Imaginary Monsters

April 13th, 2008

My last class at Artfest was with Theo Ellsworth and it was so much fun! Ellsworth had such a wonderfully weird way about him. He told us about some of the things he does to pass the time using his imagination, such as having a third arm which can reach out to the horizon and pet the sun or the mountains, or could reach around the world and put its hand on your own back. My favorite imagination tip that he shared was one he used in places like a boring party or a long line. In these situations he would imagine the room filling with water (the humans become amphibians) and schools of fish would be swimming between people. He said that this would somehow make him feel more connected to every one there. I totally loved his ideas and I wished I'd had them at the beginning of Artfest just to try out in such an unusual environment.

The class was about communicating with your inner critic and involved one of my favorite activities...doodling. We were given sheets of paper shaped like a head to work on. On the first page we drew with our eyes closed to a long song thinking about our inner critic. And then we opened our eyes, looked at our doodles, and pulled out the images we saw there. The hubster particularly loved this page. He said it showed the crazy inner-workings of the mind and he could understand it. The big blue areas were made with a Chartpak marker. I had thought they were Copic markers (I had a couple of those too), but later I looked back and saw that they were Chartpak. I loved the way the ink flowed out with these markers. It was paint-like and luscious.

This next page was about taking your inner child out to play and we were to draw with our non-dominant hand only to help us get in touch with that part of ourselves. It was definitely interesting to draw with my left hand. All attempts at control were pointless, but I enjoyed it. I ended up creating all sorts of creatures in the tree and the girl reminds me a bit of a Red Riding Hood or Alice type of figure.

On the third page we drew in a way I never had before....we drew with both hands at the same time! I thought it would be a lot harder than it was. We were making a mirror image with each hand. Sometimes my left hand would lag a little behind, but it all worked out. One of the shapes on both sides looked like a bird. Again, we'd find images to work with in this drawing with the focus being on your inner voice.

On this page we were given free reign to draw intuitively with the focus being on the inner monster within and how it turns our "garbage" into beautiful things. I was thinking a bit about my experiences with depression and anxiety and how I've used those experiences to help me create my art. Through making art out of my sadness, I often feel better. Through making art, I can create a sense of hope.

In the last page we were told to integrate all these pages/parts of ourselves into a self-portrait that combines our inner and outer worlds. I did this one intuitively as well, letting the pen move. The swirly lines around the eyes turned into birds without my even realizing it! There were all sorts of little ties between these pieces, the birds (which I was later visited by after class and led to the beach), and red yarn which first made an appearance in a visualization which inspired "Bring Love." The red yarn in these drawings wound around tree branches, in and out of bird nests and carried in bird beaks. Mermaids and whales were also in many of the drawings. All in all, it was a very interesting, relaxing, and illuminating class for me. I especially liked learning some new ways to play with my imagination and hearing from another quirky artist who wasn't afraid to share the way his mind worked. I loved this quote that he shared at the beginning of class:

"For every imaginary problem, there is an imaginary solution." -Theo Ellsworth

14 Responses

I came here via your lovely Moo card, that I got at Artfest. I love what you created in Theo’s class! I hope he teaches again, because it looks like a blast. He is quite a guy. I am drawn to the black birds too, and I love your art!!

Wow, these are so beautiful, Leah! What wonderful ideas to shift around our ways of creating… I like them all very much, but the inner monster one really just speaks to me sooooooo much. Thank you for sharing all this with us!

these are so very nice. I have not seen anything quite like them before. lovely

These are doodles on steroids, Leah ! What a wonderful experience! So cool to be guided by such an imaginitive mind as Theo’s in an activity you already love ! I checked out his website. Wow ! His work really feels like glimpses into another person’s imagination and yet so approachable at the same time.
Thanks for sharing all the intitmate details. I especially loved the piece showing your inner monster and how it helps turn our “garbage” into something more. I share that battle with depression and anxiety and I really felt the image of the lock in between the two parts. Picking up a paint brush or a pen or the glue and paper is my key to unlocking the brighter side as well. It made me want to doodle the day away and see what I find !
Take care, Kim

This is the first class you’ve mentioned that I wished I been on! Wow!

And your heads are incredible. I especially love the final one where you pull it all together.

Well done for such a great outcome.

These drawings are so beautiful that I had to stop what I was doing (reading a zillion blogs about Artfest) and comment. Theo must be an amazing teacher to come up with such wonderful exercises that draw something so unusual out of the students; yours are certainly precious and while I’m sure they are full of personal meaning they also reach out and relate on a univeral level. Really exquisite. xo

This is really just amazing, Leah. Not only the exercise, but the end results. I’d love to see a wall filled with 100 different people’s answer to this challenge. I imagine it would be jaw-dropping. Thanks so much for sharing this and for the never-ending inspiration.

These are great! Thank you for sharing them.

Hi Leah!. I liked the 4th one best. It looks like a Bird’s Eye view to me. This was all very inspiring. I think it is about letting yourself go and trusting yourself. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Leah, thank you for sharing the class. This looks as if it was a terrific class!

Wow–this looks like it was a totally fun class to take!! Very liberating I bet!

i love this concept leah! i think i’m going to share this with the survivors on my message board.

I came across a blog
yesterday and I’ve been thinking about a challenge that they had posted. It was to create one piece that signified growth and to create a companion piece that signified decay. When I saw the different pieces that you created in Theo’s class it reminded me of this challenge. I think that it’s an interesting idea to create companion pieces that signify opposites. I haven’t figured out how I would do it yet, though.

These are incredible! I would like to try something like this with my art students. What beautiful art! Roxanne

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