Art From Your Dreams

March 2nd, 2009

dream spider
dream spider, acrylic and ink on watercolor paper, 16"x12"

I didn't sleep well at all on Saturday night, I dreamed of spooky spiders attacking me (one of which I squished with my bare hand and it's juice/blood/venom squirted all over the people around me), I dreamed I was being chased through doorway after doorway, up and downstairs, and finally out to a yard where a father and two kids were shooting rifles in their yard. I also dreamed about being a photographer at a wedding and I was having all sorts of trouble with the lenses.

Some of the dream images came from things I'd seen or read the day before. There were two spiders in our bathroom that evening (one surprised me and I smooshed it), I knew a friend was shooting a wedding on Saturday, and another friend uses a doorway in her newsletter. But the way theses images all mix together into such vivid imagery and bizarre stories is so wild!

Sunday I decided to make some art around the dreams I'd had. I wanted to let it come intuitively, so I started with red paint on watercolor paper, letting it flow, and then the green organic shapes came, and then I used the shapes I saw in the red paint as the basis for the scene. First, I painted the hand on the spider, then the figure and lastly the houses in the background. It feels a bit dream-like, a little spooky, especially if you take all the red to be blood or venom. But I think most of my art feels a bit dream-like, a bit surreal.

I had an art teacher in a critique once who discouraged me from painting from dream imagery and oh, did I cry. She felt that focusing on still life painting would serve me better. And I understood that she wanted me to focus on my skills, but painting from my heart was so important, so to have her put that side of me down was so painful to hear.

It took me a long time to get over it. I even abandoned this one dream-based painting at the school. I let someone paint over it as I didn't want to ever see it again. It took me years to get back to the place where I felt good about creating from my heart again. I suppose I always knew that I would get back to that place because something in me just ached to express myself in that way.

I wasn't intending to talk about this when I sat down to write, but it's important to say:

Create what's in your heart. Don't let the people who don't "get it" (and not every one will get it) get you down. There is only one of you in all time. Express what is uniquely you.

And the beautiful thing is, when you express what is uniquely you, you encourage others to do the same. And how beautiful is the world when we all share what is in our hearts?

Back to the dream theme for a moment...Dreams are a wonderful way of accessing what is aching to be expressed in us. Sometimes our dreams have an odd way of sharing this information with us, but it's a fascinating place to dip our toe in and explore. Try this with a recent dream. Journal about it, draw a sketch or doodle a character from it. Or use a dream as the basis for a new creation, no matter how strange it may seem to bring it to life. Let your art or writing bring your dreams to life and see what they might have to share with you.

32 Responses

Wow, this is such a powerful and haunting image. Maybe squashing that spider is like squashing that yucky venom from that art teacher who discouraged you! Take that, you critic!!! Your images are so authentically you. It’s so apparent that they come from your heart and your soul and I think that’s what makes them so enduring and special!

A beautiful lesson for me here, Leah. I’m sorry the teacher discouraged you but I’m so glad you found your way back and can share your story along with this picture to inspire us. Blessings, O

Yeah, don’t let them get you down! :) LOOVE this painting, Leah! Matches my surreal weird Joseph Campbell obsession at the moment :)

I’m so glad your heart called to you Leah!

Your images always have plenty of heart in them.

I can’t agree with you more! I have always believed that dreams are our uncensored creative selves exploring, and playing in the palate of our imaginations.

I don’t understand the presumption of one person telling another one what he/she should or shouldn’t paint. It boggles my mind. So glad you blew off that “advice”! :)

I love this painting. “Little Miss Muffet” came to mind as I was gazing at it. I love how she is resting on the spider. And the details are enchanting. :)

I love this dream piece, Leah. It is completely yours in the vision that made it from your heart and imagination, yet a perfect playground for the imaginations of your audience. It makes me want to squish the venom out of a few spiders that I know !;-)

Dream on, Artist Leah…

Wow! This is wild! Great job…you really are an ispiration over and over again. I am going to give it a try and see what happens.

I love this picture, especially the spider being crushed beneath her/your hand. And there is something very dreamlike about the way she’s just looking at it, not really a reaction.

I really want to make the time to participate in this!

Leah! This one is lovely. First, the colors.. I love the colors, espcially the reds. The overall feeling is haunting but keeps you looking, like you can’t turn away from it. But the teardrops? Their shaped almost like a braid.. like..that silly thing you do with your hands when you sing the “itsy bitsy spider” song.
Seriously loving this.

Wonderful painting, Leah. I have gotten way behind on my blog reading, and I can’t wait to catch up on your last few posts. You are so inspiring!

I hate spider dreams. They are so creeeepy. My kindergarten teacher wanted to encourage me to do other things like play with blocks instead of color or draw during playtime (because that is all I wanted to do). So, as a result, I learned that coloring and drawing weren’t as important as other things. It has taken me a long time to over come that idea. I still remember it. Maybe that is the reason I homeschool my girls. I’m letting them find their creative voices.

I can’t believe you were told that by an art teacher! I love the art you took from your dream images. I often use dreams for my writing. They are intensely inspiring and yes, voice those things we cannot express in waking life.

you have provided wonderful inspiration for younger artists that read your blog. I am 59 years old and within the last year or so have finally found the joy of creating from the heart and being uniquely me in my mixed media projects. I have done commisions and people pleasing art over the years and although they were monetarily satisfying there was just something missing always. Follow your heart and your art will follow! Thanks! CW

“Create what is in your heart”
Doesn’t that just set your free? Having the permission to let out all the ooze, blood, guts, and toxins out so we can cultivate joy and light in brighter ways?

That is a gorgeous image and I love the idea of creating art from your dreams. I’m going to ponder that a minute. However, there is only one dream that comes to mind and now…I AM going to try is soon. It’s a very comical one though. I don’t remember too many dreams and the few I do remember, have stayed with me. I’m going to link to this so people who visit my blog might want to consider this.

I’m reading a book called “Love, Paint,& Passion: Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression.” It is also about painting from your heart, and in an extreme way. You might enjoy it!

Thank you, Leah, for this lovely post– I have always wanted to paint from dreams but never have. Perhaps this will prompt me to do it. :) And the image– OH MY GOODNESS, this is one of my favorites of yours that I’ve seen so far. It’s just gorgeous!

I love this painting and love the idea that it is from your dreams and your heart.

ewww! scary spiders!! :) I love what you created from your dream, tho.

That’s quite a different palette for you. I really love the little dots on her top and what looks like a tulle petticoat.
One girl I know finished her art degree at a nearby university. She told me that her teachers refused to give rules. The students were to explore for themselves. It just goes to show that as soon as someone makes a rule in art, another comes along and breaks it with successful results. Hooray that you didn’t stay with still lifes! :)

Hi Leah – spiders are symbols of creativity. They have to do with weaving the past and the future, with rhythms of life. Oddly, you just came off a month of working with words and spider is also associated with the first true alphabet. They are a combination of strength and gentleness, vulnerable to being squished. Much more can be found in the book Animal Wisdom. I think it is powerful that spider showed up in your dream and that it showed up in waking life as well means, to me, that spider has a message for you. What a beautiful painting as well. I’m continuously amazed with your prolific creativity – blessings, Kathy


I had the most amazing dream last night. I am going to do my best to recreate it, but it may take awhile. As a bit of background, I lost my mom suddenly last May and dream of her all the time. In this dream, she took me to heaven. I read in The New American Dream Dictionary by Joan Seaman and Tom Philbin that heaven in a dreams means “1. great joy and happiness. 2. spirit realm. 3. seat or home of divinity. 4. restoration of hope; optimism.” Reading these definitions brought tears to my eyes, especially no. 4.


Good job on crushing that spider! Not a fan of those! The tulle on the dress was a grate detail.


Oh Sweetie,

I’m so sorry that you had the experience with the art teacher who told you that you shouldn’t paint from your dreams! That is so bad and wrong!!!! And I’m soooo glad that you decided to come back to painting from your heart!

I see this so much with my students in my intuitive painting classes and how hard it is to learn how to trust themselves after they get that kind of message from an outside authority.
And I love your painting…. it is so powerful and real and alive!


I don’t think I will be painting anything from recent dreams as they have been troubled. That’s not what I like to paint. But today I think I tapped into why my dreams have been troubled and it’s all about art. Or I should say Art & Fear. Had I not started reading that book a month or so ago I probably would not have realized the source of my nocturnal troubles. I’m preparing for my 1st solo exhibit in May and there’s the temptation to believe I’m not good enough. Well, that’s just dumb.
Thanks for having dreams for the theme, because I think it made me consider my dreams more than I usually do. I have really wacky dreams & don’t pay much attention to them.
I think you should continue to paint what YOU are passionate about and never let that voice from the past intrude. I love the freedom in you work.

It’s amazing when you remember your dreams so vividly. I think you draw things out when you paint them or sketch about them. You remember little details and feel the moments of deja vu!

This is such a vibrant painting, Leah! Beautiful!

Sigh…you always have the perfect words. I hope you know how much I adore you. Forever and always.
P.S I am madly in love with this “dream-like” painting. You MUST do more!

Sigh. Art teachers… Sometimes they unlock doors, other times they slam them. And it can be hard to tell (at the moment) which is which.

I would strongly agree that your pieces are all a bit dreamlike, a bit surreal. It’s what I love about them (and your color sense).

Hi Leah!
As a working gal…finding time to do the “creative stuff” is so difficult! Today is my son’s 21st birthday and I always make him a card…not only for his birthday, but for every month since he left for college in the fall of 2006. So when I started to look at my photos for inspiration….next thing I knew I had a 30 page “journal” birthday card for him. I could have done more but I ran out of TIME. That ugly word. There’s a word to journal about! But the birthday journal is about his DREAM….being in the US Marines so lots of the journal is devoted to that. As a parent, your children’s dreams are more important than your own….I only have one page posted…need to get the book back to photograph!

I almost forgot…want to share this idea as it was so much fun. I bought some oversize neon colored cards (Staples) and sent them with a note and a photo of Tom, postage paid, for the recipients to send Tom a greeting on his 21st birthday. My siblings of course sent them, his 5th grade teacher, his primary physician from when he was born, the Mom of his best friend….they are trickling in to his mailbox….a fun surprise for him. I sent about 15 of them out….

A very interesting dream and I love the art piece! :-D

I kept reading of people drawing their dreams on the blogs… now it makes so much more sense. Leave it to you to stir up so much creativity!

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