An Artist’s Impression Of Our Imaginations

2015  Artwork Artists Impression Imagination article

If you’re new to making art, one of the things that can be slightly discouraging when you’re starting out is the huge gap between the picture you want to make and the picture that actually ends up on the page, canvas and/or screen when you’ve finished.

The interesting thing is that this never really goes away. Regardless of how good you get at making art and regardless of how much practice you have – your imagination will always come up with better-looking pictures than you can actually draw or paint. If you don’t believe me, here’s one of many examples of when it happened to me…

Recently, I’d thought about painting a picture of a cool-looking old train station in the rain. But, when I sketched this, it looked kind of boring.

So, I decided to start again and make a painting of a couple of trainspotters in the rain. I’d imagined that they’d both look very slightly gothic and kind of cool and/or cute in a nerd chic kind of way. I had a very clear idea of what they would look like, then I made this painting:

"Trainspotters" By C. A. Brown

“Trainspotters” By C. A. Brown

It looked nothing like the image in my mind! For starters, the train station was a lot further in the background than I’d imagined and, worst of all, the trainspotters looked like a down-and-out hippy and a 1970s librarian rather than the cute nerdy couple I’d originally imagined, who would have probably looked more like this:

(An artist's impression of my original idea for the people in the painting.)

(An artist’s impression of my original idea for the people in the painting).

So, if our art rarely looks exactly like what we imagine it to do, then how do we deal with this?

Well, there are several ways of dealing with it. Firstly, you can make your art almost completely spontaneously – without only the vaguest idea (at most) of what you’re going to draw and/or paint before you start drawing or painting.

I do this quite a lot of the time and this is an absolutely great way to avoid the disappointment of inevitably painting something crappier than the picture you’d originally imagined for the simple reason that there’s very little to compare your finished picture to.

Another way of dealing with it is to either acknowledge the difference between your art and your imagination and start making your next picture with low expectations. Or, even better, start making your next picture with a feeling of curiosity about exactly how different it will look from the image in your mind.

The latter of these two things is much better for the simple reason that a feeling of fascinated curiosity feels a lot better than a resigned feeling of low expectations does.

But, if you want to get really philosophical, then a good way to deal with the gap between your imagination and your finished artwork is to think of yourself as a journalist of sorts. After all, news shows and newspapers often feature “artists’ impressions” of scenes that cannot be photographed.

Sometimes, like with images of court cases in the UK, this is for legal reasons and sometimes, like with proposed building developments, this is for purely practical reasons.

Anyway, the “artists’ impressions” of scenes that cannot be photographed often look at least slightly different from what the scene in question either actually looked like or will look like. But, most people accept this fact for the simple reason that it’s an approximate visual representation of something that they otherwise wouldn’t get to see.

And maybe we should think about our own art in the same way? We may never have the skills to create completely accurate pictures of whatever is in our imaginations, but we can at least create an approximate “artist’s impression” of our own imaginations to show other people.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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