How to Train Your Imagination

Guest Post by Mary Lou Blackledge

What sets humans apart from the many species of life on the planet is our ability to imagine and our desire to create.  When the human brain engages itself in a creative way, looking for inventive possibilities in familiar patterns, new solutions in every field of work and life become possible. No less a cerebral megastar than Albert Einstein wrote, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Our world is looking for new inspiration, but we have to hone our imagination to ignite ourselves and to develop the eyes with which to envision new journeys, new possibilities.

Eden. ©Mary Lou Blackledge

The Last Eden, acrylic on paper, 36×26-inches. ©Mary Lou Blackledge

The artists of the Abstract Expressionist movement sought to use the power of the unconscious mind as they created their massively innovative works. They believed that simply reporting on what was already visible to the eye was an insufficient starting point. That said, my own initial forays into painting were that of a “pictorial reporter.” For years I focused on representational architectural street scenes. I felt safe doing that. I knew that I could conquer perspective and illustrate the familiar contours of the physical world. But my evolution has called on me to search beyond the familiar, and the safe and the known, for visions that emerge from the unseen portals of consciousness. By sourcing my work from an inner perspective, I aim to create works that unleash my, and your, imaginations.

Blue Note,  Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 30",  ©Mary Lou Blackledge

Blue Note. acrylic on canvas, 36×30-inches. ©Mary Lou Blackledge

I work with an intense and lively palette. I do not premeditate a composition but instead apply the color with movement and with eyes wide open in surprise and delight. I hope that the viewer will have a similar experience when entering my paintings… a visceral attraction to the colors and then an exploration of the elements suggested by the forms within the composition. I develop many narrative elements within the painting which I hope will be doorways to an individual visual and emotional journey. For example, in my painting “Blue Note,” imagine a hot jazz club in New York City: can you see the clarinet, the ties of the trio of jazz musicians, the noise and heat and movement of the city?

The Improper Gentleman, Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 30"

The Improper Gentleman, acrylic on canvas, 36×30-inches. ©Mary Lou Blackledge

“The Improper Gentlemen” is an amusing portrait (yes, a portrait!) of an outwardly proper gentleman (can you see his little hat, his portly belly, his pressed slacks, his eyes slung absurdly outside his face as if to see better, and… use your imagination now!)  But that is just what I see. Venturing into abstract painting, as an artist or a viewer, is an excellent way to forge into new color or structural territory, but also to learn not to flinch at the metaphysical surprises which always seem to follow a creative seeker… and an excellent way to fertilize your imagination.

A good example of drawing the viewer into an abstract work with narrative elements is my painting, “The Archaeology of Dreams.” It presents as an abstract painting, with layers of color and revealed marks. But a closer look reveals a number of odd and intriguing figures which may, or not, be connected. Is this a story? Is it a dream? I think a good painting is one which draws the viewer in, emotionally and visually. Who is the little girl in the sparkly party dress and why is she peering on her tip-toes through an open door? Who is that lone man jogging slowly through the rain with a large umbrella? Is the girl waiting for him? Who is the woman on the hilltop? Is the waterfall her tears? Why is there a strange tunnel in the mesa and where does it lead? What happened to the abandoned city and why is there a cow in the foreground, drinking placidly from a clear pond?

© Mary Lou Blackledge -  The Archeology Of Dreams

The Archaeology Of Dreams, acrylic on canvas, 30×30-inches. ©Mary Lou Blackledge

I trust that you will, as you look at non-representational paintings, allow yourself to travel, to see things that no one else can even imagine.

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