Before the MyIdeasBook ‘magic’ happens – and after.

MyIdeasBook takes a seed of fascination & nurtures and develops it. A process of refinement and focus occurs naturally and quite magically eveloving projects and ideas into something tangiable that you can make happen.

These images are from a ‘Light images’ Book. The first shows a collection of images unfocused, too random and raw.

This second image shows that after some months a process of refinement occurred and a level of clarity was achieved that helped devise a new project.

MyIdeasBook magic visualized!




How Darwin’s commonplacing got him celebrity status.

Charles Darwin was an ideas management superstar. It took years and even made him ill but he persisted and using the Commonplace Book system developed his BIG ideas slowly. They arguably had more time in those days but how Darwin did it wasn’t magic – it was systematic and controlled.

I found myself re-reading the exceptional and inspiring book ‘Where good Ideas Come From’ by Steven Johnson again and wanted to share a passage about the benefits of rigorous note making in idea development:

‘We can track the evolution of Darwin’s ideas with such precision because he adhered to a rigorous practice of maintaining notebooks where he quoted other sources, improvised new ideas, interrogated and dismissed false leads, drew diagrams, and generally let his mind roam the page.

We can see Darwin’s ideas evolve because on some basic level the notebook platform creates a cultivating space for his hunches; it is not that the notebook is a mere transcription of the ideas, which are happening offstage somewhere in Darwin’s mind.

Darwin was constantly rereading his notes, discovering new implications. His ideas emerge as a kind of duet between the present-tense thinking of his brain and all those past observations recorded on paper.

Darwin’s notebooks lie at the tail end of a long and fruitful tradition that peaked in Enlightenment-era Europe, particularly in England: the practice of maintaining a “commonplace” book.  Scholars, amateur scientists, aspiring men of letters – just about anyone with intellectual ambition in the seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries was likely to keep a commonplace book. The great minds of the period – Milton, Bacon, Locke – were zealous believers in the memory-enhancing powers of the commonplace book.  In its most customary form, “commonplacing” as it was called, involved transcribing interesting or inspirational passages from ones reading, assembling a personalized encyclopedia of quotations. ‘

We often laugh off and dismiss thoughts and ideas when we are in different contexts thinking they are rubbish or irrelevant. But somehow every thought can lead to a new thought and could later be re-worked to be a better thought. Improving how we manage hunches as creatives is a key to being better at making better, more relevant work. We now have access to visual information more readily too, snapping pics and having an immense array of visual imagery available at our fingertips online.

How does a modern artist and creative mastermind great ideas and then work out how to monetize them? It’s a matter of process. Firstly do not worry at all about monetizing your work. The priority plan is  to get new and diverse ideas progressing to a stage where real projects start to form into a more cohesive concept that you are really excited about.

Gather your research, look at what others are doing and collect what inspires you carefully. making notes about why. Constantly refer back and forth to all these thoughts and writings. it will take a long time and you will go back and forth but slowly ideas will form, and you can then push these initial ideas further by employing some creative thinking.

Creative people naturally (excuse pun) build ideas like Darwin did, by gathering and building inspiration from what we see around that fascinates us and what we read.  Innovation is valuable and how we innovate depends on how well we are harnessing our thoughts and connecting them up to build a potential project idea.

Once you have the project idea I have found the best thing to do is talk about it to professionals. Who do you know that is a commissioner, consultant or curator that you can safely disclose your thoughts to? Share the idea. Share all of it and see what comes back. There are people out there far more qualified to work out how to earn money from your work than you!

MyIdeasBook was inspired by the commonplace book system but tweaked to be an online tool for visually creative people. How creatives manage ideas is crucial to how they evolve. The reason we need to evolve the way we develop our creative work is because the world around us has changed. The way we created before the internet age may not be as effective as it once By linking up what we are working through on paper to online images and websites and text in a systematic  ‘thinking zone’ is a key to moving our creativity to a new height of innovation.

Have you got a system like the commonplace book or do you use a sketchbook still?

Do you write a lot down and then never read it again or do you continually refer to it?

Does the way Darwin and co. kept commonplace books inspire you?

If you like the sound of getting more strategic in your ideas making and treating yourself to a well designed, private place on the web you can get a trial of MyIdeasBook here.



Innovate your way out of trouble

What trouble?

Being creative in a global recession poses many challenges. We question our value and what we can do to sustain an income constantly. All around us are people who seem more successful, wealthier, more together and there we are, just trying to make the most of what talent we have been gifted with.

The good news is most of us feel in the same boat. Last week I went to a conference ‘Beyond Angels, Elephants, Good intentions and Red-Nose rebellion – What is the Future of Public Art?’.

I work in the public realm and wanted to find out from peers, commissioners and other artists what the future holds for the work we make. It doesn’t look good. There is a lack of new building in both public and private sectors. There is a shift to encouraging philanthropy and moving in line with our UK Conservative Governments ‘Big Society’ IE: the shift to local responsibility.

What was clear is that there is a big change afoot, structures are breaking down and the way public realm artist’s practice will need to adapt these changes and fit in with the Arts Councils GAE policy (Great Art for Everyone).

What is certain is that we need to innovate our way out of trouble and make changes. We need to find allies and collaborators. We need to work out whether we are making our work for ourselves, for clients with money or for society’s greater good.

What came across from the conference in the end was that it is a sink or swim moment (I thought paddle furiously was more apt) where we can ride the current wave, be flexible and open to new creativity and opportunity so that our creative work and way of life can survive, albeit in a new form.

Whatever happens to the world, do we stay on our course or rework and reinvent what we do? It can depend on what kind of work you make but to my mind any artist and creative has the potential to broaden their audience and their potential income stream with some good lateral and creative thinking. I am seeing it for myself through social networking in Twitter and on Facebook.

How do you feel about creativity in a recession? Do you feel too enraged to be creative or spurred on by a desire to continue and be better? Who are your allies and how can you help each other?

I have personally been using MyIdeasBook for six months now and it’s been a slow process trying to gather inspiration that excites me alongside everything else I do. Yes, I have often questioned what the point is too. But it’s actually paid off as a spark of an idea for a new project and way of making work has been brewing. Last week, I tentatively pitched my idea (after running it through the MyIdeasBook Think Tool of course) to an experienced art consultant.

And what-do-you-know? She loves it. And she reckons it’s a goer and will help me realise it. So I am now taking the steps to make it happen. I have so much work to do! But it is OK because the idea excites me and brings together many things I am fascinated by and love doing. The project also has many potential outlets and avenues to be explored.

Without creating MyIdeasBook I would have never got to this point. It has forced me push my fascinations to a new point in making my art. I will be extremely lucky if I can get any more glass commissions in the future so to be innovating and working with allies to forge a new path in my practice is my ‘swim’ reaction. This project could tick boxes and bring value to my practice, potential clients and a wider audience all in one swoop. Ill let you know how it goes.

It can be hard to take the time to accumulate your inspirations to give yourself that space and love; I know I am an artist! But all I can say is really give it a go. You never know what it could help you develop. Give yourself that time and focus.

Please join in Twitter and on Facebook.


Rainbow Garden

Rainbow Garden is a commission I completed last year for a new health centre in Somerset. This artwork is made from antique glass disks and screen printed mirror flowers.  Pictures courtesy of Bronwen Gwillim.

The inspiration comes from the local landscape and East Lambrook Manor Gardens designed by Margery Fish. At night the colours disappear and the remaining flowers ‘twinkle’ above you like stars reflecting movement and light from below.

3 opportunities for inspiration

Inspiration takes a long time to brew into ideas. I am currently brewing a new project based around mapping light after using MyIdeasBook for five months. It is coming along nicely and I am deeply excited about its potential.

The inspiration behind this idea has been mostly derived through imagery I have collected around my day to day life but recently I have been making an effort to do new things and stretch my experiences to see how these influence or inspire my work.

I have no idea how these following images taken from recently visited events and locations will manifest in my work, it may take many months but collecting them and pondering upon their significance may bring about something new for my art practice. I really wanted to share these with you.







The Shell Grotto in Margate is a mysterious underground tunnel and chamber where thousands of shells decorate the walls. No one really knows why and how it was done and that makes it magical and mystical. The labour of love gone into creating this is inspiring alone.

Experiencing a new gallery is a really exciting moment. In a run down forgotten part of England it is monumental! The juxtaposition of the Turner Contemporary and Margate has still left me questioning the aesthetics of the place two weeks after visiting. It might need some time to settle in to really feel like part of the town.

Bob and Roberta Smith are instigating a revolution to change who is in charge. They believe in true proportional representation whereby the demographic of the government accurately represents the UK demographic. This is really a revolution and makes complete sense, it seems logical and natural. The combination of artist and politics creates a new junction. Because their ideas are inspired and derived through artistic references but the outcome is to make the world fairer and create opportunity for everyone, the dialogue created is very much a part of the artwork.

What has really inspired you lately? Is there a place or piece of work which has inspired a new idea or a new artwork?

Are you buzzing with ideas but struggling to realize them?

Ideas can flow thick and fast when we are researching and developing new work but sometimes we only get a few ideas which feel precious. How do we sort out which to ideas to move forward and which to leave behind?

As visual artists and creatives we are trained to use sketchbooks for working through inspiration and ideas. These sketchbooks are judged by our peers and teachers as proof we are always thinking, researching and working through ideas.

Then computers arrived and now we have to negotiate working in the web as well as in the ‘real world’. Visually, we are taking in a lot of imagery and information which has made us brilliantly aware of what is going on around the globe. We can draw on thousands of images in a click of the mouse whenever we like. This is all great and amazing… but being a successful artist and creative also requires an ability to seriously focus when the time comes in order to get your ideas progressing.

Writing things down, making sketches, putting images on the studio wall are all essential organisation tools creatives use. Gathering all this information around us keeps a track of the things we find important.

What I have created with the MyIdeasBook website  is your ‘virtual sketchbook’ to do all those things which you do in real life within the realm of the computer. When you organize your ideas into IdeasBooks and start to build up the images and notes within each IdeasBook you will start to feel a clearer sense of what it is you are trying to achieve.

There is not a learning curve with MyIdeasBook – you just use it like you would a sketchbook, putting images and notes together. By using it, you are removing distractions and clearing your computer screen for focused development time. If you are get stuck or you need access to images which will push your ideas further you can pop into MyIdeasBook Community and see what the other members are getting inspired by.

Subjecting your brain to a variety of quality images helps jolt your neurons into action inspiring new connections and thoughts which will progress your ideas further, faster.

Since I have placed all my ‘light images’ (which were in many different places on my computer) in my own IdeasBook, I have realised how much I get a buzz out of looking at the play of natural and man made light in our landscape. It has made me want to work towards developing that side of my art again and that would not have happened before MyIdeasBook came along!

Recommended further reading:

Mark McGuinness is a brilliant poet and coach who writes a blog and has excellent productivity advice for creatives. His mantra is Creativity + Productivity = Success.

So, how do you clear your mind of clutter and focus on developing your ideas? Share your top tips with us please!


MyIdeasBook get its first Artist in Residence!

We are delighted to announce that Marguerite Impey is our first Artist in Residence.

Impey was born in Zimbabwe and graduated in Sculpture from Edinburgh College of Art 1993. She is currently teaching at Raha International School in the United Arab Emirates.

Impey has ‘Shared’ lots of her personal research imagery in MyIdeasBook Community which we have found really inspirational, provoking us to think about our own work in new ways.

Let’s hope she posts some more of her art work images too! (look for the hands holding a shell painting).

The Secret of Getting from Idea to Product

OK so I had a light bulb moment of creating a web tool to help creative people get better at managing their ideas and inspirations. But then what? How did I get from having an idea to making it happen? It would be easy to say money or magic but actually, I think it’s about being organised.

Making architectural glass artworks for buildings for fifteen years has given me a diverse project management experience and I always worked hard to deliver on time and on budget. I did this through being pro active and pushing the projects forward so I wasn’t waiting around for people to get back to me. I always made sure I delivered my drawings and documents on time to the right people. You need to build a reputation for being able to work within a team and keep your side of the contract.

Coming up with highly creative ideas and being able to deliver projects is a skill. Keeping the integrity behind your ideas and delivering a successful project even harder!

I am going to be looking into the nuts and bolts of developing ideas and how we make them happen. Through my experience of creating MyIdeasBook I can offer an insight into how the Internet has given creatives the chance to develop new and amazing opportunities.

Select the idea to follow through

When I surveyed a bunch of creatives, I found they got ideas all the time and love having ideas because ideas kept them moving forward in their work however, almost the same amount had ideas all the time but rarely followed them through.  This is bad news for ideas but good news if you follow through with your ideas!

After I ‘unblocked my brain with Creative Thinking’ and had the idea for MyIdeasBook, I discovered that having one really good idea then inspired me into generating many more ideas for making new business.

However, I knew I had to focus on my one good idea which I had first scribbled down as ‘a virtual brainstorm room’. So I researched into the depths of the web to see what was on offer that did what I wanted my new tool to do. I looked at everything and anything relevant and what I found was that most stuff on the internet is not very user friendly, attractive and simple enough to be useful to a creative like myself.

I do use twitter for example, but because it’s all text based and I am a visual person, I do find it really hard work to digest and use it. I have to really adapt my brain to interact with it! I cannot be the only one…

I needed elegance, simplicity and familiarity in order to focus and build on my concepts and nothing on-line could offer me that. What a revelation.

What do I mean by familiarity I hear you say? Sketchbooks and notebooks are the most used and loved ways for creative people to record and work on their ideas. Computers came along and now we all use images and research from a mixture of sources to use for inspiration. But our methods for collating and managing this information are erratic and usually involve making word documents, dragging images onto the desktop or into folders on the computer. So I decided that I just had to build this really useful web tool for myself and (hopefully) for others.

Using the Thinking System that I had been taught by Debs Astell from The Ministry of Thinking I worked out if the idea had enough integrity to be taken further.

So in order to work out if I needed to follow through on my idea for a ‘virtual brainstorm room’:

  • I worked out what would make my own idea management better when using a computer.
  • I researched thoroughly what web tools existed already to do this and discovered these would not fulfill my needs. So my product would have to be a more effective tool to benefit my niche market.
  • I conducted a survey among other creatives I knew to research my ‘hunches’ about creating the tool.
  • I thought through the idea in fine detail using a Thinking System by Edward de Bono called 6 Hats.

So you can maximize your idea by:

  1. Working out in detail how the idea benefits you, your client or your potential customer.
  2. Researching thoroughly how others are already doing this, if they are.
  3. Surveying and talking to people about your idea. If its necessary, get a non-disclosure document created. Speaking out loud about it makes it real. Get your idea out of your head.
  4. Use Thinking Tools and systems to make you push the idea to its limits. This exercise will also help you decide whether to continue. The MyIdeasBook Think Tool has been  devised specially for this.

Coming next:

Using Free Information to Make Ideas Happen.

How Creative Thinking can change everything

Do you struggle to focus on your ideas? Do you flit about between ideas? Do you start working on an idea and find it hard to follow through?

Being creative is amazing but being an effective creative even more so.

When I commissioned Debs Astell from The Ministry of Thinking to develop a Think Tool for my new web application MyIdeasBook, my brief was to design a simple thinking system to help creatives develop Creative Thinking skills in relation to a specific idea.

Sometimes we think something is a good idea and it ends up on the floor and other times what we thought was a bad idea could have been something amazing for us.

Using a specially crafted creative thinking system to work through an idea in gestation, could mean the difference between many hours spent on a good idea instead of a less good idea.

This is what Debs says about it:

‘Why is Creative Thinking important? There are 2 basic modes of thinking, Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking. At school, during our formal education, we are predominantly taught to use Critical Thinking. Very few of us have ever been taught how to apply Creative Thinking.

Everyone has heard of Creative Thinking but not enough of us fully understand what it means. To put it simply, Creative Thinking is the generation of new and original ideas!

When we think creatively we are generating and exploring lots of possibilities and new ideas. When we are thinking critically we are thinking clearly and rationally, we are making choices. To be a powerful, effective thinker we need to use both skills equally. So, for example, if we just use Critical Thinking it would be like paddling a canoe with one oar, round and round in circles we go. To move our thinking forwards we would need to apply Creative Thinking as well.’

The Think Tool is just the first MyIdeasBook offering for creatives who want to be more effective in their work. We are on a mission to help creatives head into the 21st century with amazing ideas.

Helpful links:

Sir Ken Robinson

Edward De Bono

Lateral Action


Making Thinking Matter