A Strange Way To Tap Into Your Artistic Subconscious

2014 Artwork Subconscious dots article sketch

Like with most of the ways that I find to get inspired again, this one came from a rather miserable and unenthusiastic moment of my life. So, yes, the first few paragraphs of this article might be filled with woe and gloom but, stick around, there’s some interesting stuff afterwards.

One night, a few weeks ago, I wasn’t really feeling particularly creative or enthusiastic about anything. I’d had a crappy day and I was in the kind of miserable, frozen mood of ennui-laden existential pointlessness and apocalyptic paranoia that I sometimes get in to when I feel like the world is a terrible place. Needless to say, this wasn’t the kind of much-romanticised angst that good art is supposedly made out of.

In fact, the idea of making any kind of art when I was in this mood just seemed kind of bizarre to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’d tried sketching a few pictures but the sketches just looked hopelessly generic and, quite frankly, didn’t really feel like they were worth putting any of my limited reserves of effort into.

So, I sat back, picked up my pen and my second sketchbook (I keep two of them going at any one time) and just sat there, hoping for a good idea of some kind to come to me. But, nothing came. I felt like I had to produce something, but there was nothing to produce.

Eventually, I just started tapping the page with my pen in frustration and drawing lots of random dots.

The strange thing was that, pretty soon after I started doing this, I began to notice shapes and patterns emerging from the random dots and, instinctively, I started to become more conscious about where I placed the next series of dots and – before long – I had a couple of very hazy pictures:

An unrealistically-proportioned woman and an ominous elongated skull. I still have no clue what these two drawings mean.

An unrealistically-proportioned woman and an ominous elongated skull. I still have no clue what these two drawings mean.

Although this exercise didn’t really help me to come up with any new ideas for paintings, it shook me out of my “pointless” mood and made me feel intrigued by art again. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the famous Rorschach test – where random inkblot patterns can supposedly give us a glimpse into the depths of our subconscious minds.

But, I think that it’s more than this – it all comes down to the fact that our brains are designed to spot and recognise patterns and shapes.

I mean, our brains would be pretty useless if we couldn’t easily recognise things at a glance or pick out a single object or shape amongst lots of other things (this ability probably goes back to the days when everyone had to go hunting for food on a regular basis and spotting something amongst the trees and leaves meant the difference between life and death).

So, by aimlessly drawing a random pattern, we force our minds to make some kind of sense of it and this can sometimes help us think of ideas for our next piece of art.

But, the most interesting thing of all about this was that the beginnings of both pictures started to emerge before I was even really conscious of what I was drawing. So, perhaps this technique (like automatic writing or something like that) is also a way that we can tap into our subconscious minds and see what interesting stuff is lurking there.

And, if you even have a vague idea what’s going on in your subconscious, then you can use this to your advantage when it comes to creating a piece of art that will really resonate with you (and hopefully other people too).

I’ve never quite seen the point of abstract art but, after this whole experience, it kind of makes very slightly more sense to me than it did before.


Sorry that this article was so short and so random, but I hope it was interesting 🙂

One comment on “A Strange Way To Tap Into Your Artistic Subconscious

  1. […] Any Animal” – “One Thing That Sci-Fi Writers Can Easily Get Wrong” – “A Strange Way To Tap Into Your Artistic Subconscious” – “Why Don’t More Writers Use This Awesome Story Structure?” – […]

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