scribble drawing


Revised January 8, 2019


Interactive Guided Imagerysm (IGIsm) assists a person to enhance awareness of their unconscious imagery, and helps one learn to use this imagery to support their learning, growing, healing, and fullness of being. While the most common usage of this method is through direct interaction with imagery in the imagination, IGIsm can also be used with the making of art as a way to combine two powerful, and enjoyable processes into one.

The use of IGIsm with art is a natural- they have in common an emphasis on the image as a way of knowing. It can be a small step from one to the other if one considers the images that arise in one to be of the same attributes and from the same basic source, the imagination. An important part of learning how to use both IGIsm and art-making for the purpose of learning, growing and healing is the ability to recognize which images are significant and to become skilled at how to listen and dialogue with them. Another important issue of the use of art-making with guided imagery is that the act of making art is, in part, a physical experience and can add to the imagery process an orientation to the physical body that can appeal to those for whom knowing through body movements is significant. This physicality can also add grounding and centering aspects to the process. While other forms of art such as music, poetry, and dance/movement can also be used similarly, we focus here on graphic art, drawing in particular, for its ease of use and similarity to the imagery process.

Because of the natural similarity of IGIsm and art making, it is easy to move back and forth between them. One can simply have a dialogue with images that arise in the activity of making art and just as effortlessly make art of the images that arise in the process of interaction with imagery. And further, to deepen the relation between the two, one can move easily back and forth from imagery to art to imagery while sustaining the interactive dialogue with the imagery. Please try the exercises provided to see basic examples of these two methods.

Imagery Dialoguing from Art

The process of making art can be understood as a continuing conversation with the art medium and the ensuing imagery along with its meanings. One may overcome artistic blocks as well as deepen their relationship to the art-making process by dialoguing with the images that arise.  This may be done periodically as a way of “checking in” with the images or may be done any time when it seems appropriate. Some appropriate times might be when one feels stuck with what to do next; when one is surprised by something that happens in the process such as an accident or something unexpected like a paint drip or a smudge that results in drawing attention in a particularly good or bad way; or when an image or some aspect of the imagery in the work seems to take on a kind of liveliness which draws attention. In particular, the perceived quality of liveliness in an image is often a reliable indication that there is good potential for rich results from the interaction process. The quality of liveliness is an indication, it could be said, that there is an image “trying to communicate”. Or from another point of view, one could say that the quality of liveliness is an indication of a kind of excitement as a result of one’s attention becoming aware of the arising of information. Whether one understands the perception of liveliness in the image as a perception of an external or internal event, following that perception to the dialogue will help to expand one’s relationship to the imagery in the art.

There are several ways one may follow the awareness of the potential for interaction with imagery in the art-making process. For example, at the time of any of these events one may simply greet the image, thank it for coming, and ask it what it has to tell you or show you that you need to know. Or, after greeting it and thanking it for coming, ask it why it has come, or why it has come at this moment. Because this is taking place in conjunction with the art-making process, one can fairly expect a dialogue to lead to awareness of further action to take with the art medium. This could be called dialoguing in, as in dialoguing with imagery in the process of making art. Often a dialogue in this context will be about the art-making process itself, and about how it can be further developed. But sometimes a dialogue with an image even in this context will carry you away from the art-making for a time. The important distinction here is that the interaction with the image takes place during, and in combination with, the use of the art medium.

Art to Imagery Dialogue

The dialogue that arises from the art process differs from the one that arises in the art process in that dialoguing in comes during the art making, although it may result in briefly stopping the art-making to carry on the dialogue. The dialogue that arises from the art process is one that sometimes requires a stopping of the art process and often takes place in a deliberate break from the art-making or after the art-making process. The same content may arise from the dialoguing with either method. The main difference is that in the dialoguing in method, there is more likelihood of generation of information that will support the continuation of the art making, while in the dialoguing from method it is more likely to go beyond the art-making into a deepening of the imagery. Either method may also produce any of these results depending on the skill and intention of the practitioner.

I often use the dialoguing from method in therapy sessions and workshops where clients first dialogue directly with their imagery; then make art which illustrates or continues the dialogue; then, after some discussion with me, if necessary, to help them to find the liveliness in the art images or other possibilities that seem to have potential for rich and rewarding imagery dialogue, return to the dialogue with their images.

Also, I often use the dialoguing from methodin therapy sessions when clients complete a piece of work or bring one in to the session from home. I have found it to be remarkable in how many instances work that is brought into the session has some lively image that becomes quite fruitful in the therapy process. It seems clear to me that people have a sense of importance or significance of an image experienced in the artwork or in a particular image in the work, even though they may not be able to articulate in language the specifics of it. There is awareness, though, that there is something important about this piece, even though attempts at clarification in language do not fully satisfy the maker. This appears to be an example of the manifestation of various kinds of knowing beyond language and rational thought. With the use of interaction with the imagery in the piece, one can not only understand it more deeply and find language to help that understanding, but also can expand their awareness of themselves and learn skills to continue to do this autonomously.

Two Exercises

Art-making to Imagery:

Try this simple scribble exercise to combine art-making and Interactive Guided Imagerysm.

1) Gather together a blank sheet of paper at least 8.5” x 11” in size and some colorful pastels, oil pastels, or crayons.

2) Sit or stand before these materials for a moment and allow yourself to be centered and relaxed until you feel ready to go on to the next step.

3) Choose a color from your drawing materials that attracts you at that moment. Using your non-dominant hand, scribble freely and spaciously on the paper, without conscious intention to draw with any particular meaning or form other than to stay on the page. Stop before the page becomes too dense.

4) Take the page on which you have just drawn and hold it up and away from you, so that you can see it from a new and different perspective than while drawing it.

5) Now look at the drawing to find objects in the scribble that may be defined fully or partially, and may be formed by any combination of the lines and the spaces created by them. Turn the paper around in any direction to find possibilities. Trust your feelings and other intuitions about the presence of an image or partial image.

6) When you identify an object, or the suggestion of an object, use the crayons or other art materials to enhance the presence of the image by reinforcing the outline, coloring it in, completing undrawn parts, and generally developing the image that has become manifest with whatever means are effective to bring out the image.

7) When you feel that the image is described and developed enough to satisfy you, stop your work on it and put away the art supplies for now.

8) Dialoguing from: To begin the dialogue with the newly arisen image, simply greet it and thank it for coming, and ask it what it has come to tell you or show you, being open to whatever form that response may take, for example, more imagery, dialogue in language, or simply a sense of just knowing what is being communicated. Now we are back to the familiar IGISM process!

Imagery to Art-making:

Often, after an imagery session it is useful to use art-making to help to ground the experience and to find opportunities to develop it further. Here is a simple exercise as a guide.

1) Prepare art supplies before the imagery session so as to facilitate the transition to the art making. I usually advise the use of pastels, oil pastels, or crayons because of their vivid colors and evocative characteristics and larger paper, 36” x 36”, for example, to allow plenty of room for expression- but you should choose whatever medium is appealing to you.

2) Following a session of guided imagery, approach the art medium with the deliberate intention of either of the following options: you can choose to illustrate your prior imagery experience by drawing some aspect of it that feels significant or you can continue the imagery process by allowing the images to guide you in the activity of the drawing. Both methods will result in a concrete record of your experience and both will help you to become aware of opportunities to continue and deepen the imagery process. However, the illustration method will provide more of an opportunity to capture some aspect of the experience while the continuation method will be more supportive of the possibility of deepening the experience with ongoing developments and fresh imagery.

3) Illustration- If you choose to illustrate your imagery experience with your art work select some part of the imagery that you would like to portray that represents a moment of the experience or include various aspects of your experience together in the drawing whether or not they appeared together at the same time in the imagery.

4) Continuation- If you choose to make art as a continuation of your experience, one way to proceed is to ask your guide from the imagery or one of the images you encountered in the process to guide you in regard to what to draw at this time related to what you experienced in the imagery session, dialoguing in. You will often see new aspects of an image by drawing it and will likely find new understandings in the new context. Let the art-making process be a part of the flow of the guided imagery experience. For example, noticing that there is an area of the piece that is empty and looks in need of something added may provide an opening for something new and unexpected to happen. You can then ask your imagery guides to help you to understand this and to know whether and in what way to add to the picture. The making of art adds a special quality and a new dimension to the imagery process.

5) When the art making/imagery is finished, the use of either method will result in a new perspective and possible deepening of the imagery experience. This can then be re-cycled back into the imagery dialogue, if so desired, to create a smooth transition between the IGISM and the art making. As a plus, you will also have a graphic record of your experience that may serve as a support or reminder for you later when you hang it up at home.

Bob Schoenholtz, M.S., ATR-BC, LPC, (Retired June, 2018)



One Response to “Using Art with Guided Imagery”

  1. Sheldon Kleeman Says:

    Once again you showed up just when I needed to hear guided imagery is alive and well
    Thank you Bob

    Liked by 1 person

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