Dive Deep – Talking to the Animals in Your Art

May 29th, 2009


I wanted to be sure to talk about animals in art during the month of Nature for the Creative Every Day Challenge and this painting I've just finished provided a perfect opportunity.

I've had certain animals pop up in my life during different times. Sometimes, I'll actually see them everywhere (as I did with crows for a time) and other times I'll dream about them, draw them in my sketchbook, or see their images all over the place. If they start showing up in my art, that usually grabs my attention. I may just enjoy their presence in my art or I may do a little research on what they've meant as symbols in other cultures. Reading about the symbolism of animals can be a fascinating way to dive deeper into explorations about what these creatures may mean in your life.

I just finished up this underwater painting called, Dive Deep, which I'm really loving. The image came to me intuitively, but as I painted it grew and changed. A whale appeared, as did an octopus. Even though only the whale's tail is showing, I imagine this woman is swimming with the whale.

Today, as I snapped a couple pictures of the painting, I felt a strong urge to look up whales in the book Animal Speak. I got all teary with the synchronicity of the first line summary of what whales represent: "Creation, Power of Song, Awakening Inner Depths." This touched me in ways I can't quite explain, but I can say that the piece about the power of song is resonating so strongly with me as we move into the month of Sound for the Creative Every Day Challenge. There's something here for me around the power of your voice, communication, giving voice to your soul. 

In Animal Speak, Ted Andrews writes about whales, " By drawing upon your own creative instincts, you can sing forth your own song."

This reminds me that even though you can get all sorts of fun, juicy information from books and other sources, when it comes to looking at animals that show up in your creations, it can be just as, if not more juicy to look at what these symbols mean for you. You could do some dialoguing in a journal and ask your animal symbols something like, "Whale, what are you here to teach me? What is it you want me to know? What do you represent in my life?" Write freely without judging and see what comes up. Alternatively, you could simply explore their meaning by allowing these animals to enter into your art and express themselves in that way.

The octopus in this piece came as a surprise to me. I later read that the octopus is related to the image of a spiral (I'm so drawn to spirals) and is also connected with the moon and astrological sign of Cancer (which I am.)

I love the way synchronicities pop up when I allow images to come from my intuition. It's a beautiful thing. Essentially, this image is about diving deep into the dark places. It's nice to have some animal guides to help me along.

Are there any animals showing up in your life or artwork right now? Do they have meaning for you? If you asked them what they're here to teach you, what would they answer?

p.s. I was recently interviewed for Chris Guillebeau and Zoe Westhof's ebook, The Unconventional Guide to Art and Money which explores how artists are making a living online. Check it out for yourself right here!

p.p.s Listening and Underwater Tea Party are now available in the shop!

14 Responses

Ravens, the tricksters must have their say…

hi leah!
oh what a wonderful post! All of the pugs and dogs that i paint seem to have something to say. i can sometimes hear it after i stand back to see who has just appeared. i feel like they have a message to convey to make me smile.

i hope they sppeak to others hearts as well.

here is my latest painting and what he had to say…

Wow, I love this new painting! And the synchronicity. Amazing stuff :)

What a beautiful painting and a wonderful post. The painting is very freeing and comforting – peaceful. As for talk to animals, I often catch myself being a little paranoid that certain birds are following me around! They may, or may not be, but when they do that I often wonder if they are a manifestation of a loved one who has passed just stopping in for a visit. I’ve had birds pop up in my paintings, too. Maybe, I’ll go look up what that means. Thanks for a great post! You’ve really got me thinking now!

Goats usually show up in my art. They often try to convince me that I am, in reality, a goat.

OOOOOH! I love this one, Leah! And the title too, which is perfect and provocative. I am drawn to owls…Blessings, O

I really like this one, Leah! it sounds like your process with animals and art is very like mine or mine is like yours;-)…I have certain animals that begin to resonate with me –like lately it has been owls–then they show up everywhere in my life and also in my dreams…and eventually I do some artwork and they turn up in the artwork…but if I decide to do a larger piece with an animal–I usually research the mythology and legends around that particular animal (and I live that book–Animal Speak)…and learn all I can about it. I have done artwork over the years that featured ravens, brown bears, lynx, wolves, and foxes…to name a few. I was startled to read your post and see how similar my experience is to yours!

Talk about synchronicities! Just last week I wrote about 2 animals that showed up in my life in my blog – 3 foxes and a bat (see my post about Signs From Nature)! I also looked them up in Ted Andrews’ book and was astounded that the significance was EXACTLY the issues I was working on. Hmmm… I haven’t yet painted them, however that is still possible!

Lovely post. I recently pulled Ted Andrews’ book from my shelf as well, as I had this great, puzzling dream about a hawk (vision, especially far seeing) and a porcupine (in Andrews’ book is about a renewed sense of wonder, curiosity), both making a new appearance in my dreams… In the dream the hawk swoops down and picks up the porcupine as prey, and then realizes what it is, and drops it, but not before getting several quills stuck in its talons. It actually made me giggle when I was recording it! But, a bit puzzling… thanks for reminding me.

BTW, I love your underwater teaparty! And also this Dive Deep piece. So rich and layered and sensual and lovely.

This piece is amazing. I have had octopuses everywhere in my life for nearly a year now…very special creatures them.

It’s so funny you should post this though because today it dawned on me I keep having elephants crop up all over. They were in my May dream board. They are speaking to me in dreams. I put a throw on my bed yesterday and for the first time ever noticed the elephants at the corners (the blanket was a gift, I’ve never used it before now-just got an urge to throw it on the bed yesterday)…everywhere I turn, even in my own home now…elephants…I was planning to research them and find out what I could before drawing and writing about them…
Thank you for this post. It helped me know I was on the right path here.

Magnificent painting! It reminds me of the courage it takes to dive into the deep, literally and metaphorically.

Wow Leah…this speaks to me! This weekend so much has come my way in re: to animals..found a blog last night that had so much on the animals, from sources I’d not seen before – and your synchronicites are exciting and amazing. What a way to learn! thank you!

I love your idea of “dialoguing” with an animal, asking them what they are here to teach you. This makes a great writing prompt! Thanks!

Leah, I absolutely adore this painting, and the post that you’ve written to accompany it is so insightful and inspiring. Last year I went on a shamanic journey weekend and found that I have a lion that walks before me and a babboon walking behind. Now I’m really intrigued by the Ted Andrews book, and want to know more about meanings of animal symbols. Through reading this post, something has fallen into place. Such symbolism surfaces in a different way for me – I understand that you (and perhaps most of the followers of your blog) use your art to express and even identify what’s in your heart and on your mind. I’m more likely to identify it through images in meditations. And in those meditations I may well ask those totems or symbols why they are here and what they have to teach me. And perhaps creativity has a different role in our lives. For me it’s about harnessing and living in harmony with the energy. So if I’m having a bad time the last thing I’d feel like doing is create. But my impression of a real artist is that good or bad, art is the means of expressing what’s going on. I wonder if that’s how others see it. This has been very thought provoking for me. Thank you!

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