“Scratching” for Ideas

I’m loving Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit and the recent Idea I just read is all about “scratching” for Ideas.

“You can’t just dance or paint or write or sculpt. Those are just verbs. You need a tangible idea to get you going. The idea, however minuscule, is what turns the verb into a noun—paint into a painting, sculpt into sculpture, write into writing, dance into dance.

Twyla Tharp from The Creative Habit

I written many times about the importance of the motive or idea for your work. The idea should be the life blood of your work and should drive every decision for the piece.

Twyla Tharp thinks it’s just important and she give a detailed account of how she goes about finding ideas. She calls it “scratching” for ideas. There are two practices that she outlines for generating ideas, Reading plus Mentors and Heroes.

“Read is your first line of defense against and empty head…

…like an athlete in training, the more you read, the more mentally fit you feel.

If I stopped reading, I’d stop thinking, It’s that simple”

Twyla Tharp

I’ve read all my life and I love how she succinctly describes the importance of reading. And she’s right! Many of my greatest ideas have come from reading books by or about master artists that came before me.

These master artists are also my mentors and heroes. They are a constant source of inspiration and ideas, as well as a perfect indication that something amazing can be done.

But Twyla also cautions us about using our heroes for ideas.

“Scratching among the paradigms is a dangerous habit if it turns you into an imitator rather than a creator.”

Twyla Tharp

She’s doesn’t say NOT to use what you learn from your heroes but to be careful HOW to use the knowledge. We want more of you in this world, more of your authentic self, not a copy of what has come before. So take ideas from your mentors, blend it with your own ideas and make something we’ve never seen before.

The only way this can happen is if you get in touch with yourself. Your emotions, your feelings, desires and express YOU. There is no one on the planet like you, be yourself and your “style” or “technique” will happen naturally.

Who are you?

Show me!

Fandom Fitness Drawing

Yesterday I took some photos of Pattie so I can user her arms and hands as stand-ins for Buffy’s. I spent almost the whole session tweaking the photos so that the new body matches as close as possible with Buffy’s head. I had to do it twice, and maybe a third if I don’t like the way it looks here.

Buffy the vampire slayer drawing

Previous Buffy Drawing Posts


The normal 15 minute warm-up in graphite.


Extended Gesture Study

This is an example of the extended gestures study exercise from the The Natural Way to Draw book.

Extended Gesture Study

What went well, what was awesome! Celebrate It!

Another super focused art morning! And I’m loving Twyla Tharp’s method of “scratching for ideas. In fact I love her book!

What needs work? What did you learn?

Manage my art time a bit better when I have a meeting.

How am I going to Optimize moving forward?

Add all my meetings to my daily protocol the night before.

Session Details