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How to Draw Design Inspo From Fine Art

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

Pop into any contemporary gallery and chances are the work you see will not even mildly resemble your own.  There might be conceptual installation art, abstract sculpture or an inexplicable black dot on a big, white canvas (an important piece, says the curator).

And although we know we should keep our right brains topped up with fresh ideas and physically go see exhibited art, just how do we draw inspo from work that is SO different to our own?

Our designers recently went on excursion to White Rabbit Gallery, where they found an abundance of potential.  Here’s a few things they took away from the space:


High Seas, oil on canvas by Shi Zhiying

“This painting of the ocean took up an entire wall in the gallery so it was the scale more than anything that immediately made an impact on me. The artist relates her series of Sea Sutra works back to her Buddhist beliefs and attaining a harmony between the self and the cosmos.  There is something meditative about it, with the calming repetition of waves that have been painted so carefully with thin washes of oil paint.”


“The painting technique is enviable and as a study in texture, very inspiring, especially in the subtle change in the graduation between foreground and the horizon line. It inspires me to put more ombré in my work.”


Travel Notes, woodcut print by Huang Wan Ling

“Travel notes tell a story about the artist’s memories of adventures with friends. The details achieved in these woodcut prints are amazing. The people, dogs, cats, birds and insects are beautifully captured.”


“These inspired me to use different textures in my design elements such as dots. They could shape the elements in place of line work, or be used for shading. Different line thicknesses are also a great idea. In one flower, I could draw thin lines for some of the petals and draw thicker (using marker instead of the pen) for the rest of the petals.”


Take a step forward and…

+ forget about the subject matter.  Instead, look at the texture of the medium and the way it’s been applied. How can you replicate it? + notice the colours. Are they subtle, are they high contrast? What colours sit side-by-side and what effect does that create? + take detailed photos (where allowed) to examine and display in your studio

Then walk back and…

+ take it in as a whole. Notice the composition. Is it balanced? Is it weighted to one side? + squint your eyes. Do you see it differently? + are there any particular lines or shapes that attract you? + Does it feature line-work? What kind?


+ whip out your sketchbook.  Jot down your ideas before you forget them!


We love sharing our work and our methods with you! So much so that we’ve created two handbooks detailing how we approach painting and illustration. The emphasis is on florals, but once you learn these basic skills, you can create all kinds of motifs for textiles.

It’s foundational learning: it provides a seriously solid groundwork for you to build your career from. We promise every time you pick up a pen or brush, you’ll think back to the books! And if you already know how to paint and draw? You’ll find little tricks to make your day that much easier and your work that much stronger.

Floral Illustration for Textile Design and Watercolour Florals for Textile Design, just $35 AUD each. They’re a steal, if you ask us!


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