Picasso famously said that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
Kimble Bromley believes he has found one potential solution: hypnosis.
Last Saturday, Bromley, whose series Moby Dick is currently on display at the Washington Pavilion, conducted a hypnosis workshop intended to unleash the inner child-artist of all those in attendance, including this writer.
Each participant was asked to make three charcoal drawings of the same still life: one in a normal state of consciousness, the next two in progressively deeper states of hypnosis.
Bromley, his voice placid and soothing, ushered everyone through the process, asking them to imagine standing on the open prairie, their fears and inhibitions floating off into the distance on a hot air balloon.
He demystified the work of great artists. The drawings of Picasso, Bromley said, were nothing but strategically placed lines that, if given sufficient attention and care, could take on a life of their own..
Then, he set everyone free to create.
In the beginning, most tried to make their drawings as realistic as possible. This posed a clear problem to those without formal art training, who found the task somewhat laborious.
Hypnosis, however, opened the door to new expressive possibilities Some began to smear their charcoal, turning the white paper into a smoky black backdrop. Others focused on an element of the still life that captured their interest–a paper jack o’lantern or a reclining stuffed parrot.
To make up for his lack of drawing skills, this writer began to incorporate words and phrases into his drawings.
In the end, no one produced anything resembling a masterpiece. But the final results were sometimes enlightening, especially for those who normally approach art from a scholarly, curatorial, business or simply amateur perspective.
“It’s scary to create something that’s very personal and to display and, furthermore, to have people judge it,” said Kara Dirkson, director of the Pavilion’s Visual Arts Center. “I used to be an art appraiser as my profession, so this is a whole different way to think about art.”
To some, the idea of hypnosis conjures up images of someone stuck in a trance, heedlessly obeying the commands of a pocket-watch-wielding con man.
In reality, it can be a very useful tool for helping one overcome debilitating phobias or pesky bad habits. One participant revealed that she had undergone hypnosis to help her quit smoking.
Bromley compares it to meditation, whereby one eschews everyday distractions and enters a state of deeper focus. This, he says, is the key to unlocking inner creativity.
Rather than numbing an artist’s senses, hypnosis enables him or her to hone in on those elusive or troubling aspects of life with more freedom and precision.
“Creating is anxiety-provoking,” Bromley said. “If we are going beyond what we know, if we are always trying to create something new, then it’s going to be anxiety-provoking, because you don’t know what it is. If you do, then you’d better try something different.” 
Matt Housiaux, an intern at JAM Art & Supplies and a junior at Augustana College majoring in Journalism.