Friday 20 May 2016

Three Jar Inspiration

UPDATE 15th June 2016: I've made some worksheets for this technique and put them on my Downloads page to help start people off.

We all struggle with a lack of inspiration for painting regularly - personally I started using painting a small botanical each evening and posting them on Twitter under #bedtimebotanical a good motivation (please feel free to join me in that!), but there's another method I also use - I call it "three jar inspiration". If you use it, please tweet it or tag it on YouTube (etc) with #3jarspaint so we can share with one another our outcomes. I came up with this for myself as a means to force myself to use a wider range of mediums and to stretch my range of what I paint/draw - it has worked really well for that!

You need:
* Three jars of any kind.
* Paper (typing paper or scraps, 3 colours is ideal).

Label the jars, if you like - the should be labelled "What" "Style" and "How" - the "How" jar is actually optional. If you only paint in one medium e.g. watercolour and you don't want to use any other media, you can stick to just two jars.

In the "What" jar, put pieces of paper on which you have written a whole load of subjects for painting - these can be really specific like "The Sea", "A Banana", "Two Sheep", "A Beetle", or can be more figurative like "Playtime", "Laughter", "Deep Love", "Gaia's Might". You can use anything you like! If you like to use images for reference, you could swap this jar for a shoebox full of postcards or printed out images, for example. If you don't use reference photos - or perhaps want to start to get away from them - you can stick to using words on slips of paper and then only look up a reference photo when you really need it.

In the "Style" jar, put pieces of paper on which you have written a wide variety of styles, such as "Loose", "Abstract", "Impressionist", "Tudor", "Cubist", "Decalcomania" - they don't have to be specifically painting styles - you could use -  "Steampunk", "Vibrant", "Twisted", "Nightmare", "Stormy", "Dreamlike", "Utopia" - use your imagination! Or for a REAL challenge, put in some names of painters you admire! I've put in names of YouTubers I love as it helps me to try out their distinctive styles!

In the optional "How" jar, put pieces of paper on which you have written the different media you have to hand - put each one in a few times, obviously. "Charcoal", "Papercraft", "Cardmaking", "Mixed Media", "Art Journal", "Oil Pastel", "Alcohol Ink", "Stamping", "Pyrography", "Oil", "Gouache", "Alkyd", "Crayon", "Chalk", "Chalk Pastel", "Acrylic"...

How it works!
All you do is firstly decide when you want to paint/draw etc - for me, it's 2200h, so whatever time it is, find another time maybe 12-24h before which will be the time you use the jars. For me, that's 0600h. I get up and first thing, I grab a piece of paper from each jar - that tells me what I am producing at 2200h so I have all day to think up what or how I'm going to do this - you could be doing "Wasp, Steampunk, Papercraft" one day and "Seascape, Loose, Watercolour" the next - or if you use names of artists you could end up trying to mimic Leonid Afremov's oil painting style using decoupage to create a banana - in this way it REALLY stretches you as an artist!

Even if you only use two jars (or one jar and one shoebox), you are still challenged with doing watercolours (or whatever) of "sunset over Mount St Helens in Picasso style" or "tip of a ball-point pen in an art deco style" - that's a great challenge! Happy painting!


  1. This is a good idea, I may do it a little differently.

    1. Thanks, Ashley! What did you have in mind to change? Would you mind sharing it here so that others can try your variation too? I like to share ideas and create a melting pot for people :)
      Many thanks

  2. I love the idea, but I don't paint... I papercraft. I tend to do ATCs and cards but would love to try other things. I'd love to adapt this idea to my crafting style.

  3. It can work to stretch you - put styles or techniques into the jar you want to try but never do and it will force you. Maybe 6 papercraft slips of paper to every 1 other media/method that you have (maybe something that uses decoupage or perhaps buy some cheap acrylics so you have an option there) - you'll be in your comfort zone pretty much all week, with one challenge in the mix. You could put in the third optional jar slips saying things like "ATC", "Birthday Card", "Calender Base", "Tag" etc then you'll end up with "A banana in the style of Tim Holtz as an ATC" or "A steampunk chicken in decoupage" or "Birthday card in style of Jennifer McGuire conveying the idea of light". You can really customise this methodology for any medium, any art form, any subjects - play with it and see what works for you and it HAS to work for you or you will disengage - make it yours. Set up jars with 14 slips in each, try it for 14 days, see how it goes and let me know? Don't forget to hashtag anything you make as a result (per the post) as then others using it can see what you're doing and get inspired. I think seeing other peoples' work and figuring out how they did it is the greatest way of learning tbh.
    Have fun!


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