Making Art Based On Daydreams – A Ramble

Ok, most of the time, fully-formed ideas for paintings or drawings won’t appear in your daydreams. But, it can happen occasionally.

For example, the day before writing this article, I was randomly daydreaming about what Aberystwyth might have been like during the 1980s.

Suddenly, a rather vivid 1980s-style image appeared in my mind (with “Promised Land” by Skeletal Family playing quietly in the background too). The image was surprisingly memorable. So, a while later, I decided to turn it into a digitally-edited painting. Here’s a preview:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 4th June.

Surprisingly, I actually ended up turning this into an A4-size piece (rather than using my usual 18×18 cm size). And, yes, I messed up the perspective slightly too. But, interestingly, the final painting looked fairly different to the image from my daydream.

Originally, the woman was supposed to have black hair and the promenade was meant to look a lot more grey and misty (like something from “Silent Hill 2) than it did.

Here’s a reconstruction of what the painting would have looked like if I’d been more accurate to my original daydream:

An extensively digitally-edited version of the painting, which is closer to my actual daydream. As you can see, it doesn’t look as good as the “final” version of this picture does.

This, of course, brings me on to the subject of artistic licence. If you have a direct moment of inspiration from one of your daydreams, don’t be afraid to make some changes to your artwork in order to make it look like a better work of art.

Remember, however good your daydream is, your audience are only going to see the finished painting or drawing. So, don’t be afraid to make some changes if it improves the picture.

For example, I used a more varied colour scheme and lighting scheme (than just washed-out grey mist), in order to make the picture look more striking and to give it a bit more of an “80s”-style look.

Likewise, in order to add more background detail to the painting, I quite literally changed the shape of the promenade (by adding a sort of ravine to it). Whilst this wasn’t entirely accurate to my daydream, it resulted in a much better painting – despite the mistakes I made with the perspective.

Another reason why using artistic licence is usually necessary when making art based on daydreams is because you will probably only be able to make art based on the visual elements of your daydreams. All of the other parts of your daydream (eg: the exact emotions, the “atmosphere”, the personalities of the people there etc..) are a lot harder to translate into words or images.

So, all you are left with are the visual elements of your daydream. By using artistic licence, you can try to hint at the other elements of the daydream (eg: by adding some visual storytelling to the picture or using a particular colour scheme). So, if a change allows you to hint at parts of the daydream that can’t be easily put into words or pictures, then make that change!

Whilst getting directly inspired by a daydream is a fairly rare experience, it is always great when it happens. But, just remember, a good daydream painting isn’t always an entirely “accurate” one.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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