This summer at the Stanford Inn I had the opportunity of doing an Imagination Playshop with Joan Stanford. Joan’s approach is not dependent on having artistic ability. Through her workshop my understanding of the purpose of creating art was expanded. I have come to see how it has the potential to explore and organize scattered ideas and provide unique personal insights. In this blog post I am sharing more specifics of my personal playshop and some of the art I have created since.
To begin the playshop, Joan shared a bit about her process (much of this is outlined in her book) and what she thought we may do with our time. She gave me a couple options for projects. I decided that I wanted to do a vision map. I don’t usually have a clear idea where I am going, and I figured it would be interesting to explore that. The process that followed ended up being a long one (only because my artistic process is slow. This is not a judgement statement, just a reality of the time it took.) Joan and I did a couple activities together to get started. I didn’t initially know that I would collage. I was hoping to make it more multi-media than that, but I kept gravitating toward the pictures, and the process unfolded. The final product can be seen below.
This piece is done on an unused cardboard pizza round. When I finished this piece there were so many ideas going through my brain. Joan was generous with her time and encouraged me to write about the piece. I wrote several pages and we talked. During our conversation it fascinated me how she saw different relationships and drew different conclusions than I did. They were all correct. The college created a space for a different sort of conversation about sustainable choices.
My conclusion was that the final college served as an expression. Rather than a map of my future, it was a map of the ideas that circled in my head, thoughts I had been trying to synthesize. Some of these thoughts were ones I had had before I visited the Stanford Inn, and others were additions, but this collage was a unique organization of those ideas that allowed me to see how they dynamically connected to one another.
I have done art since elementary school, and as I have grown up I have been challenged by the production/result mindset that became the focus. This piece served as a beginning for me. It allowed me to see how art can serve the individual as compared to the individual serving the art. Pressure was removed because this process was for me. And whether it became something I would want to put on a wall, or toss aside in a drawer and shred later, the process was the focus rather than the result. The purpose was the synthesis of ideas that emerged through the process. This type of creation is as a form of mindfulness. It drew many concepts from my sub-conscious into a form that I could handle and explore.
Needless to say, I liked this process so much that I made more!
This next piece I made at the same time I was exploring the work of Thich Nhat Hanh. I was looking at destruction of the sacred. I had been particularly sad the week before and was looking for solutions.
In the next I incorporated my experience in the inn’s biointensive garden, books I was reading in the Stanford Inn lobby, and my academic anthropological studies.
This last piece I finished right at the end of my stay at the inn, and serves as a representation of the fun times I shared with my friend over the summer.
In any case, I cannot encourage this process enough. Although a vision map typically explores the future, I found that it was particularly more interesting to explore the present, and a good reminder to recreate the past. If you would like to learn more about this process, it is described beautifully in Joan Stanford’s book which was released this summer, The Art of Play: Ignite Your Imagination to Unlock Insight, Healing, and Joy. I wish you all the best exploring this process for yourself. For me, it was enlightening.