Working from the imagination, thinking like an artist

We had a really interesting session on Thursday 23 July on the theme of journeys. I asked the group to consider all the ways a journey might be represented as an art piece, and to choose something that was relevant to them. The solutions ranged from a beautifully sponged space journey, by Melody, youngest member of the group, through abstract infinity corridors, a game, pavement art come to life, to thoughts about a longer-term piece based on walks and photographs.

As we are only working together for an hour or so, I showed the group some of my old sketchbooks, to demonstrate how much time and how many iterations an idea can have before we make the final choices. And of course, even then, work changes as it is executed.

The best ideas, or solutions, aren’t always the first we come up with. Most artists will start with the initial idea, only to turn off onto a new path, a different direction, along the way. Those paths are found by playing around, sometimes by making arbitrary changes, just to see what happens. Afterwards I asked the group how they had found it:

As you can see from the quotes above there was a mixed reaction to this looser, less clearly defined way of working. Though given that the session is only an hour or so, that is fair enough!

I think in the end, several years at art school is in large part all about getting students to have confidence in their ability to navigate these processes, whereas people who are coming to art with a passing interest quite legitimately don’t have that experience. It is, perhaps, a bit of a mystery.

But that doesn’t mean it should remain one; that mystery is something I hope to tackle in Middle Distance Arts. Nearly all are able to find the visual world stimulating, and we are able to respond to that stimulus. Whether it comes naturally or takes some practise, we are able to go into our initial response, play with it, learn from it. We can all be art makers – sometimes we just need a bit of guidance, and the time to build some confidence to see how.

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