Thursday, January 01, 2009


The model is posed or the still life is set up, your drawing paper or canvas is mounted on your easel, your brushes or pencils are prepared, and it’s time to start.


Now, just look. Gaze at your subject, and look at how it really is, but in your mind’s eye begin to visualize. Visualize what your final drawing or painting will look like. See the light and feeling and gaze into it. Take time to record a very specific feeling and just look. You are looking at your subject but you are seeing your final artwork in your mind’s eye. You are visualizing the feeling of the final artwork.

Don’t make a mark until this vision of your artwork is detailed and specific. If you can observe yourself while you are visualizing, you will notice you are relaxing, losing your critical voice, detaching from your verbal brain, and your confidence and excitement for the work is building.

I first began to think about visualization some years ago when I heard an interview on the radio with a professor who experimented with teaching players to practice shooting basketball hoops through visualization. The group who practiced through visualization improved almost as much as players who practiced physically. The scientist described how he himself developed a visualization process, and realized if he visualized first he never missed a basket.

I realized that I already unconsciously do this when I draw or paint – I visualize the final outcome of my painting before I start. When I realized this, I started doing it consciously, slowing down and taking time to visualize. If while working I am feeling anxious and like the artwork is "getting away from me" I stop and visualize again. The image in my mind’s eye becomes more specific and detailed as I work, more specific and detailed than my painting will ever be; it’s a moving target on the horizon. But chasing an ever-refining intention pulls me further than I would ever get without a vision.

It actually works for just about everything. I recently sunk a pool ball with a perfect tap by practicing visualization (and I never play pool). It works for goals and dreams, too. So this year, instead of writing the detailed resolutions I usually write, I’ve just formulated a vision of what I want my life to look like, to feel like. It's still very specific, but not much about lists and plans. The more specific my vision, the closer I'll get to my goals.

Happy New Year!