Visual Imagination

  • SVS OG

    I have been working on developing my art skills and for most things, I can see where lessons, copying masters, and practice have produced and will continue to produce better skills. I also feel comfortable with the story-telling aspect of illustration and can usually think of a story to go with a prompt or character. I feel, however, severely lacking in visual imagination and am not sure how to improve that.

    I'm not even sure how to define "visual imagination" except to say that when I look at a beautiful illustration, I am not only awed but feel that such a concept could never exist in my head. Sometimes it is the complexity of a design, sometimes the unique style, most often it is just a beauty that I can't even articulate let alone create myself. Looking at beautiful illustrations or copying masters doesn't seem to expand my imagination any more than listening to and playing Bach gives me the ability to write music like Bach. In fact, developing art skills is to me like learning to play piano while having a visual imagination is to me more like being able to compose music, not just play it, which is a much rarer skill.

    Are there things that you have found helpful in improving your visual imagination? I may be asking the wrong audience because most of you may already have an innate visual imagination and can't advise a person who doesn't have it on how to get it 🙂 Nevertheless, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts because it continues to be my primary source of self-doubt.

  • SVS OG

    @demotlj There used to be a link to Sterling Hundley's classes on SVS...not sure where they went. He takes a logical approach to creativity...this is a very short video ... His work is amazing.

  • Have you tried starting with words? For example, instead of trying hard to come up with something beautiful, write down 100 word combinations (angry apple, giant koala, insectoid turtle). A lot will be bad, but some will be good. Take one (angry apple) and expand on that concept. Where is the apple? Why is he angry? What type of apple is it? In order to answer these questions, you must imagine the image in your head. The only way you'll know the answers is to picture it in your mind and see what feels right. This should be a good starting point for an image. Also, think like a child in your everyday life. Is a cardboard box for packing and shipping, or is it a fort? Take an item and think of as many uses as you can for it. Then think of how you would illustrate those uses (ex: how do I draw a bucket being used as a parachute?) Be okay with having a lot of dumb, stupid, and silly ideas. Keep a sketchbook of them. Another exercise is to look at an image, study it, note adjectives like "hooked nose" "shriveled lips," put it away and do something else for a while, then come back and draw it from memory. It helps you to hold an image in your head

  • I can't visualize a whole composition, but I can try to work it out on paper with several thumbnails .

  • SVS OG

    It’s hard for me to describe what it is that I’m feeling a lack of because it’s not really creativity per se or ideas. I think maybe it’s a style thing. For example, I love the art of EH Shepard but partly because his style is grounded in easy to imagine things. To do Winnie the Pooh, for example, he spent a lot of time walking in the woods drawing trees and forest scenes. That I understand and I can visualize and imagine such scenes. Similarly, Beatrix Potter may have painted imaginary characters but she placed them in settings from the real world as if she had set up her easel in a meadow and painted what she saw except she populated the scene with rabbits. On the other hand, someone like Lee White does paintings that are whimsical, highly stylized, and involve all kinds of textures and choices that are purely visually imaginative. He doesn’t get there by sketching trees — he is pulling from something inside of him. Usually the advice for developing that sort of style is to “loosen up” but when I loosen up, I just paint random messes because I can’t visualize where I would want to end up.

    I love the beauty inherent in pieces like Lee’s or so many of the SVS members but maybe I need to accept it’s not my style. I just wish that I felt like I could visualize such beauty.

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