Snow is slowly printing out a Christmas-card wonderland in the front yard, while a hopeful cardinal sings from the rat’s nest of our dead trumpet vine. Even this early in the season, even with snow falling around it, the thing with feathers is over-amped on sex-hormones and natural antifreeze.
I sometimes turn to old sketches when running low on ideas and paw randomly through my flat files and sketchbooks for inspiration. Random is helpful. Without prior intention I might grab an old study of a tiger heron and merge it with a newer one of Panama vegetation, or take a sketch of a striped owl and juvenile (used as the basis of a field guide plate for Trinidad and Tobago) and graft it onto a liana from the Amazon. Which turned into a new piece with a funny backstory (and video) of its own. Randomness occasionally sets off an incandescent burst of creativity (which gives off a warmer glow than the energy-saver type, to extend and beat to death the lightbulb-blinking-on-over-the-head metaphor). Try it yourself. Spread out your sketches like Scrabble pieces on a board and move them around. See what comes to mind.
Sketch-scavenging is a swell snow day activity. The air outside is white, like a blank canvas. Inside it’s warm, with a cat on my lap and an accumulation of random drawings piling up front of me. There’s a 50% chance of incandescence (either it happens or it doesn’t). If all goes well, I can hope for a 100% chance of paint. And maybe hot cocoa.