Everyone has heard the classic childhood question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When I was young, the possibilities appeared to be infinite—and absolutely attainable. At the time, I didn’t give any thought to paying for college, job availability, potential salary or any other pragmatic threats to my dream goals. It was all about imagining myself in those roles, and they all seemed very realistic. As an artist, I have the freedom to create any reality I can envision. I’ve just started working on a new piece, and I’m in the process of planning my color palette. My watercolor tubes are lined up in front of me like delectable confections in a candy shop. Now I just have to decide which colors will satisfy my sweet tooth. It’s easy for me to imagine the possibilities, and the way I see it, they’re endless.
“Imagine”–Work in Progress–Watercolor on Arches Aquarelle
I own countless brushes, pencils, and palette knives, but the best tool in my artist’s studio is my imagination. Many artists paint from life—or paint life the way it is. I prefer to paint life the way it could be. The key to creativity is tapping into one’s imagination. For me, creativity tends to strike when I’m engaged in mundane tasks—showering, driving, vacuuming, riding my bike. The ideas start to flow—lightly at first, like a spring sun shower. That light shower quickly becomes an all-out flood that I try to outrun as I rush for the nearest pen. Once the idea is on paper, it’s mine. Next week, when I’m sunning myself on the white beaches of Castaway Cay, I have a feeling my creativity will be racing like a runaway river. I’ll be sure to pack a pen so I can catch every precious drop.
“The Key to Creativity”–graphite and watercolor–from my sketchbook
Once in a while, I’ll have an incredibly elaborate dream. I wake with it fresh in my mind, but when I try to tell someone about it, the details swirl away like water down the drain, and the dream falls flat. The vibrant colors, fascinating characters, engaging plot, rich symbolism, and enchanting settings end up sounding more like a bad elementary school production than the “must see movie” that played in my head the night before. Sometimes, the passion just doesn’t transfer from my imagination into the spoken translation of the dream.
And so it is with my art. I can envision an awe-inspiring idea in my head–see every detail with clarity and perfection, but when I attempt to put those details on paper, just like my dreams, they fall flat.
It’s one thing to draw a still life or portrait when the subject is sitting right before you, posing patiently. With perceptual drawing, the environment and lighting are carefully staged, and it’s easy to see where the shadows and highlights fall on the form. Sight measuring and triangulation can be utilized to ensure proper placement and proportions. But when the subject is in my head, it is vulnerable and can be lost or altered due to something as simple as a change in my mood. Perceptions shift as randomly as the scenes in my dreams, from orderly and logical to whimsical and nonsensical. If only my brain could communicate with my wireless printer! Then I could capture the image, print it out, and study every nuance as I reproduce it on paper. Right now, that’s nothing more than another dream…
So until technology can make that ‘brain to printer’ connection, my vivid imagination will just have to rely on my eyes, my hand, and a Faber-Castell 4B pencil.