Imaginary creatures

I like to look for creatures in random shapes and patterns. I imagine that when I see them, I’m catching a glimpse of another world, one where the rules aren’t quite the same as here. Where a tree can have a mouth and eyes and something to say, if only I knew how to listen. Where there are improbable beings going about their daily lives, just as I am. A Through the Looking Glass sort of existence, where the normal and the strange are intertwined…a place where my oddness is unremarkable.

Griffin found in India ink splatters and splashes. Watercolor, pen, and India ink on watercolor paper. 2018

There’s a couple of names for seeing connections and faces in the random. Our friend Wikipedia provides the following definitions:

Pareidolia (/pærɪˈdoʊliə/ parr-i-DOH-lee-ə) is the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music. Pareidolia can be considered a subcategory of apophenia.

Apophenia (/æpoʊˈfiːniə/) is the tendency to mistakenly perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things.

Those definitions sound a little judgey. How do we really know whether or not the perception is incorrect or mistaken? But judgements aside, this tendency of my brain to give meaning to the random is something I’ve been seeking to develop into a skill. I like to paint random abstracts, then try to find the creatures inside of them.

Jam Session. Random creatures found in watercolor splatters and splashes. Watercolor, pen, and India ink on cardstock. 2017
Random sea creatures found in watercolor splatters and splashes. Watercolor, pen, and India ink on watercolor paper. 2018
Random maybe fish found in India ink splatters and splashes. Pen and India ink on watercolor paper. 2018

I’m always surprised at what I end up finding. I usually only can see one feature, like an eye, or a limb, or maybe the outline of the body. I try to keep my mind as blank as possible, and not force the form in any particular direction. Then, once the creature takes shape, I add colors, details, and try to give it a sense of being alive. Eye glint, suggestions of emotion, movement. I love it best when it seems like the creature is doing something. Like if I stop looking at it, then look back really quickly, I might see it move!

This is a kind of meditation for me. I can’t always get in the right mental space for it, but it gets easier the more often I do it. I have a whole lot of them, now. Someday, maybe I’ll develop some of them into characters in a story.

I uploaded a couple more images like this to my gallery, if you want to see them!

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