ESSAY THIRTEEN – THE IMAGE STORY
If you’ve read along so far, maybe you are willing to go along with one of my main tenets, that it is more important for the prospective or developing artist to figure out how to access their own inner spirit and voice, than it is to worry about skill and craft. Technique can always be learned when you need it.
So, how do I find this inner muse? Why do all of us look at a blank page in our sketchbook, notebook or on a computer screen and wonder, “OK, where is all of this creativity?” To hearken back to the old Wendy’s ad, “Where’s the Beef?”
One of the easiest and richest sources for us to explore is our own memory. While memory is vast and all encompassing, I am referring here to a specific aspect of memory that I will call an “Image Story”.
An Image Story is name for your memory of a specific moment, relationship or event in your life that stands out from everything else. While we all have millions of memories, hearkening back to the kid who lived next door to us when we were six years old, to what we ate for dinner last night, most of these memories have no particular importance other than to record the event to which they are linked. A few images, however, are far more vivid, far more important to us - they are images that are never very far below the surface, and seem to represent to us moments of great importance. These are memories that not only recall but help us define who we really are.
These images are important. They are special, and their importance seems at first glance way out of proportion to what actually took place. They are often not major events such as marriage, a death, or a birth of a child, but for some reason they have that sort of significance. They are incidents or situations that “pop into our conscious”, unbidden, for no apparent reason. They may involve an action on our part, they might be linked to a trip or social happening, or they could exist as an isolate, and yet to us they feel like they have significance. They are important, even if we are not sure why.
One aspect of these images is that they are always personal. Although there may well have been other people who were present, we suspect those people do not place the same importance or value upon it. These are incidents that seem to rotate around us, and they are memories that focus our own feelings turned back upon ourselves. We know that although the specific event may seem commonplace in the telling, the reality is that there is far more than what is apparent. They are multi-layered and deep.
They feel like they are benchmarks - that they are epochal events, and that they define something important. Psychologists refer to a “peak experience”, an event or happening that is so significant that it is elevated far above mere normalcy. These Image Stories have that personal quality. Other memories and incidents are compared to it to establish a priority of importance and significance.
They also represent personal turning points in our lives. Though they may not have felt significant at the time, in retrospect we realize something happened here. They are defining and clarifying, they are crossroads traversed, bridges built, and rivers swum. They could represent the dawning of a new realization, a change in our direction, a new viewpoint or opinion, an introduction of a value or a belief. They are a confirmation. They are an affirmation of belief and self. They are the moments we learned to know ourselves a bit better or understood ourselves a bit more deeply.
They are important because they are such an integral part of who we think we are. We would be a different person if we didn’t have that memory, if we hadn’t lived the life that formed that memory. They are a window that allows us to see something beyond and something within - something worth knowing, seeing, understanding and certainly remembering.
OK, now I have offered a brief description and definition of the Image Story, and in the next section, I will offer some suggestions and guidelines as to how to find them, and what you can do with them. For now, let yourself wonder a bit about what I am getting at, and perhaps play with some of the thoughts that might emerge.