Build your visual library

I recently had an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine, who’s also an artist. We had a discussion around the idea of building your visual library. What we meant by that is to experiment and innovate instead of just being inspired.

So how do you build your visual library?


Observe and become aware of your environment and what you have to work with.

Take time to soak it all in. By doing this you’re also visualizing and playing around with ideas in your head.

When I’m taking photos I’m looking for main focus points, leading lines, etc. I’m also constantly aware of the weather and the lighting condition. Is it a clear day? Cloudy? Raining? Snowing? All these factors change the scene dramatically. Has it already rained? Are there droplets on the leaves or plants?

When you build your visual library you’re giving yourself more ideas to work with. Next time you’re out taking pictures you’ll immediately know what to look for and you can take those shots. Then when you’re done, you can take some time to look around and see what is new in this environment and photograph that as well.

I’ve suggested in the past to find a spot you can visit often where you can take photos. This gives you the opportunity to discover a new perspective on how to capture the same thing over and over again. Then you’re beginning to develop your eye for detail.

As a photographer, I’m looking for a single object to focus on with which I can tell a story, such as a flower or an environment where I’m trying to find the essence of what makes it look great, and then figuring out how to bring that to life.


In order to innovate you need to experiment. What you want to achieve as an artist is to combine different ingredients that have never been combined before in order to discover something new. Something that’s original to you. This can only be accomplished by trial and error. You must be willing to try things that might not work. Through all the failed attempts, you might find your “lightbulb” moment.

If you’re drawing, keep doodling. Just allow the pen or brush to flow. Own your time. There’s no rush, there’s no need to impress anyone. Allow the creativity to flow out of you. “Create in silence.”

There needs to be a time where you allow yourself to create without criticism. Just allow yourself to be creative. Allow yourself the opportunity to discover.

Don’t just be inspired, innovate.

Study and play with an object you’re trying to capture. Whether it is a physical object, a scenery, a flower, or a leaf.

Touch it. Feel it. Gaze upon it. Give your mind time to wander and discover.

When taking pictures, photograph from many different angles. Keep pressing that shutter button. Look at your photo, notice what you can improve, take the picture again. Rinse and repeat. If you’re not using a film camera, you have every reason to take hundreds of photos because your camera or phone has infinitely more storage space.

If you’re writing, play with the idea or narrative. Just keep typing. Whatever you do, don’t stop. See where your fingers lead you. Go down the rabbit hole. Once you’re in motion there’s no stopping you. Whatever you do, don’t analyze. Just keep going. Whether it’s gibberish or not. Keep moving forward. Keep the flow going.

Sure, after a paragraph or two it might not make sense anymore but that’s okay. You’re discovering. Even if you remove 80% of it, there might be a few small ideas in between those sentences. You can then separate those ideas and allow them to be a foundation for your next paragraph or article.

Endnote. Get rid of distractions, such as the internet, your phone, social media, etc. They might be a useful tool every now and then when you’re looking for inspiration, but not when you’re trying to innovate. You can’t have ideas and innovate when you’re constantly engaged with distractions. Give your mind time to roam and wander wherever it wants. Keep a pen and paper nearby and write down those thoughts and ideas when they appear.

60 thoughts on “Build your visual library

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  1. This is so true, but I never thought to put it into words. I recently started water painting… I’ve caught myself studying the sky, how the clouds appear and the shades of blue and… fascinating.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent post! kudos! That said, there are so many times in my personal world, that I soak it all in, try to capture it in a picture – the all that I felt, at that moment, and yet, sometimes? I don’t fully ‘feel it’ until I gaze through the lens, or preview of digital capture and/or, until I am home, in front of my computer, gazing at the moments I captured – what my eye missed that the camera captured – and I see more of the totality of it all – I’m most inspired and innovative when I’m simply experiencing ‘the moment’ and sometimes? I actually manage to capture a pic and more, of ‘it’ – LOL Not often, but sometimes….the universe aligns and it all just works out – both in the moment and later moments, over and over…. πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for sharing a few of your own experiences. I also find it to be true sometimes. Despite what I said in my article, nothing is black and white in an artists world. We all have our own way of doing and discovering the world πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahh yes…. Indeed! And yet, at moments, the moment captured and rendered in black, white, shades of gray just says it all in stark reality without confusing us with a multitude of colors, eh?? I do so love so much of Ansel Adams work! πŸ˜€


  3. love how beautifully and realistically it is written. there’s so much left undone because of our distractions who we choose to bring and introduce into our lives.

    I started with WordPress yesterday and you’re one of the first accounts I came across and mind you, you’re already my favourite. have fun writing ✨

    -Diya (suchawriter)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My youngest son’s mother-in-law was a gifted person, and I say this because she could paint and sculpt, she could take a small tape recorder with her when she took her camera and she would walk in the countryside up to 5 or 6 miles from their home. She would make enough comments on the recorder to identify where she was and also comment of the time and weather. I once asked her if she could look at a blank canvas and see the picture and she answered, yes mostly, but then she would look at her pictures she had taken and began adding details. Photography is much like you describe; you first have to get up and take pictures, and sometimes a picture thought to be not so good, turns out to be something special. I love reading how you go about using your own gifts, so thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

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