A common question for many is “what should I paint next?…” That difficulty of thinking of new painting ideas, can at times lead to getting stuck and not painting for a while…
Sometimes you just need a few simple ideas, to help find new inspiration for painting! Which is what you will find here – along with a process of how to think about new painting ideas so you don’t get stuck as much in the future.
Try not to overthink what you should paint. Sometimes just continuing to paint a bunch of different subjects, is the best way forward and it will lead you to making great work!
Flower Painting Ideas
Painting flowers is an entire category of its own. As, many great painters of the past have taken inspiration for painting from all sorts of different kinds of flowers.
What’s great about getting painting ideas from flowers, is that you can choose to simplify the focus of your subject OR create really ornate compositions. And either way, be able to create really interesting pieces, that are both challenging and inspiring to work with.
Once you get started, you’ll likely not stop at just one flower painting…. Take it from someone, who keeps coming back to creating different flower painting series and finding something new every time!
Simple composition of single flower
If you have never painted flowers before, starting with a single flower composition is a great place to start! You could tightly focus your painting on the flower head alone, or paint the flower in its entirety (including the vase if it’s in one).
The wonderful thing about painting a single flower, is that the composition makes it a simple idea for painting. As you only have to focus on a single object, instead of getting multiple objects to work together in your composition.
Painting inspiration from a bouquet of flowers
Painting an entire bouquet of flowers makes for a more complex painting than a single flower but has opportunity for a more exciting composition! Since there is more to paint it might take you a little longer. Just keep that in mind if you are painting fresh flowers. You just want to be sure to have enough time to paint the bouquet before they start to die.
That said, you can still continue to paint flowers as they change. In fact, I have done that and think it is a great challenge as it requires you to be very open to changing your painting and painting over areas that you may have liked before. It can make for an interesting painting!
Tutorial ideas for painting flowers:
Painting of a rose
Follow this step by step rose painting tutorial to learn how to paint a rose. Seeing this example will help you to understand how to find the light and dark value shapes in a flower.
Sunflower painting, step by step tutorial
This sunflower painting tutorial will get you started and you will also learn a great deal about mixing different shades of yellow along the way.
Tulip painting (with video instruction)
Paint a tulip with this complete video tutorial! Tulips are a great easy painting idea if you want to get into learning more about painting flowers.
Painting Inspiration from Food and Pantry Items
I personally have not painted many food items but it is a subject matter I want to incorporate more in the future. There are so many wonderful examples of food used in paintings throughout art history as well as today.
There is a huge range of different food items you can make into a still life – fruit, vegetables, baked items, canned foods, or even like these vegetables! The list is endless.
Local Ideas for Your Painting
We can easily take our place of residence for granted as we often do with an area we see everyday. However, there are so many interesting painting ideas to be found everywhere whether in your city or your very own neighborhood.
You could take your sketchbook and viewfinder and start to do some sketching of different areas before you start and commit to a painting. Sketching an area first is also good way to scout out potential painting ideas before setting up an easel out in public in view of all passers by! 😉
Painting your own neighborhood
If you really want to paint your own area but feel a little shy to do so. Then starting in your very own neighborhood might be a good place to start. You could even stay inside and paint looking out of your own window. Then, if you wish to explore painting your neighborhood more you could venture out to find more painting ideas.
Inspiration for Painting in Your Living Space
We spend quite a lot of our time inside our own homes and other interior spaces. So, why not find some good easy painting ideas in your own home or other interior space? You can take inspiration from many painters of the past and present who use interiors as ideas for paintings – Vermeer, Vuillard, Hammershoi, and Antonio Lopez Garcia are just a few of many.
If you live with other people then you can take advantage of the times that a family member or friend might be seated on the couch reading or working at a desk. This gives you the opportunity to paint an interior with a ‘mostly’ still model to work from.
However an interior painting can hold on its own without needing a figure to occupy it. It is all about how you paint it and lay out the composition that will make it stand out as a painting.
Portrait Painting Ideas
You may be very interested in painting portraits or just people in general. An easy painting idea and a good place to start would be to create self portraits. Often painting others comes with a little bit of fear and apprehension. There is pressure to make the portrait look like your sitter, as you know that they will want to see your progress 😉
However, with a self portrait you are free to fail as it is only yourself you are painting. Once you build up enough confidence through painting self portraits then it is a great idea to expand and paint others.
Painting Friends and Family
Ask some of your friends and family to sit for a portrait painting session. Many of them will be flattered that you asked. It can be a little taxing sometimes for people to sit still for a long period of time. Some artists combat this by playing a movie for their sitter or maybe even letting them read or play an audio book
Ideas for painting multiple figures
An advanced painting idea would be to paint multiple figures in one painting. It probably would not make much sense to ask a crowd to all stand still and pose for you at the same time. It is unlikely that they would all have availability in their schedule at the same time! To combat this problem you could use photos as reference for a painting.
I personally do not recommend painting from photographs. However, I think if used correctly and by an experienced painter it is possible to create an awesome painting with photo references. The important part is to not be completely reliant on your references – that is why it is best to first spend a long time developing yourself as a painter before using photographs.
Still Life Painting Ideas
Creating a still life is a great easy painting idea no matter what stage you are in as a painter. They are incredibly beneficial to both the complete beginner and professional painter. Everyone has access to some objects and a surface to place them on whether that be a floor, table or stool.
Using items you find
You can use found objects in your own home or studio for a still life. Or, if nothing you have excites you then you could head to your local thrift store to look for some interesting objects that might stir up some painting ideas for you. Most of my own still life items were found at local thrift stores.
Or you could take it a step further and create your own objects using cardboard, paper or another material. Some of the best still life paintings are done when people create their own worlds to paint from.
Still life painting set up ideas
Setting up a still life is one of the most difficult aspects of still life painting as you are responsible for making an interesting and engaging composition. So, give yourself time with setting up a still life painting until you are excited about it. You could keep it minimal by painting a single object, or include a lot of items into one piece.
If you need to some ideas for painting a still life then look at what other artists have done – both past and present. This will really help you to get started! It normal and even encouraged to take some inspiration for other paintings!
Create Master Copy Studies
Doing a master copy is a brilliant painting idea for making a study and getting some painting practice in. Doing a master copy can be incredibly rewarding and fun while helping you to inspire and generate new pianting ideas for the future.
Throughout the history of art, painters are continually borrowing and taking inspiration from other painters. In the same way that writers are influenced by other writers and composers are inspired by other people’s music.
You don’t need to go all out and do a copy that is the exact same size as the original. You could even just do a thumbnail sized master copy!
Or you could do something larger and more comprehensive if you want to. The most important thing is to choose a painting you love and really study and learn from it. Try to steer away from trying to make a replica of the painting and instead make it your focus to learn from it and capture the essence of the piece.
Portrait master study step by step tutorial
Get yourself started with doing a master copy painting with this tutorial of a study after a portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Landscape Painting Ideas
Take a drive out to a park or the countryside in your area and take some inspiration from the landscape. If you want to get some ideas for compositions you can look at works by some of your favorite landscape painters to get more painting ideas.
If you know that you will be painting a certain kind of a landscape – for example one with a lot of trees – then it will be helpful to look at other landscape paintings with trees. This will help you to know how to handle some of the painting problems you will run into.
Landscape painting tutorial to get you started
Learn how to paint a landscape with this step by step landscape painting tutorial!
Sky Painting Inspiration
When painting a landscape we often paint the sky with the landscape. However, what about just painting the sky by itself? The sky and clouds can make really wonderful subjects for a painting.
John Constable – a notable English landscape painter created a lot of studies of just clouds. The weather and clouds were of really great interest to the painter so he produced a lot of sky studies.
Cloud painting tutorial
Learn how to paint clouds with this complete cloud painting tutorial. Get some great ideas for painting skies!
Seascape Painting Ideas
Change your point of view and go to the sea for some new painting ideas and inspiration. The sea is unpredictable and constantly changing – one of the many reasons why it is a subject of fascination for many painters from the past and present.
Painting a seascape requires some work from imagination. It can be an exciting subject to work from for this reason. Learn about the process of painting an ocean painting and seascape in this full tutorial.
How to Keep Yourself Inspired
As an artist it is important to know what inspires you and then immerse yourself with those things. For example, there are specific artists that inspire me and give me painting ideas – so I look at paintings by those artists regularly. Find out what inspires you and give yourself opportunities to spend time with that.
Travel is another one for me. Being in a very different environment and seeing new things gives me many painting ideas. I am sure the same is true for many others as well. If so, make time to travel! It doesn’t need to always be going overseas – it could mean just exploring the town next to yours that you don’t know very well.