An artist friend recently asked me if I did anything particular to induce a dream state that was centered around my art. I've spoken about this in passing before but never really put it all together in one post. So here it is.
There is never one thing that I do to stimulate my sleeping mind to create art. That may be a funny way to state it, but that's exactly what my brain is doing. Its creating the dream version of the art before the art is actually physically created.
Several of my techniques stemmed from the nature of sculpture as my artistic medium. My mind grasps multiple dimensions better than a single dimension. I'm not saying these exercises don't work for paintings, I think they work for any creative medium. But sculpture takes a long time to create sometimes. To work on a piece for 200-300 hours is not uncommon. I developed the first technique because of this.
I call it the "fly-over" technique. Basically, once I was settled in bed with the light off, I would literally mentally fly over the sculpture in my head. Like a vampire bat, I would swoop in and experience the sculpture from every angle I could. I would not take notes of anything I saw though. I would just let the natural process of sleep take over while cruising over the days work. What often results is waking with greater clarity of the piece I am working on or new ideas and innovations to add to it.
I think if I did this exercise in the middle of the day it would not work nearly as well. There is something about jumping directly into the unconscious that is crucial to its success. The exercise itself is simple enough. What others find difficult is in not waking back up and wanting to jot down notes.
Don't be discouraged if you come up with nothing. This exercise isn't mean to create daily inspiration. But there will be those ahah moments when you first wake that will be very important to write down before you lose them. So keep a pen and paper near the bed!
One of the reasons I began this was because it was a form of meditation for me. I expected no results, so I was surprised when I got some.
The next exercise is one where I do expect results and often get them. I take an idea that is half formed in my mind and I focus on it. For example, an upcoming piece of a woman's face is partially conceived. I know what she should look like. I know what she is wearing. But I do not know any of the other details of the piece. I have no idea what should be around her. What background should be included. What color scheme to use. So I will focus on that woman and let my subconscious begin to meld the details together to complete the piece. And many times it works. I will wake the following day and have a much clearer picture of what I need to do to make the piece whole.
Again, I do not attempt to take notes the same night. I allow myself to fall asleep while thinking about the piece and let my mind do the work for me.
The last exercise really isn't directly related to sleep. I'm afraid I'm going to have to let you read about it in a separate link because I've already written upon it to some extent. I'd suggest you stop a moment and go check it out then return to the last portion of this entry.
I know this is a much more complex bit of brainstorming and it takes time to master. How it relates to sleep is that I am convinced that the unconscious mind sorts out these cubes while I am sleeping and I consider the possibility that while information is swirling around in my mind couples with the previous two exercises to create some unique and extraordinary ideas.
It is not uncommon for me to wake up with a sudden wealth of inspiration that is totally unrelated to the thoughts in my mind when I fell asleep. This says to me that my brain is working with more information than I am consciously supplying it.
This is one reason that I am literally a sponge for incoming information each day. I read about other artists, I observe technique, but I jump out of the arts also to study and learn about other things. It is not rare in my studio to have a documentary going on in the background while I work.
The funny thing is, if you were to ask me the details, I may not be able to give you more than a basic explanation of what I heard. The conscious mind is not processing the information, but the unconscious mind is! Its storing all that information up there and my cube exercise is sorting that information and adding to each of the problems its considering.
I can truly claim that I live and sleep art. I don't wake up hung over and feeling a lack of sleep (at least not from these exercises). I would like to think I feel more alive because it makes me want to get up each day and make what I envisioned.
The mind is an amazing tool. We take it for granted a lot of times, but it is truly a miracle that we as creators need to acknowledge and feed. The more we feed it, the more it feeds us back. This is the true nature of inspiration.
I hope this helps you!