Designing Paintings: Where We Find Inspiration

Mar 10, 2022

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When designing paintings for our Cork & Chroma calendar, we seek to create pieces that inspire our guests, our fellow artists, and ourselves. As the content creators it starts with us, and if we’re not inspired and excited by our creations, how can we expect our guests to be? If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years creating content for the company, it’s that inspiration and enthusiasm go hand in hand, and have a wonderful ripple effect on the people around us. 

Our paintings are designed to be springboards from which our guests’ imaginations can launch from. It’d get dull very quickly if we all painted the same thing in the same way; in fact, this would be impossible, since we all have our own signature painting style without even realising it. No matter how hard you try to recreate a painting, yours will have its own differences and flair. And that’s a good thing. We’re big into differences and flair. 


Designing Paintings Blog Post - Differences and Flair


When leading artist sessions, I almost always choose to change at least one element on my demonstration painting, to offer a point of difference from the original. It might be changing the background colour, or the species of cactus, or the arrangement of flowers in Frida’s headpiece. In my experience, this makes things more interesting for everyone. It keeps me on my toes to change things up and try something new, especially when I’ve painted that painting several times before. It’s exciting for guests to see firsthand how they can customise their paintings in different ways. And surely it must be a welcome break for Frida, who would get tired of donning the same floral headpiece every day. 

With new paintings, we like to create scenes that lend themselves to all kinds of colour palettes and compositions, inviting guests to go rogue and try something new. While many painters choose to follow the original example, we often find that our guests, and especially those who are more confident painters, like to use our paintings as a starting point or theme to loosely follow. It’s true that even the most experienced painters need some basic parameters! Check out this incredible take on our Floral Frida painting, created by Chris Peng, our regular guest at Cork & Chroma Brisbane. Chris has paid homage to Frida and our original colour palette, then let his own extraordinary style and talent take care of the rest! How you managed to create this masterpiece in three hours is beyond us, Chris! 


Designing Paintings Blog Post - Frida Inspiration by guest Chris Peng


We have a small content team who currently design most of our new paintings, which includes myself (Erin), Suzie and Sophie. While one of us will generally take the reins on a painting, we often work together and bounce ideas to ensure the final product is just right. We know we’ve hit the sweet spot when the process of the painting flows seamlessly, it draws on a variety of painting techniques without feeling too rushed or challenging, and we ourselves are excited to paint (and repaint) it!

Inspiration for a new painting can strike from all directions. Travel destinations and photographs, shop windows, clouds in the sky, Pinterest, social media — painting inspiration is everywhere. Our Palms on Peach painting was loosely inspired by aesthetic Instagram account @plantsonpink, while others are based on famous classics, such as Picasso’s Blue Nude

For me a painting idea can feel like a lucky dip, drawn from whatever’s swirling around in my head at the time. As an example, a company I follow on Instagram, Bedthreads, recently released a new shade of linen bedding called Limoncello, and it’s got me dreaming of the summery pastel shades of the Amalfi Coast: peachy hues, buttery yellows, bright blues and crisp whites. My inspiration for a painting often starts here: I’ll see four or five different tones lined up in a row, almost like those strips of card you get when selecting paint colours for a house. From there the colours swim into shapes or a scene that suits them, as is what happened with one of our newest paintings, Tropic Like It’s Hot. This one evolved from a colour palette I had in mind, of soft terracotta and turquoise tones contrasting with deep navy accents. It cried out for bold shapes and shadows: cue striped umbrella! 

I also like to take photos as I’m out and about, and notice the beauty and detail in unsuspecting things. It might be the way a shadow stretches along the concrete, coffee stains on a table, or the different shades of red in a summer rose.


Designing Paintings - finding inspiration in this perfect red rose.


Suzie also likes to draw her inspiration from colour palettes, and especially those which evoke memories of being in certain places. “When I did Ray of Light, I was going through a turquoise phase and it just made me think continually of our beautiful Aussie beaches and reef,” she said. “Once I have the colour palette I like to tie in a vision that gives me a calm and dreamy feel… I love creating something where you can insert yourself into the scene or just truly feel the vibe that that exact moment is giving.” Suzie achieved this with her Fields of Gold painting, which is currently one of our most popular paintings on the calendar. “I feel so much joy when I’m standing out in nature witnessing things like that, so that’s what I want to try and bring to my paintings,” Suzie said.  “Little snapshots of a moment, that can feel so big and beautiful.”


Fields of Gold in session at Cork & Chroma - Blog Post on Designing Paintings


For Sophie, it’s important to gather a variety of sources to contribute to the finished product. When designing paintings she will often look to a combination of photography and paintings for inspiration. Sophie will start with a concept, and then narrow it down to key elements and buzzwords before researching her imagery. Once she’s collected her sources, she begins to brainstorm the painting’s composition and colour palette. “These are integral to achieving a cohesive end product,” Sophie notes. “I then paint a small, rough draft to get an idea of how each component will flow as a unit and make notes on what could be done better. Finally, I paint up my finished product and bask in all of its glory!” 

Soph may be kidding, but there is truth here. We all take pride in our work, and sometimes it takes several attempts before the final product aligns with or exceeds the vision we had for it. It’s such a proud and humbling moment to see our painting designs up on the calendar, and even more so when people book in to paint it. And so in the end it is really you, our guests, who inspire us to keep on creating. 




View our gallery of Painting Options here, or check out the calendar and book your seat in our Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne Studios. Rather paint from home? Our new book, PAINT, is chock-full of painting inspiration for your perusal and pleasure.

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