Keep Your Imagination Active

Hellbound II done with Alchemy
Recently I have had a read through my blogs, one of them was a post by James Gurney Activating your imagination which I have commented, but somehow my comment disappeared. I will not shelter James for deleting my post, and if so, it might be by accident. (Its probably a bug;)

James mostly cited from Howard Pyle, but in my opinion Howard Pyle is outdated. He was obviously a photography antagonist in the time he lived (March 5, 1853 – November 9, 1911). To deny something that might help is not the best suggestion to a student either. My suggestion would be to put everything into question: references, casts, lighting, shapes, anything and the status quo.

Drawing things from memory might also not be a clever suggestion, since when doing so we make flaws, and that is what leads to the need for a reference, a vicious cycle. It might be a nice practice but won´t help to cure the itch.

OK, I went on with my thought about this topic and realized it was too important to be lost in a blog post of someone else and so I went on to resurrect this theme for a very own treatment.

As artist, the activation of imagination is useless, since as artists we are constantly expanding the ability of our imagination, more important is keeping the imagination areal active.
While in the daily routine we are often distracted or have to rely on references, in personal works we can explore the shape recognition patterns of the brain.

Have you ever wondered how comics work?

Thats what visual imagination is all about: shape recognition. Even when you imagine pictures to a story, you visually recreate known images, places and faces. These are familiar. But these are boundaries. Shape recognition allows the brain to imagine things that are not there and not known, but depending on the appearance and the knowledge of the viewer, as possible. Training of this ability can bear a great learning potential.

An interesting practice option is to do sketches with only a candle light illuminating a room. While it isn´t only a romantic mood, as artist you can try to see shapes in a stack of clothes thrown over a chair for example, or even better the shadows these might cast.
Try this with different kind of fabrics or objects and sketch what you see.
In daylight its the easiest to see and force yourself to paint from clouds and trees.
Leafs on a tree show so many shapes you can easily be inspired to see faces or a complete scene.

Everyone and Dan Gerhartz recommends artists to always paint from life whenever possible, but this isn´t always possible, I recommend to paint from shape. Shapes are everywhere, shapes are your friend and so should imagination be your friend.

In an interview that I have read from H.R.Giger a while ago, I found it interesting that he used to spray kinda clouds with the airbrush onto the canvas and develops what he sees in them. Combined with his very own style a great approach, he constantly challenges his imagination with this method. A thing that would not be possible if H.R.Giger had painted from life.

If you are more computer savvy, maybe the solution I suggested at Gurneys blog maybe helpful: Alchemy is a sketch tool that can be useful to generate shapes to inspire artworks from.
In the forums of Alchemy I have seen a number of known artist names of the industry showing their approaches with this awesome tool.

This little program is totally free to use and on the website you find an introduction from Andrew Android Jones about the possibilities. You can set the tool to make snapshots of your experimentation every 5 seconds and later go through a generated pdf to fish for useful shapes. This is outstanding.

When I used this for a couple of days my "shape-recognition-areal" was better than ever. The sketching in the dark becomes even more potent when trained to see in patterns.
For the piece displayed on top of this post, I used some shapes with layer-blend-modes in Photoshop and added some elements here and there.

This is merely a sketch and absolutely experimental for me, but I love to explore new possibilities.
In an upcoming post I write about breeding ideas, and how to find your pace, keep follow my blog if this is interesting for you.

I really like to hear how you train your imagination?
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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


  1. Fantastic Blog (I've been a long time admirer of your work as well) and you bring up a good point and interesting ideas. I've recently come across Alchemy but I guess since I'm so used to my own "discovery" workflow, actual applications of it are more of a novelty for me.
    I often take texture photos (skies, wood, rocks, interesting rust patterns etc) and later in photoshop- expand them/recolor them until they aren't recognizable as anything but texture and shapes and work from there. Although in "real" paintings I like to work on canvases that are either wood or slap some nasty ragged newspaper and clay and work off the texture-created shapes that appear.



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