The Idea Generation Process of Shawn Ferreyra

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[Editor’s Note: In response to our announcement last week that Illustration Friday will be focusing more heavily on the art of idea generation, illustrator Shawn Ferreyra reached out with us to share his own process for coming up with new ideas. What follows is an intimate look at Shawn’s idea generation methods in his own words. You too can share your techniques through our contact page.]

I came to illustrating via theater via playwriting via screenwriting via comics. This is one of many exercises I learned back in my playwriting days that I’ve adapted for illustration. I hope this is helpful!

Go to Staples or whatever and get a 3×5 index card holder and fill it with blank 3×5 index cards. Carry it with you at all times along with a sharpie or a felt tip pen. Nothing fancy.

Start an observation diary. Not a diary of your thoughts or feelings. A diary of your observations. On index cards. Not in a notebook. On index cards. One card per observation. Don’t write on both sides. Don’t date your cards.

 

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Overheard a wall street guy say something cringe worthy? Write down what you heard.
Saw an interesting person on the subway? Draw them. No more than 3 minutes.
Street preacher said something crazy? Write it down.
Saw an interesting still life? Draw it. No more than 3 minutes.
Saw a woman reading and laughing out loud hoping someone would ask her what’s funny? Describe it in as few words as possible.
Saw a gorgeous cityscape or landscape? Draw it. No more than 3 minutes.
See someone constantly blinking when they speak? Describe it in as few words as necessary.

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Do this for a few weeks, maybe a month. At the end of the month, lay all your cards out on a huge table. Start organizing them. How should you organize them? I don’t know, there is no should. Your mind is going to make you see patterns. You’re going to start to see things that go together. You’re going to start to see bits and pieces coalesce to suddenly become fully realized ideas.

You’re going to start to realize that the cards aren’t just your observations, but fragments of how you perceive the world, what you’re obsessed with, what you’ve been thinking about and wishing for. Your unconscious mind has been meditating and mulling these things over this whole time, and you’ve just tricked yourself into showing them to your conscious mind.

Thanks so much to Shawn Ferreyra for sharing his idea generation process. Want to help make Illustration Friday more of a place of learning? Leave some thoughts in the comments or send us your own process for coming up with ideas and shaking up your conscious mind here.

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Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.
Thomas James

Posted by Thomas James on 08/11/15 under artists,community,idea generation,illustration
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