We’ve all been there: you’ve got a long list of projects on deadline yet you’re brain is not responding, all there is in your head is white noise. I’ve trained myself to not panic at that moment but turn instead to my bookshelves and without rhyme or reason just pull down a book or two or three and look for a little help from my ‘friends’, the artists that inspire me.

I try to make this process as random as possible, looking to be surprised by the work of old favorites not seen in perhaps years.

Paul Hey is a German artist who worked in the early part of the last century.

The work can be in pen & ink, watercolor, oil or sculpture, I don’t care, I’m just looking for that elusive something that will kick start my stagnant brain.

Eugene Rachev is a Russian illustrator from the same time period.

For myself, that inspiration is most commonly found in the work of older artists of a different age. There were so many brilliant hands and minds working in the late 1800s through the 1930s. Sometimes I have to wonder if any of those artists were aware of the other’s work, their art being so less easily accessible back in that time. No handy click of the mouse internet service for them.

Arthur Rackham was the foremost Brittish illustrator of his day.

Being a long-time fan of Rackham’s work it is always pleasant to come across an image not seen before as in this instance.

Hermann Vogel was a very prolific German illustrator who worked in the late 1880s.

I think that there must have been fewer distractions to pull them away from their drawing tables and that we might learn a lesson from that.

Another German book illustrator, Ernst Liebenauer.

For me, there is still so much to learn from these older artists – about composition or technique – that I never tire of looking at their art.

John Hassel, probably British, probably done in the early part of the 1900s.

Is this a watercolor? Or an Oil? I don’t know. But what I do know is that it is a lovely painting.

From a portfolio of 60 paintings by Marque Von Bayros depicting the Devine Comedy.

And sometimes you discover the work of a brilliant image maker that is known for a particular type of art (in this case erotic art) but has chosen a different more sublime path for one particular project.

Lizbeth Zwerger, a contemporary illustrator from Austria.

In the best of all possible world you’ll sometimes discover an artist that is illustrating a very well known book (Here, The Wizard of Oz) in a very different manner, one that sets the brain to turning and gets your ideas to percolate.

Nadezhda Illanrionova, a contemporary Russian artist.

Or produces work in such a different stylistic manner that the old tale that they are illustrating becomes new again much like a well loved song when it is reworked to a different melody forcing you to pay attention and actually listen to its lyrics again.

Virginia Lee, a contemporary British artist.

There are a multitude of artistic voices clambering for your your attention, so look for the ones that speak to your heart and then listen to what they have to say. Hold them close and in the depths of a particularly ferocious deadline they’ll be there, right behind you, whispering over your shoulder, encouraging you to do your best work.