Creative ruts sucks and I’ve been feeling a bit stuck in one as of late. So today, in an effort to dislodge myself, I pulled out an old morgue file that’s been tucked away on a shelf for some years now. Not looking for anything in particular but rather just curious as to what cut out images I had stored away, I suddenly found myself swimming in a long forgotten sea of inspiration that I’ve been in desperate need of lately.
Back in the day, before there was Pinterest, I had a subscription to Harper’s Bazaar. During that time the internet was filled with 90s designed websites and there was no such thing as a smartphone. Back then, I was taking a few graphic and web design courses with the intentions of making a career change. It was in these courses that I was introduced to the concept of a “morgue file”. Originally a morgue file was the collection of files and notes that criminal investigators kept for cases. But in the field of the arts, it’s more or less a collection of reference materials used for projects or later reference. I kept such a thing for myself, composed mostly of images of models in artistic poses and wears from my Harper’s Bazaar subscription and various other magazines, along with notes and drawing how-tos I printed off from the web. Physically thumbing through magazines and selectively cutting out images that I might later refer to was actually enjoyable. I used to just sit and study images, sometimes making thumbnail sketches or sticking little post-its with brief notes to my clippings. I could spend an afternoon just doing that. It was a bit of a refuge for me.
I’ve long since abandoned this practice for the convenience of digital files and Pinterest. But thumbing through it today has got me feeling all nostalgic. I’ve found notes on how to better convey emotions when drawing facial expressions. Tips on how to create effective characters and some interesting tidbits on panels. (I think I was interested in graphic novels at the time.) I feel rather grateful that my younger self took the time to do all of this. Some of the stuff is dated from over a decade ago. Who would of knew it would be the perfect thing I would need to get me over this creative rut I currently feel stuck in.
Maybe I’ll get back into the practice of keeping a physical morgue file. It’s like having a visual diary offering a glimpse into my mind from time gone by. Yeah, it’s an antiquated practice and who has time for that when we have the internet and smartphones that are essentially mobile computers in our pockets. Bit there’s just something much more personal about spending a little alone time building my own personal collection of reference material and I’m one of those people who is all for those more intimate and cozy things in life.