Find Inspiration Anywhere With Haley Tippmann
Hallöchen! It’s Haley Tippmann here. I’m an American illustrator living and working in Bremen, Germany, where I maintain my healthy obsession for drawing everyday objects, locations, and people.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have found yourself at some point staring at a blank canvas, waiting for the perfect spark of inspiration to reveal itself. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how finding inspiration in your surroundings can lead to a fun and productive daily drawing practice, allowing you to develop your own unique aesthetic without the roadblock of searching for high-concept ideas to get you started.
I’ll show you how I begin with a simple image from my daily life and develop an illustration from a rough sketch through to finished art, complete with lighting effects and tactile textures.
True Grit Tools & Apps Used:
✓ Rusty Nib
✓ Stipple Studio
Software skill level:
If you love to sketch and have a basic knowledge of Procreate, this one’s for you. You can follow along in any other desktop or iPad-based app as well. All of the brushes mentioned are available for Procreate, Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, and Affinity.
Observing Your Way To Inspiration
One of my favorite ways to push through a creative block is to take a moment to look up from my blank canvas and mindfully explore my surroundings. This can be something as simple as a traffic light, a house in my local neighborhood, books in a window, or random people on the metro.
When we pay attention to our surroundings, we can find inspiration in even the most mundane things. By nurturing our observation skills, we start seeing the world in a new light and noticing details we might have overlooked before. This way of "seeing" eventually becomes second nature, and we start to notice things we might previously have overlooked, such as the way light falls across a table or shadows dance across a wall.
I REALLY LOVE THIS KIND OF OBSERVATION-BASED DRAWING PRACTICE AS IT REMOVES THE STRESS OF FINDING THE PERFECT CONCEPT, ALLOWING ME TO FOCUS ON EXPLORING DIFFERENT TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES WHILST DEVELOPING MUSCLE MEMORY AND EVOLVING MY STYLE.
Here are some simple prompts to get started:
- A stack of books or records.
- Your office, living room, or bedroom.
- Photos from your phone - vacations, party pics, your pet, anything!
- A portrait of a friend, favorite musician, artist, or celebrity*
- Delicious food from a cookbook or food blog*
- Fashionistas on the street(ask before taking a photo and maybe make a new friend).
- National parks, local parks, and public gardens.
- Furniture, lamps, and houseplants.
- A self-portrait(comes with bonus self-confidence points!)
- Instagram drawing prompts; Still Here Still Life is one of my favorites.
*Great for practice but never reference copyrighted images in commercial work.
I’M GOING TO KEEP IT SIMPLE AND START WITH A LITTLE CORNER OF MY LIVING ROOM. I HAVE THIS GREAT LAVA LAMP THAT I WANT TO USE AS INSPIRATION TO DRAW SOME NICE LIGHTING EFFECTS.
Getting The Composition Right With A Rough Sketch
I usually start with a rough freehand sketch in Procreate. This is where I simplify my composition down to the basic elements from my reference photo and get a feel for how they work together. Here, the lava lamp and bookshelf loosely adhere to the rule of thirds to draw the eye in, so I think that’s working pretty well.
Because I want the lighting to be a big feature of the finished illustration, I do a quick lighting test with one of the GrainBuilder brushes from the Grain Shader pack, but you can use any soft airbrush-style brush since it’s just a rough sketch. I really just want to get a sense of how the lighting in the scene will feel with this step.
Setting The Perspective Grid
When drawing interiors or architecture, I like to lean on Procreate’s perspective grid feature to help my composition look just right. So, I’m going to import my reference image and use it as a rough guide to set the grid.
See the process in the video below. PS. If you’re using another app that doesn’t have perspective tools built in, Hej Stylus is a great alternative that works with most desktop design apps.
With my perspective grid turned on, it’s time to make a tighter sketch with more detail and smoother linework. I’m using the Micro Nib from The Rusty Nib pack.
Notice how I’m not tracing my original reference image? This ensures my finished illustration develops in a more organic way. Whilst tracing can be helpful, I find it stunts the creative process and make the finished work feel more stiff.
Now that I have a tighter sketch, I start my color blocking. I reduce the opacity of my tight sketch, then turn off the perspective grid as I want my color blocking to feel a bit looser and less rigid.
I’m using the Smooth Fine Tip pen from the KolorMarc brush pack, cleaning up my linework as I go using the eraser tool. The KolorMarc brushes have a subtle paper texture built in, which gives the illustration a more analog aesthetic. You’ll notice in the video how I’m not perfectly staying inside the linework of my tight sketch, helping my artwork feel more organic and hand drawn.
Creating Lighting Effects
I start with a new layer above the existing color blocking and I shade in a soft glow around my lava lamp using the Grain Builder brush from the Grain Shader pack. I like how this brush builds up the grainy texture, allowing me to increase the glow of the light gradually.
With that done, I also change my background color to something much darker so I have more of an after-dark feel that emphasizes the glow of the lava lamp.
Refined Linework & Color Blocking
Now take a third pass on my linework at 100% opacity, further refining and adding more details. This time I’m using the Micro Nib from the Rusty Nib pack.
I also continue color blocking and adjust my background color to a deep copper color to create more warmth in the scene as the lava lamp's orange glow is bleeding into the ambient light.
I want to create a little more depth to the illustration, so I’m going to use a selection of brushes from the Lithotone pattern brush pack to add subtle details to objects such as the bookshelf and sofa.
I’ve made a couple of adjustments to my lava lamp glow and background colors so now all that’s left to do is add some highlights to the lamp and a grainy vignette to help emphasize the lighting effects.
Aaaaand here’s my finished artwork, inspired by little more than a keen eye and a curiosity for what I can create almost out of thin air.
Thanks so much for following along! You can find out more about my work or even buy a print from the links below.
More about Haley Tippman
Featured music: All Too Soon by Pastis