I try to be very careful when adding elements in an artwork: Is this piece saying what I want it to say? Sometimes I’ll get an idea (“More birds! With stones being thrown at them!”) but is that visual image part of this specific work? Mind maps, as taught to me by Emma Willemse, is the tool I use to unpack whether an idea fits or not. The process tends to generate a lot of ideas.

Here’s a pretty pictorial example: I had an inkling that Artemis, the Greek goddess of the Hunt, was linked to frogs. Frogs? Really? I wanted to turn a group of trees in by backyard into an Artemis forest, but the edge of that space is occupied by a pond which is home to a gazzillion tadpoles (this was before the drought).

I started with a frog in the middle, and then mapped five associations with frogs.



On a new page I did the same with Artemis.



See? There is a link. Both are associated with the moon.


The official brief for Conceptual Mind Mapping is this: Start with the first step in the middle, then make five associations. Then take each of those associations and make three associations. Then see if the branches can be conceptually connected in any way. In this next example, I was working with the idea of “healing my mother’s spine”. I started with three items: Heal, Mother, and Spine – and unpacked each of them.


The items don’t have to be good, or 100% relevant, or “correct”. This process opens up the sluices for creativity to flow. Images usually appear as I’m working on the mind map, and I stop when I get confidence in an idea. The artwork for the “healing my mother’s spine” brief turned out completely different from what the mind map generated.


The Mind Map can be embellished. The “five” and “three” rules can be broken. There can be more than three levels, or fewer. The Mind Map doesn’t have to be a mind map at all.


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