Thursday, May 30, 2013

Picture This

I first discovered the wisdom of Shakti Gawain's New Age classic "Creative Visualization" in the 1980s, when I was a full-time secretary with a high school diploma, struggling to pay the rent but secretly wishing I could do something creative with my life. Her ideas helped me transform my "oh, whatever" existence into exactly what I wanted it to be.

My favorite of the techniques described in her book was "treasure mapping," in which you combine a group of images depicting exactly the experiences you desire and view your collage or "treasure map" regularly. Back when I was seated in my cubicle, typing letters and fielding incoming calls, I truly wanted to teach art at a college. I had no teaching experience or even a degree in art, but that's what I wanted. Inspired by Shakti's book, I found a wonderful photo of a teacher in her classroom with a group of 20-year-old students gathered around her. I still remember it vividly, the way they were all smiling into the camera. I taped a photo of my face over the face of the teacher in the photograph, in the correct size so that it looked like her body was believably mine, and then taped it to the wall in my bedroom.

Well, the transformation from office drone to college instructor didn't happen overnight. But I did eventually create a successful and rewarding career as a teacher, and you can bet that keeping that photograph of what I wanted where I could regularly see it helped to direct me along my path.

I thought of the treasure-mapping technique again this morning, and decided to revisit it in order to manifest the perfect exhibition space for my latest series, which is coming to completion.

I'm blogging about this in case other artists might also find this to be an effective way to bring about desired results for exhibiting their work. Here's what I've done: type the words "empty art gallery" into Google images and look over all of the different kinds of exhibition spaces that come up. Seeing the vast possible varieties will help you define exactly what you desire in an ideal environment for your particular body of work. What size do you prefer for the space? Do you want long open walls for large expansive pieces, or do you want small intimate nooks for smaller and more detailed works? Do you want one room or several connecting rooms? Natural light from a skylight, or directed lighting from spotlights? Et cetera.

Then print out one or two pictures of spaces that appeal to you and create your treasure map. You can also collage images of your artwork into the picture, simulating the final appearance of your ideal exhibit. If you display the treasure map on a wall in your home or studio where you will see it on a regular basis, you will manifest exactly the experience that you have pictured.

This will happen in both practical and mysterious ways. For example, you might be offered an exhibition opportunity that, you realize upon reflection, isn't quite right for your work. So you decline and wait for the right opportunity to come along, thus saving yourself and the others involved time and trouble. This realization is the direct result of having considered and created the treasure map, because that activity brought you clarity of mind. But the map will also work for you in undefinable ways, when somehow the "inner knowing" part of yourself draws the perfect experiences into your life.

Of course this doesn't mean that you don't do the "real stuff" in addition to visualizing. You must develop a strong body of work, get the word out about yourself as an artist, view a range of artworks by other artists for ideas and inspiration, etc. But the treasure map gives you that extra little EDGE that ensures you're headed on the path you really want to take.

And best of all, the practice of envisioning the perfect future is just plain FUN.

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