Imagination Station: How I Come Up With Ideas

Imagination Station: How I Come Up With Ideas

Hi everyone!

Wow, the last time I blogged about anything was in February! This year is flying by and keeping me super busy. Somewhat luckily (and unluckily), I was forced to slow my roll this week by a bicycle accident - pun definitely intended.

This past week I went bike riding with my cousin's family. Within the first five minutes (literally, the first five minutes), I got going too fast and couldn't brake...and ran straight into a pole!

Truly, it was quite hilarious, but I ended up with a major hematoma (aka very nasty bruise) on my leg that swelled up to the size of a melon. I've been working from the comfort of my bed for the past few days, catching up on some things I had been putting off. However, this has been an excellent time to write a new blog post. So...here we go!


Whenever I attend a festival or show, I am usually asked or told one of the below statements:

  • "Where did this idea come from?"
  • "How do you come up with this stuff?"
  • "You have a great imagination!"
  • "I never would have thought of that!"

To be honest, I've never given a good answer to any of these questions or statements...because it's difficult to explain. Many people assume that I have been super creative my entire life, and that's actually not the case. So, today, I want to share a bit more about my "imagination journey" and how I form ideas today.


Let's go back in time...

First, there are two things you should know:

  1. Drawing and art have not always been my main passions. I started to be more interested in art toward the end of college, about 4 years ago.
  2. I like to think I was born with a big imagination, but I didn't know how to use it until recently.

I grew up in a creative household (my mom and dad are both artists), and I have always loved anything whimsical or imaginative. My mom was always searching for new, creative things for us to experiment with, which means I developed a wide variety of interests including dancing, reading, writing, filmmaking, music, baking, cooking...anything that lends itself to an artistic mindset.

On the flip side, I have always been extremely studious, serious, and quiet. School was very important to me. (So important, that I never made a B in a class...ever). As a result, I often didn't push the boundaries when it came to assignments or projects, and I had a very difficult time coming up with creative ideas, especially when under tight time deadlines. When a creative project would arise, my parents were always there to give me a push in the right direction, and I would go about the assignment from there.

When I was in kindergarten, I took a series of tests for a gifted program that my school offered. My scores were high in every category...except for one that was something along the lines of "out-of-the-box thinking," in which I scored lower than everyone else. Case in point: My younger self was studious and had an inclination toward imagination but it was not being used.


Fast forward a few years...

Toward the end of college, I took an art class that greatly influenced my ability to think creatively. The projects were difficult, and I often didn't know what to do. The guidelines were vague and our teacher expected us to simply figure it out. I credit this class (and my mom!) with helping to spark my imagination and teaching me how to come up with unique ideas...however painful and difficult it was. Below is one of my final projects from that class.

After college, while I was considering pursuing a Master's Degree for Studio Art, I researched all kinds of art - installations, illustrations, paintings, etc. I discovered artwork that was incredibly unique. Looking at art helped me to see how other people were coming up with ideas and piecing things together, which in turn helped me to think more creatively. (You really can learn so much from other people, and it's amazing how differently our minds work).


Ideas stem from a few places...

So...with all of that said, let's talk about where my ideas come from. The real answer is that every idea comes from a different place. Some come without too much thought; some take days to figure out. Some are inspired by walking outside; some are inspired by a cool birdhouse I saw online. Some are inspired by the season; some are inspired by the fact that I really love cats.

Of course, it's never that simple, so I'll go a little deeper. There are a few things that unify most of my ideas and drawings:

A love of nature. So many people ignore nature or take it for granted. Once, while waiting in a line of cars in the rural county where I live, I watched a turkey perilously cross the road multiple times. The entire process was hilarious and fascinating...but no one else seemed to notice. They were too busy on their phones. All of that is to say that I think people don't pay enough attention to nature, because it can teach us a lot about ourselves.

An interest in storytelling. Ah...this can be an entire blog post on its own. I love fairytales, fantasies, mysteries, and anything that is slightly off kilter. Part of the reason I love fairytales, for example, is because they can be fun and silly while still carrying a more serious message.

Collage and "incorrect" proportions. Maybe you've noticed, but I don't draw things realistically. That is, my drawings have a semi-realistic look, but things are not always in proportion. (This is partially why I describe my art as slightly surreal). Often, my drawings take the form of a collage, where I'm combining multiple elements for a certain effect or reason rather than for the sake of realism. (Let's be honest...this ice cream sundae is huge in comparison to this raccoon! Or, maybe he's just bringing the world's largest ice cream sundae to the party? The truth is, that it doesn't really matter, because the proportions don't detract from the overall effect. In fact, I think they further the funny-ness of the drawing).


The importance of confluence

The most important part of coming up with an idea for me is what I am going to call "whimsical confluence." Confluence, by its dictionary definition, is the merging or combining of two different things. Neil Gaiman, an author I have been reading recently, has spoken about how coming up with a story is simply confluence. You take one element, combine it with another element, and that's the basis for a story.

For me, it's important that my ideas are unique and twist reality in a fun, meaningful way. I like to take two really different things that might not typically go together and combine them.

Let's take the Insect House series as an example. While browsing bird houses online, I came across a few whimsical bird homes in different shapes and colors. "That would be fun to draw," I thought, "But...I wish it didn't have to be a house for birds, because that's to be expected." After letting the idea ruminate in my mind for a bit, I had an image in my mind of bees crafting honeycomb inside one of those whimsically shaped homes, and so the concept of the insect house was born.

Or, take the Fruit Princes. This idea came about a little differently, in that I wanted to make a garland with birds that could be hung from the ceiling. But...I didn't just want to draw birds, because that would be boring (for me, anyway). I drew a basket on one of the bird's backs and debated what he should carry. After doing some research, I discovered that many birds enjoy eating fresh fruit. Perfect. Each bird will carry a different fruit. And just to further the idea even more, each will be the "king" of their fruit and wear a crown to match.

One more example. The Royal Ringbearer. I wanted to create a drawing that could be used as a wedding card, and thought a mouse's tail would be the perfect way to transport two wedding bands. But...how could I further that idea? If the mouse is carrying the rings, he's probably in charge of bringing them to the wedding. Perhaps a royal wedding. So, I combined the initial idea of the mouse with the idea of the traditional ringbearer and voila! The Royal Ringbearer was born.


Basically, there's no one way I come up with ideas. Each drawing and idea is completely unique from conception to execution. The main thing is that I try to come up with a unique way of bringing two separate things together.

I think this is a good place to stop for now, before I get lost in a tangent! If you have specific questions or want to know more about idea-creation, send me a message online or on social media. I'm always happy to discuss anything and everything art related.

Hope you have the best week ever!

Mackenzie

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