Recurring motifs – what are they and how can they increase your creativity?

An image from my book, Art Saves Lives.

Flashback Post

I mentioned in a post when I was deciding on a background image for this website, that I often use recurring motifs in my art.  I’m not Robinson Crusoe there, it seems a lot of artists recycle images and themes and multiply what they have done or use it in different ways.  As well as the above vase, with or without flowers, usually tulips, Food for the Soul, which I have used in multiple places and in multiple media, I like to recycle and recreate other ideas I like.  I demonstrated recently how I turned a painting I had a dream about into a chapbook which I then gave away as a gift.  While that is not exactly a recurring motif like the vase of flowers, it was quite a good way to use something I had already worked with and developed to create something else, recycling the idea, funnily enough, on recycled paper.

I love how this can become almost a personal trademark.  My Food for the Soul vases can and do crop up anywhere in my other artworks and gardening projects.  Flowers symbolise the fruits of my labours, the beauty that has emerged, and has provided along the way soul-nourishing benefits.  Flowers emerge after a seed has been planted, so the perfect motif to represent a creative idea which has been nurtured lovingly to grow to the fullness of the thing the initial thought wanted it to be.

I love how the late, great Keith Haring nurtured his radiant line idea so that it became a recurring motif in his work (which I then adapted in my font, JulesLove, available free here).  I love how Anthony Browne, a British children’s author, used bananas, monkeys and gorillas over and over in his illustrations so that his style became instantly recognisable.  These were both artists who had abundant creative ideas and were constantly re-using what they had come up with before.

So what creative ideas have you had, things that you love to draw, or write or sing about, objects that you love to create, a signature dish, genre or something else and how can you recycle some of your ideas, expand on them, multiply your creativity and reuse one of your own motifs?  We have all got something inside us that keeps recurring that we can use for our own benefit, and that could be of interest to the world.

This post was originally posted in November 2012.

Food for the Soul designs are now available as fabric and wallpaper for home decor products (including upholstery) and other sewing projects. You may also buy giftwrap and other homewares.