As an artist, I can find inspiration in everyday things — but traveling, that’s a whole different creative source. Maybe it’s the need to feel connected to the bigger picture, or a different culture; or to get more insight into who I am and explore things from another perspective. Maybe it’s simply stepping away from my routine and overlooking things from a distance. But one thing is for sure: traveling provides an endless flow of inspiration, and there’s an entire world to explore.
I always carry a camera, just to make little visual notes. Back home in Holland, these impressions are translated into my work. In my portfolio, my travels come together in illustrations and patterns inspired by all the places, moments, encounters, and colors that stimulate my creativity. While other people are traveling during the summer, I stay home, where I live close to the beach and enjoy the warmer Dutch weather. Instead, I start planning my trips for the colder season. Below are five of my favorite escapes that gave me great boosts of inspiration in recent years.
Cities are the places where you can always meet locals who bring culture to the country — from foods, fashion, and subcultures to traditions, music, and daily life. Every city on Earth has its own unique energy, and people that create that energy. I love the cobblestone streets in Havana, the heath, and the swinging music in the background. When you explore this city, you’ll feel a part of that ’50s romance. In many places, it looks and feels like time has stood still. I met an old lady here with family back in the US who proudly showed me her home, family photos, and other sacred possessions. Walking through her colorful vintage apartment, dated and damaged as it was, I could see the beauty beneath the peeling paint. The ornamental wallpaper, the tiles on the floor, and the retro phone in a little corner of the room were all proof of what once was. An amazing encounter.
New York City
I love the buzzing streets of New York, where your eye gets drawn to the high architecture and people are in a constant state of hurry, but also enjoy life in little moments by themselves in a park or coffee shop. The city surprised me: I always have this sense of restlessness within me, but when I visited New York, I felt this sense of easygoing peace and calm, like I was home. It’s also visually mind-blowing. Street art and high-end designer shops go hand in hand. NYC is the ultimate destination for a designer like me, where constant movement is inescapable, there’s room for both culture and business, and, if you set your mind to it, everything seems possible. A multicultural melting pot, which I love.
I grew up in a country where most houses look the same; even trees grow in straight rows, so for me, India is the opposite of what I know. And there’s no better inspiration for my work than to be in a place that is different in every aspect. The Indian streets reveal a vibrant color palette, and fashion is ruled by decorative prints and traditional paisleys. I love how many brands use hand-painted advertising; gorgeous craftsmanship is everywhere. India can be overwhelming, but it makes you curious to see more of it too, from the colorful food markets to traditional Hindi ceremonies near the Ganges. An elephant on the highway or a donkey on top of a bus is no exception. I love the colorful temples with their tiny woodwork ornaments telling stories about ancient history. And then you have these great national parks and landscapes, and warm people who will help you experience new things and rethink your “normal” and where you come from. It will give you a completely different mindset to take home. I am so in love with this country, and keep coming back for more.
This city breathes creativity. Berlin has a complex history, of which many parts are still visible when you drive through the old streets. It provides a great foundation for creativity to flourish, and lots of artists relocate here because it has such a great creative vibe. I love to explore the different neighborhoods on a bike and let my camera capture all the amazing abandoned places, GDR remains, and contrasting modern architecture. I also always enjoy a little break from the city near the riverbanks, where you can find little coffee places or spots to enjoy a good German beer. Berlin has one of Europe’s most famous club scenes, with great electronic music in industrial buildings, where you can dance until the sun comes out again. I love to visit this city because it has so much to offer and it’s still quite inexpensive. Don’t forget to visit the amazing art and history museums, too!
They say a ten-minute walk through nature relieves a great amount of stress, so imagine visiting this country for a month. I visited Costa Rica years ago, and found a place where everything breathes nature. It’s a country where you feel like a little ant walking around in ancient forests, joined by all the insects and tropical birds. It’s an overwhelmingly calm place to reset your body and mind, with great natural wonders like volcanoes and mountain peaks. The country is closed in by water, and the beaches are breathtaking places to watch the sun set with a fresh tropical
cocktail in hand. There were so many themes to integrate into my daily designs; I usually don’t create illustrations during my travels (I just make my visual “notes” with my camera), but this time I came back with a pile of “nature studies and textures.” And I fell in love with green all over again.
Of course, these are just a few of the places in this world to find a creative impulse. At home, even small things like walking a different way to work will enlarge your perspective. All these different escapes from a daily routine offer an endless source of inspiration, and for me, there’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a repeating pattern — so more traveling, please!
View all of the illustrations featured in this post in Maaike Boot’s “travel” lightbox »
Maaike Boot will also be taking over Shutterstock’s Instagram feed for one week starting Monday, July 28. Follow @shutterstock all week to see more of her illustrations, photos, and ideas for inspiration!