Creativity in Mimesis

Many people are quick to pit mimetic tasks against creativity where early artistic training is concerned. However I would argue that creativity plays a significant role in even the most strict, convention building mimetic exercises.

Now while learning to draw and paint representationally won’t make you see “more accurately”—it can provide you with tools to attend to visual information in a more useful way—and sometimes that can involve a great deal of divergent creative thinking.

A few years ago, I took an interesting class on creativity through NYU with Neuroscientist Evangelia G. Chrysikou. One of the exercises we explored was the Alternative Uses Test. (Designed by J.P. Guilford in 1967, the Alternative Uses Test asks you to think of as many uses as possible for a simple object in a limited time.) It’s an interesting test—and one that has an analog here in early mimetic tasks.

Take these two images from our shape replication exercises. What do you see when you first look at each? Is there a gestalt image you see first? Or are there components you recognize prior to a “whole”? How many shapes do you see within each box? In a manner similar to the Alternative Uses Test—come up with as many interpretations as you can. Now, generally speaking, I would argue that while it is probably more attractive to draw such shapes from your initial interpretation–know that those responses might be carrying the greatest amount of conceptual contamination. I would recommend trying to draw them via your secondary or tertiary interpretation and then checking it against your first (bouncing between interpretations along the way much like you might with an ambiguous figure like the Necker cube.)

This is one way you can start to attend to visual information in differently—a way that just might be are more conducive to your observational representation efforts. .

Just sayin.


I guess this is following similar logic to turning the canvas upside down or in a mirror, so you’re seeing the same shapes differently and can address them on their own merit. so that pennant falling from a tower can become a laughing cat, and 90º pac-man is now a displeased punk rocker :slight_smile: though it’s obviously quicker to do this with the angling of a head than physically rotating the canvas. good stuff.


Whenever I see online things like “redneck limo” or “redneck swimming pool” I am always amazed at the creativity and hope the redneck in me will help my creativity.