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5 Visualization Exercises for Artists

Embrace Childlike Curiosity
The first step toward creating art is learning how to perceive the world around you in a unique way. Yes, we have to learn this; or rather, we have to re-learn this. Think about how you saw the world as a child. There was always something new and fresh to discover, and it seems that a child's curiosity can overwhelm even the best parent's ability to always have an answer. Try to take back that inner child and look at the work around you with fresh eyes.

Untrain Your Eye
Ours eyes are trained to automatically recognize patterns so that we can function in a world of communal organization. Take, for instance, road signs. Red means stop and green means go. Without a collective understanding of these rules and patterns, driving would be haphazard and dangerous. Now look at these signs without the thought for what they "mean". (We recommend you DON'T do this while actually driving.) Let your eye see what is there, and not what your brain assumes will, or should, be there. Removing your bias for what you think you will see will help you to grasp visual freshness.

Observe Rather than Participate
Step away from your daily commute, and look around the world with an "observer's eye" rather than a participants. What things do you see? What are the underlying patterns? Perhaps it's how people hold their mouth when walk down a certain flight of stairs. Maybe the pattern is when a certain flock of birds moves from one place to another. Allow the world to function around you while you sit an observe; remove your participation and simply look.

It may sound like a stereotype, the squinting artist, but squinting is one way to change how your eye sees the physical world in front of you. Objects lose detail and become impressions of how they appear realistically. This might not be the style in which you want to create, but physically changing how your eyes see the world can lead to a mental change in your perception.

Connect Analogies and Metaphors
Have you ever heard that, from a distance, human beings look like ants, going about their daily business? These kinds of connections are incredibly important to creative thinking, and thus have a place in visualization. This is about how we perceive our world, and the kind of connections, inferences, and similarities we can draw from two seemingly unrelated things. Blinking street lights look like fireflies, steam from manhole covers is like the steam that emits from geysers and hot springs,office buildings are like beehives, and on and on.

The equation of visualization comes down to three simple things: Perceive. Connect. Create.