Painting From Your Dreams & Dream Interpretation

katherinerosebarber_medusas_lament_quotepic_sm“Medusa’s Lament”

      Medusa’s Lament was inspired by a nightmare I had. She embodies many of my fears and insecurities. A lot of people are taken aback by this image when they see it and they want to know why I painted it. I’ve found it nearly always evokes questions and somewhat shocks the viewer. I’ve had actually quite a bit of negative feedback about this piece… so much so, that at first I was offended! For this reason I hadn’t published this piece as a print publicly yet (though I have shown it on Facebook ). When I decided to write this post I thought it would be the perfect time to release this as a print at the same time. There were also positive responses as well… but sometimes it’s hard to see past the negative ones. After much thought I decided that this piece is probably one of my most successful pieces to date. I really should tap into the darker side of my dreams for inspiration more often. Art that makes people think and question… art that shocks people, is sometimes the best art there is. This piece also won me first place in one of the student exhibitions at Tarrant County College.

Do you ever paint a picture inspired by your dreams? Or have you had dreams of ideas for paintings and then actually painted them? This happens with me a lot, and I think dreams are a very awesome tool for artists (fantasy or surreal artists especially).  My dreams are most often vivid and colorful, though sometimes they are dark, grey, and frightening. I tend to focus on the more positive dreams, but even the dark ones can inspire me and tell me a lot of useful information. My dreams are sometimes colorful journeys to unfamiliar places and sometimes I encounter unfamiliar beings. These are the ones I personally tend to focus on for painting inspirations. They usually turn into fairy paintings because that’s what I like to paint. Sometimes dreams prompt me into thinking of new ideas which aren’t even really related to the dream! This is another way dreams can inspire a creative mind – more new inspirations will branch off of every new inspiration.

        I was in fact inspired to write this post from a dream. I dreamed that I was walking down a long hall full of my own paintings on the walls in chornological order. I saw many familiar scenes I had drawn and painted hanging on these walls. As I walked down this hall, I began to see some paintings that I had never seen before. I knew they were mine, but they have not been painted yet. And yet in this dream they existed … and despite never laying eyes on them before  I knew them just as well as ones I had already painted! When waking I scrambled to hold on to the vision, but unfortunately despite all my efforts to recall the dream I forgot many of the images I saw. I remember only a few, which I intend to try to paint soon. Sometimes I dream dreams like these, and wake up in the middle of them. Often I will imagine the dream and keep trying to dream it while waking… day dream it. It’s not quite the same, but can be just as useful for inspiration. Allow your imagination to wander and you may find gold.

        It is my belief that creative individuals exist on two different worlds or planes: the world of waking and the world of dreaming. In our dream worlds we may see fantastic images or experience amazing personal transformations. You could go so far as to say we may even have prophetic dreams – in that we can dream of a creation and then physically manifest that creation into existence! In that sense artists have a sort of magic ability in our hands … With such an awesome treasure trove of information given to us each night, why not paint your dreams? There is an abundance of inspiration just waiting to be revealed to us in our sleep. Learn to tap into that source, and you will never run out of ideas for paintings.


“Searching Into the Fourth Dimension” by Salvador Dali

        Many artists find much of their creative inspiration from dreams. One such artist that most everyone knows of for his dream-like surrealist paintings is Salvador Dali who tapped into his dreams for inspiration. He in fact strived to remember precise details from his dreams so he could re-create dreams in his paintings. For an artist dreams are an absolute gold mine of ideas and information right out of your subconscious & most vivid imagination! Tapping into those dreams can be difficult when you tend to forget dreams upon waking.

        Most of us dream, even if we think we do not. Often we forget our dreams upon waking, or shortly after. A good way to battle this is to start a dream journal or sketchbook. Keep it near your bedside and jot down as much information about your dream as you can before you get out of bed or do anything else. It may not be possible to really describe some dreams completely in words, so if you are an artist you can also make sketches! The point of this exercise is to will your mind to hold on to the dream through writing it out. But it does no good as an artist to simply jot it down and forget it. You must will yourself to hold on to the images if you want to do paintings inspired from those dreams. I generally do this by going back to the memories in my head now and then. I may look at what I have written down or sketched to jog my memory if needed.

        If writing in an actual journal kept beside your bed isn’t working for you… an alternative is to type them out on the computer as soon as you have a chance in the morning. This isn’t as preferable… but some mornings you may forget to use the journal (maybe you are a zombie in the morning without your coffee like I am). I often end up at the computer before I bothered to write things down, so I will sometimes make a Facebook post about the dream, or write it down in a notepad file temporarily. I might even do sketches with my tablet. If none of these are available to me… I will tell someone the dream. Tell a friend (who won’t look at you funny) and you’ll be surprised how much just talking about the dream really imbeds it into your memory so you won’t forget it! The point is to try to remember the dreams that really seem inspiring to you. How you choose to do that isn’t really important. If you prefer, you can use a recording device or make a video even… Do what works and is most convenient for you!


“The Artist’s Dream” by John Anster Fitzgerald

        What if you are not an artist? How can dreams help you then? Dreams can also reveal a lot to you about problems or road blocks in your life as well, if you pay attention. They can give you inspiration and insight into your career path and give you hints which can help you on your road to success. Sometimes the answers I have been seeking have been revealed or begin to be revealed in my dreams. Not only do I write down dreams, but I also write down the ideas and questions that the dream inspires in me. I ask myself, “Why did I dream this and what is this dream telling me? Are there any messages or clues hidden in this dream that may help me or inspire me?” If you have time, try to analyze your dreams.

        Dream dictionaries can be a helpful tool to give you some ideas as to the meanings of your dreams, but remember that they are only a tool and they are a tool that’s being sold to you, a consumer! Don’t depend on a dream dictionary as if were your bible. Remember that these books may not even be written by experts in dream interpretation, and in the end these “authors” are only seeking to make money off of you. That’s alright and they can be fun. I own a few myself. My point however is everyone has individual dreams with individual meanings behind them which are unique to yourself.

        I find the best way to “interpret” my dreams is to go over the dream in my head and think also about recent issues in my life. I think about how they may relate in ways. Am I going through a lot of stress lately? If I dream that I am trapped inside a box, it could be telling me something as simple as, “Get out of the house for a while!”.  If I have a dream in which I feel extremely worried or stressed, regardless of the objects, animals, people I see in that dream it may merely be a manifestation of my real life stress, and I need to take a break from a certain stressful situation. Maybe I am taking too much onto my shoulders and need to take on less. An animal coming to me in a dream, may actually be one of my friends in disguise, telling me something important about our friendship that I didn’t realise. When it comes to dream interpretation you must think outside the box and try to discover what the dream means to you personally.

Please note: I am in no way a “dream” expert. I am merely an artist and these are my own thoughts about using dreams for inspiration and insight. :)
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