02 January 2006

Visual thinking practice: Randomness

Randomness can be inspiring.

Leonardo Da Vinci used to find inspiration by looking at stains on the wall:

"I cannot forbear to mention ... a new device for study ... which may seem trivial and almost ludicrous ... [but] is extremely useful in arousing the mind ... Look at a wall spotted with stains, or with a mixture of stones ... you may discover a resemblance to landscapes ... battles with figures in action ... strange faces and costumes ... and an endless variety of objects ..."

Here's an exercise that will help you use random patterns for inspiration and hone your visual thinking skills. You'll need a deck of index cards and a cup of tea.

1. This one has a nice start for a Monday morning: Make yourself a cup of tea.

2. It's always a problem to decide how to dispose of the tea bag, right? Keep an index card near your desk or wherever you drink your tea. Place the tea bag onto the index card and let the card soak up the excess tea.

3. When the card is dry, look at the tea stain and see if you can find inspiration. What do the random shapes suggest?

4. Now follow your inspiration and make a simple drawing on the card

This could be a good way to make inspiration and creativity a natural part of every day. This can be a regular activity. Try placing the tea bag in different positions to create different patterns. Each morning you can have a cup of tea and sketch a little drawing from the previous day's index card. At the same time you can start a new one for tomorrow.

Imagine being able to look through a stack of index cards with a year's worth of inspiring drawings.

How about making it one of your resolutions for 2006?

If you don't like tea I'm sure you can find other ways to create interesting random patterns on an index card.

Here's an example of a tea stain drawing.

Visual thinking is the practice of using pictures to enhance your ability to solve problems, think about complex issues and communicate effectively. You can learn more about visual thinking in visual thinking school.

[Update: You'll see some great tea stain exercises in the visual thinking art blog (scroll down)]

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JJeffryes said...

As someone that suffers from insomnia, I worked out a nice way to both relax and achieve inspiration from randomness.

Lay down or sit in a comfortable recliner (you can do this standing up, but I don't recommend it). Tense and release all your muscles one by one. Then very carefully unwind all your thoughts. Stop thinking. Don't try to think about not thinking, instead just relax and let go until your logical mind completely stops trying to control things.

Now allow random thoughts, images, and concepts to leak into your mind. Do not think about them, only acknowledge them. Allow each one to explode or flow into the next idea. They will be linked in surprising ways. An old childhood teddy bear will lead to the color brown will lead to the smell of coffee will lead to horses will lead to a scene from a movie you saw years ago. Don't control it, just go along for the ride.

I'm not entirely certain how I figured out how to do this, other than practise (and lots of late nights trying to get to sleep). It's very similar to dreaming while awake, but less structured. I usually find it leads to insights and new ideas. And it helps me sleep.:)

Unknown said...

Wow. I will have to try this. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Cool.An inspiring different way of thinkin!Thanks for posting :)