Writers especially, are always being asked, “Where do you get your ideas from?”
As a creator and performer of visual theatre, I realised the partial answer for me a while back. A lot of my best ideas come from day-dreaming visual aspects of concepts and allowing them to change shape and meaning, until something useable appears. And I believe the training for this lies in my favourite childhood game of Squiggles. Dad was keen on it, and I also played it often with my brothers. Here’s how it works: one person draws a non-specific squiggle and the other person finishes it by changing it into something recognisable.There were a few basic do’s and don’ts e.g. in the original squiggle no lines must cross. Certain easy solutions were banned: e.g.no mountain ranges.If it turns out a bit surreal then then a rational explanation is given e.g. “It’s a caterpillar eating a football”. I recall the co-operative nature of the game, which also helped dispel inhibition.
Seeing visual potential in an apparently random group of lines or shapes is a great intro to creativity. There is also an innate human tendency to help make sense of the world which tends towards seeing known images in unknown shapes. This is known as pareidolia, and is responsible for the “face on Mars” claim, religious images on burnt toast and so on.
Leonardo da Vinci said “if you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see diverse combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms.”
Paul Klee said that a line is a dot that went for a walk, and that a drawing is taking a line for a walk.
I read somewhere that John Lennon attributed the game of Squiggles to helping his creativity, though I’m not sure if he gave it that name.
It’s been a while since I was in my workshop creating anything new. I look forward to squiggling some new ideas!