Visual Spacial Creativity

In my previous blog about Creativity I came to the conclusion that ‘me in my studio’, my mini “Institute for Curiosity” should:

  • change all the time: size, dimensions, values, colors, sounds…
  • limit until the absurd, then invite chaos.
  • create problems.
  • provide problem-inventors.
  • make things more complicated.
  • help asking Why? from the beginning.
  • offer a search for unthinkable questions.
  • explain why we better ask Why? instead of How? and What?
  • and be good at teaching How? to What?

Thinking about my mini institute for curiosity and how to set up my studio, I started drawing a logo. This turned out way more complicated than necessary. This is something I do all the time and this drawing shows that: I thought of the big picture, I created some kind of complicated chaos and now I must try to narrow it down to something understandable.

This is not a coincidence, I am a visual-spacial-thinker. In this talk (see below)  Linda Silverman explores the way the creatively gifted children work and learn and how to facilitate the visual-spatial learner at school. She explains this much better than I do:

This talk teaches how gifted creative people think and learn. Maybe you recognize yourself to be one of the two types she is describing? I want to learn from Visual-Spatial thinkers, how we can be more creative. They tend to:

  • Think Top – down
  • Be keen observers
  • Look at the big picture
  • Have Aha! moments
  • Think in Images and Feelings.
  • Come up with unusual solutions
  • Lose track of time
  • Intuitive

People who are good at visual – spacial thinking tend to synthesize ideas, to connect. Connecting seemingly unconnected ideas can trigger discovering unusual solutions, ask unusual questions, create unusual problems. Pulling ideas apart in pieces and analyse those bits in a logical order, is what the other side of the spectrum does: the audical sequential thinker. These are the thinkers that score high in traditional school settings. That is all good, but how does this knowledge help you get creative? 

How to get people think creative?

I think, it will help audical sequential thinkers come up with something innovative, when they try what visual – spacial thinkers are good at: associative and dissociative visualizing. Visual artists are very good at this: while drawing, all kinds of creatures and objects get intuitively combined. A good way to create a completely new image of commonly known objects, like the melted watches of Dali. Drawing in itself is already a great exercise in getting a visual spacial mindset. But I also know a better exercise then drawing from doing impro cabaret.

Learn to associate / dissociate

This is an exercise I learned doing impro cabaret. Let’s start with the word ‘beach’.

Associating with beach, we could come up with: beach, sand, sunburn, sea, water, towel, sun-cream.

The audical sequential thinker will come up with this story: A woman went to the beach and took suncream with her to prevent a sunburn, because she knew that sea water druplets makes your skin burn more easily.

The visual spacial thinker will come up with: A cat went to the beach and took sun-cream with her to prevent a sunburn. But the cream got stuck in her hair. The cat tried a towel to get it off, but the only way to get the cream of was to swim in the sea. This poor cat!

Dissociating from beach, we could come up with: Beach, balloon, train, banana, snake, paperclip.

The audical sequential thinker will come up with: It was the birthday of my niece and she wished for balloons. The party was at the beach, I took a train and bought three balloons for her there. They were shaped like a banana, a snake and a paperclip.

The visual spacial thinking, will come up with: A snake went to the beach and took a balloon with him. He needed that to prevent people from stepping on his tail. At the station he cllipped that balloon on his tail with a paperclip. At the beach, he kept it on, even swimming in the sea. Every one looked at the horizon and saw a flying banana at sunset.

This is how this exercise works for audical sequential thinkers:

Dissociating helps you come up with the unexpected, helps you create random chaos. That, what programmers use in Artificial Intelligence to enhance creative programs. Now, describe an environment in words, associating from any inital word. Then, think of something opposite from that environment. Write down a list of items common for that environment and choose an element of that list. Use that word to associate from, describe that environment in words. Think of the opposite again….make a list….etc…Do that a few times, collect the listed items. Keep them in the chaotic order of that list. Now, associate between those items to get a coherent, but non – ‘logical’ story.

This helps you organize the chaos you created, in a way that the creativity you added won’t get marginalized by reasoning. The outcome will be something you can only imagine, it can’t be ‘for real’. You thought of something completely new. You could use the structure of a story line, as described in ‘The anatomy of Story’ by John Truby, to mould the story in a well known format. I find that a nice way to organize a story.

I think that people who are good at thinking auditory – sequential, will benefit from expanding visual – spacial skills and exercises like this, to help them come up with the unexpected. Of course, the other way around: I will have to learn from them how to organize sequential systems, listen better, narrow down and be reasonable.

Add sensory input

To enhance creativity more, let’s look at a drawing exercise. The lesson was about adding more sensory elements, while drawing a banana. You draw a banana: first you watch, you draw, then you smell, you draw, then you touch, you draw, then you eat, you draw. You let those experiences influence the drawing. We found that every-one during that lesson had added something new after each experiencing: colors, lines, shadows… very different things from the same experience.

Materials available

The next step in my journey is adding new materials to my music studio, and create a mini institute for curiosity. I have now combined music with drawing supplies, poetry and textiles. What I want to experience is, whether the input of the sensation of fabric, wool, threads, felting, will change the way my music sounds. I hope to inspire composers to add  ‘strange’ material to their studio to enhance sensory input to enhance creativity.

The next series of blogs will explore what it does for me: I will write a musical quilt made out of 5 – 7 – 5 haiku’s, inspired by ‘La Voz del Viento’ and ‘en la Estation’, haiku’s by Alejandra Darriulat . I will use Schönberg’s ‘Models for Beginners in Composition’, especially the notes used by Schönberg to teach Alban Berg, to inspire the harmony theory used. This model should help visual spatial learners by it’s organisation. And I will combine writing music with creating textile art and make a felted quilt with the music. This project is created for the Institute for Creativity and the music will be written for their ensemble Torch ( ).

All thinkable connections can now be explored: how the soundcolors of the ensemble inspire the coloring of the quilt, how the poetry influences rhythms or the use of materials. How the form of the quilt and the music are inspired by the form of the haiku. It will be an interesting journey. 

By Anneloes Wolters


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