Brainstorming TRACK: Lesson 2, Mind Maps

  • Research your topic with a series of written text exercises to develop your idea further.
article search: key words list
  1. Watch video segment
  2. Do a Google search on your topic.
  3. Scan the headlines and write a list of key words you notice.
  4. Be sure to use trusted websites like The New York Times, a museum like the Metropolitan Museum of NY, etc.
  5. Save links to articles that you can reference later.

Choose your key words

  1. Circle the words that interest you the most.
  2. The more specific the word, the better.
  3. Avoid vague words that aren’t easily associated with images.

Image Search

  • Watch video segment
  • Take note of what the images have in common.
  • What types of objects and backgrounds do you see?
  • Are there colors that repeat in the images?
  • Save the images that you think might be useful later.
Lata Mangeshkar
Image search: Lata Mangeshkar

Mind map

  1. Pick a key word and draw a circle or box around it.
  2. Write down the first words you associate with that key word.
  3. Draw a line from the key word to the new words.
  4. Keep adding words that are associated with any of the words that are in the mind map.
  5. Go in any direction you want!
  6. Don’t worry if the words you write down seem random or far fetched from your original topic.


Clar Angkasa, Casey Roonan, Annabeth Tao, Ashley, Arielle, Trent

Hear from an Art Prof Student

“My main takeaway is how much non-linear exploration can really enrich the end result.

By exploring different ways of making patterns in reference photos, looking at media outside what I intended to use, listening to the way other people have explored, trying out extremes of color and scale and height/width ratio, I’ve started seeing so many possibilities for this single idea.”

Cat Huang, banner


  • Write down everything that pops into your head, no matter how stupid it sounds at the time.
  • There is no such thing as writing down too much.
  • Don’t get stuck in your head, let yourself “barf” words onto paper.
  • Avoid the brainstorming “marathon.”
  • Break up your brainstorming into several sessions.
art media

A sketchbook and pencil is all you need! Keep your tools very sparse so there isn’t a temptation to get wrapped up in how your notes look.

Sketchbook Prompts, banner

Brainstorming for Artists: Step by Step

This video shows the brainstorming process for artists beginning to end, in order to create an editorial illustration.

The process begins by brainstorming ideas from an article in the New York Times, and then transitions into drawing a mind map. Demo & Discussion by Art Prof Clara Lieu & Anjali Shankar.

6 min. video

Brainstorming for Artists: Demo

This video is a demo which shows approaches to brainstorming as an artist. How do you start with an idea and develop it into a viable piece of artwork?

Several brainstorming exercises are shown, including drawing mind maps, how to research topics, search for reference photos, draw thumbnail sketches, and more. Demo led by Art Prof Clara Lieu.

Show us what you make!

Mixed Media Acrylic Painting, Lauryn, banner