How to use mood, vision or concept boards in your art.

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Vision and mood boards

I was recently reminded of the value of using vision and mood boards when I was asked to produce some for our new home and the work we want to have done on it.

In my case, I am looking initially at the type of exterior aesthetic for the art studio, dormer window and conservatory I want built but alongside this I need to think about the internal layout and appearance. This reminded me of the value of producing these boards for your artwork as they are relevant wherever you are on your artist’s journey.

Firstly, let’s just clear up the difference between vison, mood, and concept boards. Essentially, they are pretty much the same thing, although I know there will be some who disagree so let me explain. A vision board tends to be about a direction you want to go in e.g. change in life, travel aspirations, personal appearance or image, relationships money and career. A mood board is a tool used when planning a new room decor or a party theme and tends to focus more on the design of something, such as an interior, hairstyle, fashion style or when designing a website. A concept board is used by designers when pitching ideas or concepts to a client, for instance as part of a brand strategy or advertising campaign.

Basically, all three produce a visual clue to the direction you are looking for something to go in and they convey the idea, feeling or direction of a particular topic. Don’t overlook the power of this form of brain storming as it can help you to discover exactly what you need.

When we first take up making art, regardless of our age, we spend a lot of time trying different subjects and approaches in order to find what we are looking for. We often copy other artists’ work and in school are often encouraged to copy “the masters” to understand technique and style in an attempt to narrow down our own.

In the early stages of our artistic journey, we get hooked up on finding our style. If this is you and you want one style, using a vision board can help you decide what it is you like and, equally important, what you don’t.

Subconsciously, we think in pictures which is why when you focus on something negative or don’t focus on anything at all, you won’t get the positive results you are seeking. That same is true when you are looking to focus on attracting things into your life. Focus on things which bring you joy, look at the positive and you will be able to bring that into existence.

In the context I am discussing here, producing a vison, mood or concept board will help you to get clearer about what you want, where you want to go, what you are deeply drawn to and will help you navigate in the direction you want to go. Once you know all this you can start to look deeper and discover what you truly need or the direction you want your artwork to move in.

Start by getting yourself a few sheets of A1 size stiff card or foam board. Next, surf the internet, go through magazines and books and cut out pictures you like. Once you have a pile of images that you enjoy, paste them onto your board. Don’t just stick to artwork you like but include things which make you smile.

I can hear those of you who love technology asking why not set up a Pinterest board. By all means create as many boards on Pinterest as you like but the physical act of cutting and sticking images onto a board is different. You are more connected to it, more selective about the items you stick onto a board, making it (in my opinion, anyway) more meaningful. I have thousands of images in my Pinterest accounts, but I rarely look at them. By making a physical board and standing it up or mounting it on the wall in your workspace, you are reminded more often of what you do and don’t enjoy.

I have a great love of colour so cutting up paint charts from the DIY stores and sticking them on a vision board is a quick and fun way to see what colours do when placed next to each other. On one such board, I used Blu Tack on the back of some of the coloured squares so that I could move colours around to experiment with different combinations.

Making a texture vision board is a great way to discover which textures look good together as well as maybe finding things you wouldn’t normally consider. With this vision board you could surf the net to find things of interest: leaves, bark, stones, feathers, cloth, plastic containers etc. It is also great fun to paint onto these items, print them onto paper and cut them out to stick on your board. You may be surprised by what results you can get from a screwed-up piece of rubbish destined for the dustbin (trash can for my US readers). It could open up new creative avenues for you.

If you are further ahead in your art journey and happy with your style but want to change things a bit, try producing a vision board which is the opposite of the kind of work you currently produce. For example, if your work is all about tone it might be good to take photos of artwork you enjoy, including your own, put these into Photoshop and play with the colours to create a very new look.

If you love painting the sea, take those photos into Photoshop (other image processing software is available – Ed) and play with the colours. Many years ago, I saw the most fantastic painting of cliffs in Devon painted in deep, moody purples. I have never forgotten this painting, which belonged to a colleague. She had it on her office wall, never to be sold to anyone, sadly, as I would have bought it in a heartbeat.

If you are an abstract painter, don’t panic. I am not going to suggest you start painting realistic work but do look at different shapes from those you normally make and/or different tools you can use to create different outcomes. A black and white board using images of mark making could fire your imagination and encourage something new and exciting.

With these methods I do encourage you to print the images and stick them onto a vision board as you really do look at things differently when they are on a large board in front of you rather than a computer screen.

I produced one myself about three years ago as part of a project. I was exploring colours and their relationships to each other. What surprised me when I had finished was the number of dancers and theatrical costumes I had included on my board.

The pretty, feathery fish I love were there in abundance as were colourful plumages of exotic birds but the dancers, whose dresses look like fish fins, definitely caught me off guard. I am still considering what to do with this idea, but it certainly was a good new discovery for me and something I will allow to percolate as it will, possibly, give me something to work with at some point.

Oh, and for those of you who think that you should just throw away stuff because you cannot see any value in it, I can tell you from personal experience that you need to be very careful when you start throwing stuff away.

Over a decade ago, I learned about painting on silk and got involved with a team of artists making huge banners to hang from the ceilings in some local churches. Being made of silk they moved beautifully as people moved around them. Part of the process involved using paper kitchen towels which in turn were covered in silk paint. The towels were used repeatedly once dry and created fabulous collage papers which I continue to use today.

I would love it if you would share your boards with me and tell me how this process has helped you.

Have fun.

P.s. I have not included any images in this weeks blogs because I do not want to influence the way you produce your board/s. There are many, many different approaches and if you are really stuck, Google mood boards, vision boards and concept boards. There are so many options that rather than try and include them I am leaving it all to your imagination.

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