Where does your inspiration come from?

I won’t deny it, Pinterest is my biggest source of inspiration. I have several pinboards full of images. You can seek me out at https://www.pinterest.co.uk/thomzo/ or search for Zoe Thomas.

A screen shot of Zoe's Pinterest board called Design Inspiration showing images of a textile design, some beaded Christmas decorations, some hot air balloons, bunting and a birthday card with hand drawn strawberries.


My Design Inspiration board is an eclectic mix of ideas that I’d love to try at some point. With images as varied as hot-air balloons to a Zebra’s eye to a photograph of Paddington Bear.





A digital design of five hot air balloons in different colours on a green and blue background.Hot air balloons

The hot-air balloon images inspired a series of textile works. I print the original digital design onto fabric and embroider details onto the image. Each piece becomes a unique artwork.




I tried refining the original image and produced this practice piece:

Digital artwork of a hot air balloon decorated with red and blue vertical stripes floating above a green landscape of gently rolling hills.

On this single balloon image, I embroidered the black lines of the ropes that hold the basket and the outlines of the separate sections of the balloon. I then padded the balloon lightly before mounting it on a wooden backing board.

I call this a practice piece because I feel it could have been better finished. The colours could have been more vivid and I’m not entirely happy about the way the padding worked. Printing onto a single piece of fabric, which was then padded, caused wrinkling of the fabric around the balloon. I considered various options to avoid the problem, including using applique to attach the padded balloon to the background, but this is a blog about finding inspiration not about quilting.

Keep practicing

I’m happy to share my practice work with you because I want you to understand that practice really does make perfect. You’re unlikely to go from the original inspiration to a finished article in one go. I drew dozens of images of balloons until I got to something that I liked. Sadly, I didn’t keep all of them but here is one page from one of my sketchbooks:

Pen and ink sketches of hot-air balloons.

OK, don’t laugh, I’m not sharing this so that you can see just how bad I am at drawing. I’m sharing it with you so that you can see that there’s no shame in not getting it right first time. I was quite pleased with the large image on the left, but I then went on to explore the different shapes of balloons. Not the fancy ones, shaped like cartoon characters or corporate logos, but the ordinary ones that you regularly see floating in the sky above Bristol.

Have you noticed how paintings of early balloons are mostly spherical whereas modern-day balloons tend to be more tear-drop shaped? A detail I noticed, when I compared illustrations to photographs, is that the illustrations always showed the basket as far too large compared to the balloon itself. When I tried my own version, I realised that balloon is so big in proportion to the basket that, unless the picture was the size of a house, you wouldn’t be able to bring in any detail of the basket.

In subsequent Original artwork by Zoe. Five hot-air balloons digitally printed onto fabric, enhanced with embroidery, padded behind and appliqued onto a painted background of blue sky and rolling green hills. The name Trey has been embroidered onto the bottom of the picture.pieces, I have appliqued the balloons onto a painted background, sometimes personalised by the addition of an embroidered name as in the image on the left.




Staying legal

Of course, you must always consider whether your inspirational images are protected by the copyright laws.

Some people believe that an image is only protected by copyright if it carries the © copyright symbol. In fact, in the UK, all artistic works (including photographs) are protected whether marked or not. Find out more at https://www.gov.uk/copyright.

Copying exactly another person’s work without their permission is a big NO. It’s also illegal to use their image directly in your own. Drawing inspiration from another’s work, and then creating something wholly unique, is fine.

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