Visual Imagination is an introductory course in
It is based on the premise that exploration,
discovery and discipline are fundamental to,
and a common ground for, all artists in the
" You can fill a man with knowledge
and all you will have is a man filled
with knowledge, but spark his
imagination and he can conquer the
Imagining is a type of conscious thought
that appears to be uniquely human.
Imagination may be defined as a basic
human capacity for creating mental images
and thoughts outside the context of one’s
Stated another way, imagination is the
faculty of consciously forming mental images
or concepts of that, which is not actually
present to the senses.
Imagination has many nuances (variations).
Although we will touch upon several of these at
different times in the course, perhaps the three
most common and fundamental types of
1. Reproductive imagination
2. Creative Imagination
Reproductive imagination refers to the ability to
recall images stored in one’s memory under
Remembering my sixth grade math teacher.
Do you remember your sixth grade math teacher?
Remember the time you were caught in a lie?
How embarrassing was that?
Can you remember an… embarrassing moment?
Creative imagination is the ability to recombine
former experiences stored in memory to create
new images directed at a specific goal, as an
aid in finding a solution to a problem, or to
create art or artifact.
Imagination, then, enables us to plan ahead,
to create, to worry, to jump to conclusions, to
make sweeping generalizations, to empathize
with others, to mentally escape a boring
situation (daydream) and thus entertain
oneself, and of course, to pretend and thus
entertain others as well.
This might provide a clue as to why study and
encourage imagination in the theatre?
Dr. Alan Leslie, the Director of the Cognitive
Development Laboratory at Rutgers
University claims that imagination gives us
clues to the basic architecture of the human
Imagination is an early manifestation of our
ability to transcend thinking about the world of
the here and now, and instead think about the
world as it might be, or even, as it might have
Imagination, Dr. Leslie says is an early
manifestation of our ability to transcend
thinking about the world of the here and now,
and, instead, think about the world as it might
be, or as it might have been (hindsight).
At this point the Doctor observes a curious
phenomenon, namely that as soon as a child
begins pretending, he or she is also able to
recognize pretending in others. This
constitutes for Dr. Leslie evidence of an early
indication that children have a “theory of
mind,” that is, the ability to understand mental
states in other people.
Dr. Leslie points out that the average child
begins pretend play at around 18 to 24 months.
Children have a “theory of mind,” that is, the
ability to understand mental states in other
Because children can, and do accept someone
else’s state of pretense, they enter and leave a
state of pretense seamlessly, without excessive
instructions, explanations, introductions, nor
Hence the essence of
Pretend activity in children often involves
interplay with an “imaginary friend” or “friends”…
someone who helps them work out
problems or explore
role, such as that of
a confidant, a
scapegoat, a proxy;
Children, do realize that the imaginary friend(s)
is not real.
None-the-less, parents and teachers, often
discourage this type of pretend behavior
particularly if it spills over into social situations.
Saving a seat in the
“Frazzles” might be a
little over the top.
And yet studies have shown that children
with an active imagination have a better
vocabulary, attempt to solve problems more
creatively, show greater empathy for others
and overall show less violent behavior
(because they work out problems in other
Although often suppressed in teens and adults,
pretense and imagining someone’s presence
continues to be a normal part of our lives.
We frequently “script out” a dialogue involving
someone else, either to “rehearse a
forthcoming scene” or sometimes to “replay a
scene with a different, usually more favorable
Authors, playwrights in particular, engage in
this type of activity a lot.
Dr. Paul Harris of the Harvard Graduate School
of Education points out that writers will often
speak about how their characters step out of the
novel or play and tell them what to say.
Whenever we read a play, a piece of fiction, or
watch a movie, we often identify with a
character or characters and become absorbed
in the experience on an emotional level. We
experience real, sometimes
deep, emotion even though we
are aware that the characters
are not real.
Theatre artists subsist and revel in the
creation, re-creation, animation (bringing to
life), and interpretation of characters, locales,
and ambiances (the mood felt at or from a
Studying imagination enables us to gain
insight into the processes of creative
thought that is so essential to innovative
What is imagination?
To re-iterate, imagination is the faculty
of consciously forming mental images or
concepts of that which is not actually
present to the senses.
In the next section we shall examine the
design process and the role that creativity
and imagination play within in that