Unconscious Inspiration

My artistic inspiration is usually straightforward — for example when I’m drawing a dog portrait, my energy focuses on capturing the spirit and likeness of the animal. In some cases, though, the source of my inspiration is not as obvious. Artists like Salvador Dali took this concept to the extreme during the surrealism movement, by trying to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind. Many of Dali’s paintings contain oddly juxtaposed images, some of which were inspired by his dreams. While I am not a surrealist, I find this whole idea really fascinating. In my more recent wildlife and nature pieces, I’m moving away from pure realism and including elements that have an unexpected twist. I also aim for a certain flow or movement within the composition for the eye to follow. I want the viewer to pause and notice something different about the piece, rather than just seeing an image in its usual context.

I’ve drawn several cover designs for the Wilton Continuing Education course catalog, and this drawing is for the fall 2019 catalog. I was asked to incorporate playing cards in the design to highlight adult education classes for bridge and canasta. I also wanted to include nature in the design, as well as a feeling of motion, so the leaves and cards are fluttering down and causing movement of the water.

One of my colleagues was curious as to why I selected the specific playing cards in the drawing. The ace of hearts with the “W” logo was the only one I specifically chose to signify our town’s spirit behind the “Wilton Warriors.” Aside from not choosing face cards, the others were completely random. She shared with me the meanings associated with the numbers and suits of each card. It never occurred to me that the cards had a hidden meaning or how closely they related to my life at the time I was making the drawing.

I was struggling with a difficult challenge in my personal life, which led me to put my art teaching on hold for several months. This drawing project was a much needed creative outlet as I was trying to sort things out. The meaning behind each card and the order in which they are falling tracks very closely to the life experiences I was going through during that period. I’m usually a huge skeptic with these things, but the similarity is pretty astonishing. Maybe it was all just a coincidence, but I have to wonder if this was a case of my own unconscious inspiration.