“This world of imagination is infinite and eternal” William Blake
The world of myth, fairytale, folkore and the supernatural is seemingly infinite. Attempting to learn all there is to learn of this immense subject makes one feel like the young hero or heroine who enters the enchanted forest – the further they travel, the larger the forest seems to be and the thicker the trees.
I scrambled for years through this dense territory picking up stories as I went, but as soon as I added them to my memory, they just as quickly faded as new ones were added. So I read and re-read and read again… every year I would find myself revisiting the same places and characters until, one day… the countless denizens that inhabited my imagination began to speak to each other. After years of wading through the chaos, patterns began to emerge. I began to see the connections and the world of fairy revealed itself to me.
Just as the athlete must repeatedly perform the same excercises to train his muscles or the craftsperson must carry out the same tasks over and over in order to master his particular skill so must the storyteller immerse themselves time and again into the great ocean of stories in order to train his imagination until the art of myth becomes part of their muscle memory. Gradually, the themes and motifs of fantasy become part of his being and he or she begins to see the interconnectedness of the world in which he operates.
For many people, the world of folk stories is that of light entertainment, childish things that seem unimportant in modern life. But look closer and you will find that this is a subject taken seriously all over the world. Universities are peopled with scholars, professors and intellectuals who have devoted their lives to a deeper understanding of this subject. Psychologists pay special attention to the material that may given answers to the inner workings of the human psyche and historians painstakingly piece together random clues that may help unlock the secrets of the real historic past.
“ Mythology is ancient psychology and psychology is recent mythology” Carl Jung
These stories of vampires, water spirits and dragons are more than just entertainment – they are the ancient crucible of all human culture. Before the industrialisation of storytelling through print and film there was only the spoken word… passed on from mouth to mouth, spreading like migratory birds along the trade routes of the ancient world. This method was pure storytelling, it came from straight from the imagination of the storyteller – and as such, the motifs and themes that we see endlessly repeated across the globe are direct from the birthplace of the human imagination. Is it any wonder that the psychologist and philosopher Carl Jung looked to myth to understand the true nature of the human mind ? Is it any surprise that the same stories are re-told and modernised, fitting neatly into any age or any culture ?
THE ROLE OF STORIES
Fables and stories, and the images we create from them, are the raw undiluted form of fears, desires and our most basic needs. They underpin the driving forces that make us human – our immense capabilities and our capacity for both great good and great evil. These are the raw, untouched, primal utterings of a dozen races, the unrefined street speech of the centuries…these are the stories that emerge direct from the pulsing bloodlines of humanity.
The immense global repository of tales of dragons, ghosts, mermaids and fairies are evidence; not of what is ‘out there’ but what is inside us.
When searching for idea and inspiration, be prepared to pursue what interests you, take notice of the things that grab your attention and pursue them further. Follow leads, search out more information, you’ll find dead ends but other hunches may pay off with inspiration and ignite your imagination.
Don’t be afraid to indulge yourself. Take your time. Read… a lot. Treat your creativity as though it were a garden that needs to be cared for and nurtured. Give it time to grow, you have a whole lifetime to get good at this.
Research takes time, inspiration requires dedication and of course, any kind of art requires skills that can only be learned with patience. It would be impossible for one book to teach you everything you need to know to create fantasy art masterpieces, but overleaf are a few very basic techniques that will be useful to learn when using this book.
(Excerpt from ‘Fantasy Art Expedition’ by Finlay Cowan)
Stay close to the things that inspire you… be sure to feed your imagination:
1) Make a list the ten books that you love the most. Make sure you have all those books together and close to hand – preferably right by where you work.
2) Make a list of the ten paintings that you love the most. Keep a copy of them nearby.
3) Make a list of the ten people who inspire you the most – if they are living, write them a letter… let them know. Keep returning to their work on a regular basis.
4) Make a list of the ten places that inspire you the most. Plan to visit them.