Images, imagination and feelings

When we create art, we are creating images. There are several things at work during the process of creating these images – creativity, imagination and emotions or feelings. All need to be present for the piece of art to hold meaning for us, or to be used to express thoughts and emotions.

Creativity can be seen as the product of imagination and feelings or emotions; but what is the connection between imagination and emotion, and why are they both needed to create images? That is the question we are going to explore in this lecture.

Understanding emotions

Emotions are the states we enter into when we experience certain thoughts or situations that resonate with us on a personal level. If we see an accident we may feel sadness at the situation, anger towards the cause of the accident and even fear that it could have happened to us. There is a personal connection because it could have happened to you. As a result of these feelings you may visualise images of your potential responses to the situation; some of these may be fanciful, while other may be acted upon, such as helping at the scene or becoming involved in a safety campaign. So, emotions underpin our responses and our actions.

The role of imagination

Imagination is the building of mental images of different possibilities, flights of fancy and ideas. I can imagine anything, and in doing so, build a mental representation of it. Imagination can be based on actual events that are reimagined, it can also be based on our future desires, as we discussed in an earlier lecture. We become invested in these mental images created by our imaginations because they hold emotional resonance for us. The more invested we are in the image, the more detailed our imagination and therefore the image becomes.

Another way that imagination and emotions are connected is when we try to see ourselves from an external perspective. For example, if you feel embarrassment, it is because you are imagining yourself from someone else’s perspective and building an image of how you think they see you. Where this image is negative, then embarrassment, shame and even fear can be the emotional results.

Guilt is another emotion that occurs from seeing yourself from an external perspective, but in this case, it can also be because you are looking at your actions retrospectively, so you are looking at your younger self, through the eyes of older, more experienced you.

Why is this important?

When you are taking part in arts therapy techniques and activities, you may be overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings, many of which may take you by surprise. However, allowing these emotions to form images in your mind, which your creativity can interpreted and translate onto the page, or other medium, it helps you to order, understand and move on from those emotions.