For Illustrators, Inspiration is Where You Find It

Originally posted on Agency Access‘ “The Lab“. Written by Illustrator Brian Taylor

Question: Can you give me some examples of top illustration pros and what they use to keep fresh and inspired?

Look Around

My biggest inspiration comes from looking at other illustrators’ work. Whether it’s contemporary or classic illustration, when I see a piece that really excites me, it inspires me to push myself creatively. While I used to pore over the Communication Arts Illustration Annual and the Society of Illustrators annual each year, I find myself more recently looking at individual illustrators’ work. A lot of artists share their work on blogs and I enjoy seeing the sketches and ideas behind each illustration. Allow yourself the time to look around at other work; if you’re constantly looking at your own work, it’s hard to put things in perspective.

I also like to work on personal pieces that excite me. I’m often inspired to do an illustrated tribute after watching movies. No specific direction, no pressure. I’ll just start drawing and combining elements with no fixed size or expectations. Some of these illustrations show up on my blog, some are never actually finished. These illustrations often double as promotional illustrations that I put on my website or on a postcard. A recent personal piece I created was a portrait of the main character from the television show “Breaking Bad.”

The Creative Lab   Breaking Bad tv show television   illustrators Brian Taylor resized 600

© Brian Taylor

Stop Drawing

Getting outside of the studio/office is a good way to get refreshed. Going for a walk or getting a bit of exercise is the perfect way to clear your head. Often, the time you’re away from drawing is the time you get inspired.

I’ve been out and not even thinking about illustration, and an idea will pop into my head. At that point, I’ll usually jot it down on a notepad or use my phone to email myself the idea. Getting away from your work allows your creative brain to reset and look at things differently.


Recently, I’ve found connecting with other illustrators to be a great source of inspiration. While a lot of this is done through online friendships, I’ve been making regular trips to New York City, where I’ve been able to meet and talk with fellow illustrators. Look around in your area for different types of networking events.

If you don’t have a large local art community, Twitter, Facebook and various online message boards have great illustration communities that enjoy sharing new work and inspiration. My online interactions have even led to the creation of a group illustration blog called Illo Confidential, where about 20 illustrators share their recent work.

I asked some of my fellow Illo Confidential illustrators what keeps them fresh and inspired:

Daniel Zalkus likes to collect illustrations from old 1950s and 60s magazines. He also enjoys drawing outside to break things up.

Chris Gash and Patrick McQuade force themselves to do something new in their work. It could be experimenting with new colors or new textures, or working on weaknesses in their work.

Thomas Pitilli and Mike Freiheit cite music as a big inspirational tool, while Jon Sperry likes to keep things quiet to allow ideas to develop.

Ryan SnookKeith NegleyJoel Kimmel and Daniel Fishel look to art outside the illustration world for inspiration. Visiting museums or the bookstore can give you a nice perspective on things.

About Brian

Brian is an editorial and portrait illustrator. His clients include: Los Angeles Times, Billboard, Wired UK, The Washington Post, Fast Company, Games for Windows, The Boston Globe and USA Today. He lives in the Washington DC area with his wife, two daughters and a dog named Bill.

Also take a look at Brian’s work on

Check out more artists’ posts on The Lab and Agency Access.

About altpick connects

Established in 1992, The Alternative Pick commenced with a clear mission, providing creative buyers with a vehicle to source the best brightest and most exciting illustrators, photographers, graphic designers and animators in the business. The Alternative Pick sourcebook (1992-2005) became the outlet for cutting-edge commercial talent, offering a unique platform for artists to showcase their work. The Alternative Pick Deck (2009-2012) offered a fun and engaging format for locating leading commercial artists. In addition, The Altpick Awards (2003-2011) introduced yet another way to provide a platform for talents to shine. To meet the demands of an ever-changing industry, was launched in 1996 and presently provides a vehicle for talent to utilize the web to connect more effectively with buyers. As we mark our 30th anniversary in 2021, remains a premier source for creative professionals and we plan to continue to push the envelope providing the best vehicle for buyers to connect with creative talent.
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