When it comes to sources of artistic inspiration, we can often overlook our dreams. After all, we don’t always remember our dreams and most people aren’t interested in hearing about them (for some bizarre reason I’ve never quite understood). But, if you are an artist, your dreams can be an absolute goldmine.
Even though I’ve already written an article about writing and dreams, I’ve recently realised that dreams are actually much more useful to artists than they are to writers.
Why? Because although the average dream might have a nonsensical “story” of some kind or another, the parts of dreams that we really remember are the things that we see.
Whether it’s a strange new location made out of a hodge-podge of familiar locations, a nightmarish creature, a surreal image or even just the general atmosphere of the dream – our dreams are absolutely crammed with fascinating images that we can put down onto paper or canvas.
Not only is this a quick (if somewhat unpredictable and unreliable) way of coming up with interesting and surreal ideas for paintings, but it also allows us to tell other people about our dreams in a way that won’t bore or confuse them.
Of course, the really interesting thing about dream paintings is that they rarely look exactly like the dreams that they’re based on. This might just be a reflection of my own artistic skills, but I think that it’s more due to the fact that you’re adapting something from one format to another entirely from memory (since you can’t exactly film your dreams). Not only that, you’ll probably have to change the composition of your painting in order to make it look more visually appealing too.
But, another satisfying thing about making art based on your dreams is that you will end up with a drawing or a painting that is almost like a souvenier. It’s almost like you have ventured into the unknown wilderness of your own subconscious mind and have actually brought something tangible back into the real world.
The reason why I’m writing about all of this stuff is because, a few weeks ago, I had a series of really fascinating dreams over the space of about two nights. If you’re the kind of person who falls asleep when you hear other people talk about their dreams, then you might want to skip the next two paragraphs.
This series of dreams included things like a visiting a cinema from hell and solving a gory Agatha-Christie style murder mystery in a creepy deserted house in France (the victim was someone called “Miqquebard” and the culprit was a man with a beard, if I remember rightly).
They also involved things like visiting a swanky party (and briefly meeting Suzanne Vega and Barack Obama there), trying to escape from a fortified council estate (whilst filming a documentary – there was also a brief cameo appearance by Aleks Krotoski in this dream too) and visiting a dystopic sci-fi factory/prison/spaceship.
When I woke up, I frantically wrote these dreams down and filled about eight A5 sketchbook pages with descriptions of them (as well as small sketches of the most important parts of the dreams) and I didn’t really think that much of it until a while later when it came to doing my daily art practice. I was feeling uninspired and I couldn’t think of a single decent idea of my own, so I reached for my dream accounts and painted this:
I also painted this other dream painting that will probably be posted on here tomorrow evening (along with a description of the dream). Although the full version of it is probably on DeviantART by now, here’s a preview of part of it:
So, yes, never underestimate your own dreams when you’re short of artistic ideas…
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂