and abundant - so switch on your “artists’ eye” and really look at what is around you and you will come up with some wonderful subjects!!
Talk to artist friends as well - there is nothing quite like getting together with like minded people and bounce off each other (of course if you have a ripper of an idea for a painting keep it to yourself – and then do the big TA DA at the next exhibition you enter it in) LOL. Below is an example of a small painting using a subject from an every day source – flowers in a bottle on the kitchen bench – used it!!