Sunday, April 21, 2013

Thought Experiments

Recently and as usual, I was watching the Discovery/History/Science Channel and there was a documentary on Einstein showing in which they mentioned his “thought experiments.”  For some reason that really jumped out at me – thought experiments.  I suddenly looked up from my sketching to listen.  Einstein used to lapse into states of thought where he imagined himself in all types of strange scenarios that somehow related to whatever scientific theory he was working on.  Like so often happens with me, I was carried away to the land of obsession and I NEEDED to learn EVERYTHING about Einstein’s thought experiments.  What were they?  Could I apply them to art?  Could I apply them to making my husband buy me the snowflake pendent necklace from Tiffany’s?  I had to find out.

So, I started researching.  After much reading I saw that thought experiments were a tiny bit like meditation and a lot like daydreaming and I realized that I had, many times, come up with images in my head while daydreaming that eventually turned into paintings or collages.  This started me wondering how important daydreaming was to people in general but especially to artists.  There is so much going on in everyday life and so many types of electronics to distract us during periods that we used to spend daydreaming such as waiting on line at the supermarket, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office or doing household chores – I mean I was texting while I was vacuuming the other day when apparently I should have been using that time to daydream.  How is that affecting us mentally?  The fact that we have little quiet time for our minds to languidly stretch out and explore tiny little thoughts, ideas and fantasies that have been brushed off to the side and ignored could have a negative effect on our brains, no? 

I decided to start incorporating daydreaming into my life in the same way I would meditation.  I sat down, closed my eyes and like when I attempt meditation my brain at first went into a weird overdrive where I think about anything and everything that I do not want to think about but when I got past all that crap I did reach this place that I assume was similar to what Einstein was talking about just as he was running with a beam of light, which led him somehow to come up with his theory of special relativity - I too was able to place myself in and become part of a painting, I started imagining images as they would be in paint not in real life, they soon started pouring out, some random some symbolic.  It was purely visual thought no distinct words.  I came out of it with pictures in my head of three finished paintings.  (On a side note, I’m curious how other artists imagine their works – as finished pieces or just an idea of where to start and what you want to say?)

Now I have only tried this one time – yesterday – so I cannot say how it will carry on into the long term because I am not currently going through any type of artist’s block but I have in the past and I feel like this may help when I’m blocked.  If daydreaming is anything like meditation it can only be good for your mental health as many studies have shown (here is just one - ).  But daydreaming with a purpose – not too much of a focused purpose but a general area of focus is what I’m thinking of continuing on with.  If any neuroscientists wants to chime in on this I’d love it.  And if anyone has any suggestions on how I can get my husband to get me that Tiffany's necklace I'm all ears.


  1. I believe it is different for each artist AND art medium. Often, I do envision photographs, knit pieces, or presentations in my head and then try to achieve them. However, writing and songwriting - I get the jump point; inspiration; "what if" and then either launch into a piece OR developing the outline that turns into a finished piece. I find this review of "process" fascinating! Thank you for posting this article...

  2. Interesting - I was wondering about the process of creating music.