How to use Instagram to find images that will inspire your next creation
Courtney McLeod, also known as Dearest Q (@dearest_q), is a textile artist based in Philadelphia who creates colorful framed embroidery art inspired by fashion illustration and 90s pop culture. Working with clean lines and minimalist compositions, Courtney produces figurative illustrations on fabric. She sells her work on her online store and has been commissioned by Brie Larson, Peppa Pig, and the magazines “Today’s Parent,” “Love Embroidery,” and “Koel.”
Courtney first learned to embroider while studying textile art at OCADU in Toronto. She picked it up again after graduation while working at a restaurant as a relaxing and portable activity she could easily do during her breaks. She started off embroidering lots of plants and copied popular motifs that she saw other artists recreating. However, as her skills evolved, Courtney quickly developed her own style and found herself drawn to fashion illustration, embroidering shoes, colorful socks, and women wearing vintage denim.
After a while, she decided she wanted to start infusing different textures and more variety into her work and began learning new techniques, such as needle felting and punch needle, to combine with embroidery. After she quit her job at the restaurant, Courtney started working as a seamstress at a vintage store alongside running her online shop.
One of her responsibilities was to cut the bottoms off jeans to transform them into shorts, so she would save the scrap denim to reuse in her projects. She began embroidering illustrations featuring pieces of vintage denim onto pieces of vintage denim to create unique artworks that attracted even more followers to her page.
Courtney shares now her process for source images from Instagram to inspire her creations.
Hashtags are a key part of Courtney’s research process. One hashtag she considers to be very reliable is #ParisianStyle. “I’m usually looking for something feminine and classic. I’m also looking for images that show an interesting pose and have most of the body within the frame,” says Courtney.
After searching a hashtag, she’ll simply scroll through the feed until she finds an image that works. “I find it hard when making a line drawing to have a figure facing straight on,” says Courtney. This is something she takes into account when searching for an image, preferring when models have been photographed from unusual angles or looking off to one side, with their face turned away from the camera.
Look for photos that reflect your taste or include elements that you are keen to recreate in your work. When sourcing images, Courtney will always keep an eye out for images featuring vintage denim for her denim on denim series. She also likes images that evoke different fashion eras (she is currently very drawn to 60s fashion) and interesting color palettes.
Creating a bank of images
After she has found an image she likes, Courtney will save it to a folder she has created on Instagram for all the inspirational images she finds. It’s great to keep all of the images you collect together so that you can look back over them whenever you need a dose of inspiration and don’t have to have to scroll through hundreds of photos to find the one you want to use.
Once you have selected the image that you want to use for your next project, it’s important to contact the person who owns it to make sure it’s ok for you to use it, especially if you’re hoping to sell the final piece! You can do this by sending them a direct message on Instagram explaining that you’re an embroidery artist and that you’d like to use their photo as inspiration for a piece of art. “Most models don’t have a problem with you using their images, but it’s nice to get permission to do so,” adds Courtney. Once you have permission, you will be able to work on turning the image into a line drawing that you will use to create your final piece of embroidery art.