Do you visualise your finished artwork before you begin?
A few words in a friend’s email the other day sparked my curiosity – but it was something I’d been wondering about for a long time as it had often come up in conversations with an old friend who, sadly, died a couple of years ago.
The phrase was, ‘I had an image in mind...’
My old friend regularly insisted that I must have an image of my finished paintings in my mind before I began. And I had protested vehemently that I don’t and she had found this impossible to understand. So I’m curious to know whether other artists have an ‘image in mind’ when they begin a piece of work?
The fact is that I find it extremely difficult to hold any image in my mind! This makes anything that requires me to ‘visualise’ very frustrating! You know the sort of thing – ‘Imagine a golden light...’ ‘Imagine the person you are afraid of as a baby...’ ‘Imagine yourself beside a stream in a wood...’ Impossible! I can conjure up the associated feelings and ideas but definitely not an image!
This ‘deficit’ of mine became abundantly and embarrassingly clear when I tried out a Neuro Linguistic Programming technique for learning spellings on one of my older pupils who found learning the relationships between letters and sounds, for spelling purposes, too ‘baby-ish’. Although I feel sure that the Synthetic Phonics ('sounds') method of learning to read and spell is by far the best one, I was amazed at what this boy told his mother about how he imagined shelves in his head and stored the words he wanted to remember on these shelves!
Another younger boy who was still at the ‘cat, sat, fat, big, pig...’ stage of learning the ‘sounds’ was able to look at the word ‘urgency’ for a few seconds, close his eyes, visualise the word and spell it out to me correctly! He was also able to ‘make the letters bigger’, ‘change their colour’, and tell me the letters backwards in the correct order! All of which helped my pupils’ self-esteem because they were able to do easily something that their teacher could not!
That is not to say that I never visualise anything. Images do come into my mind involuntarily but they are no more than a fleeting flicker and if I try to hang on to them to analyse or describe them, they are gone! People have suggested that this is very strange in someone whose work is decidedly ‘visual’! But I wonder whether it is or not?
Of course there is no need for visualisation if I’m painting from a model or a photograph. The image is right there in front of me. But I am puzzled about how I draw ‘from imagination’. I don’t have an ‘image in mind’ that I am aware of. And yet, as I draw, I do know whether what I’m working on is right first time or whether it needs alterations but it’s a kind of ‘inner sensing’ rather than comparing what I’ve done with an image that I could ‘see’ in my mind’s eye.
Maybe it’s that ‘naughty pencil’ of mine that has a secret pair of 'eyes'?