Imagination Workout

The Imagination Workout-Dilation Exercises

To get started I’ve placed four of these exercises in this post. They are suggestive images with one to three line captions. With the captions, I’ve tried to add to the images without defining them. Please look at the pictures and read the captions. Hold it all lightly in your mind and see if it suggests more. The results will differ from person to person.

Delirious from lack of sleep during the heat-wave, I was cleaning out the freezer, removing the mysterious ice-encrusted packages and ice trays. Suddenly it was a whole lot bigger in there, so I climbed inside to get a look around and the door shut behind me.

People often ask me, “Where do you get your ideas?” This is not easy to answer quickly and I won’t attempt it here. I always want to ask in return,“What are you getting out of the artwork?” Folks are often timid about responding, as if they might get it wrong. What they may want, and don’t really know it, is information that would help them stir someone’s imagination the way theirs is being stirred. Sometimes they say. “I could never come up with something like that. I have no imagination.” But I know they wouldn’t still be standing there looking at the work if that were true.

When the dead rose, it was not to eat the brains of the living, but to give us back what we had lost; what we had all lost in our mad effort to live and to have that living mean something. What they had to offer was perspective, but it was being offered to a society in which that was largely unwelcome.

To engage my audience, I try to create images that are compelling on a storytelling level. With my choice of subject matter, I try to present more questions than answers; give three out of five elements of a story and then depend on my audience to fill in the rest. If my audience participates in the creative process in this way, they carry the experience beyond the picture plane, and I’ve succeeded in creating something more than just a portrait, landscape, still-life or frozen action scene. Hopefully I’ve helped to create something much more memorable and rewarding.

“I knew they were just plants, but I sensed a certain amount of desperation.” As the days became shorter, the nights colder, they came up with a simple plan.

Many years ago, unaware that I engaged in this practice within my work—or at least having never thought it through and articulated it—I was surprise to discover that a writer, Gary A. Braunbeck, had seen a piece of my artwork and been so inspired by the story it suggested to him that he had written a story based on it and that the story had been published. I met two other writers who had done the same with other images of mine. I met a fourth writer who told me he had included a chapter in his then recently published novel inspired by one of my paintings. This gave me the idea of producing anthologies of stories based on my artwork. I approached numerous writers and was pleased to find them not only receptive to the idea, but downright enthusiastic. Currently there are three volumes, the Imagination Fully Dilated anthologies, each released by a different publisher, of stories based on my artwork.

“It wasn’t so much what was playing on the screen as the scene at the drive-in that we liked.”With senility, his memories of the old motor theatre had become mixed up.

My education is in fine art, but I learned from other illustrators the business of illustration. Even so, I lean on my fine arts background. My goal in producing paintings for publications is to create pieces of art that are commercial enough to sell the books for which they are produced, but leave their subject matter open to interpretation so that the pieces can also function as a fine arts creations.

Sometimes I think of my imagination as a muscle that when exercised regularly will perform better and better. I see it in two ways. Sometimes it’s the muscle of an eye that opens the iris to admit new and fresh ideas. Other times it is the muscle that surrounds and controls the birthing canal of my subconscious or creative mind. There are two kinds of exercises for it; those that condition it to flex and those that condition it to relax. The flexing type involves things like developing technique and learning about composition that help me to shape ideas. The relaxing types are more meditative exercises that help me to get out of my own way so that the curious, exploring, giddy child artist within can try new things, take risks, and hopefully offer up creations that are fresh and unselfconscious.

An Imagination Fully Dilated would be one from which ideas emerge easily. It was with this in mind that I came up with the title. Whether you are a creative individual who knows imagination well, or are like so many I’ve met who believe they have no imagination, I hope you have fun and will let me know what you think.

For more of the Imagination Workout, choose “Imagination Workout—Dilation Exercises” from Categories. This link will also take you to that category.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon