I woke up for a moment, then immediately went back to sleep because I had to see what happened in my dream.
I was in an elevator riding downward, having just realized that I had left my suitcase back up at one of the floors above. I had to reach it before the time portal closed. I pushed the buttons to bring me back up, and reached the floor where I had left my suitcase. It was there, but a different color. I grabbed it anyway and stepped back into the elevator, which was now full of people. I tried to look inconspicuous. The men had pinstripe suits on, and the women had 1940’s style hats in all different colors. As I reached the ground level, I stepped outside onto the street and walked into another time, this present time.
Around my neck was a camera that I had used to take pictures while I was back in time. I walked into a camera shop to get the shots developed, and somehow recognized that the elderly man behind the desk knew my secret. I asked him earnestly, “Is it possible, to go back and forth? Do I have to choose one or the other? Can I have a life back there, and in this present time?”
He wouldn’t answer me, but silently took my film.
I woke up. There was more to the dream, but that was what I could remember of it.
What did it mean? Does this dream have any insight into my life? Perhaps. Maybe it’s a reflection of my appreciation of other time periods, and an expression that I want to bring the charm of the past into the present. Does it have unexpected, unusual imagery present that I normally would not have imagined? Absolutely. Imagine an elevator full of women all with brightly colored hats. Imagine suitcases that changed color. The artistic possibilities are rich, all mined from your subconscious mind creating images that you would never have thought of before.
I have several paintings that have stemmed from dreams, and they always come out a little more interesting and unfathomable than works dreamt up by my daytime brain. Artist throughout the ages have also taken inspiration from their dreams. Take the ones below:
A Carnival Evening, by Henri Rousseau
Everyone Here Speaks Latin, by Max Ernst
The Furniture of Time, by Yves Tanguy
Woman With an Umbrella in an Exotic Forest, by Henri Rousseau
Attainment, by Jessica Libor
What practices that have helped me harness the imagery in my dreams into an artistic practice are:
- Keeping a dream journal– using writing or sketching, capture the images in your dream as soon as you wake up.
- Before you go to bed, only allow yourself to think positively, and go to sleep with the expectancy that your mind will show you something wonderful.
- Go through your dream sketchbook periodically and work out more fully the sketches that look interesting to you. Give them color and life, and see which ones might make fully-fledged artworks.
I hope this inspires you to pay more attention to your own dream imagery and helps you add another dimension to your art practice. I would encourage you to even pay attention to the negative, scary or unsettling aspects of your dreams, as they are usually your mind attempting to work out conflicts in your life, and can help to resolve decisions and choices. Often we avoid our problems or get very pragmatic while looking at them in our waking hours—but our intuition really comes out in our dreams and shows us how we really feel, whether we like it or not. I’ve heard that they are the minds way of trying on different choices and scenarios in life as a rehearsal—to show what it would be like, or show us the way. As Lera Auerbach muses wisely in her book, Excess of Being: “A coward is a servant of his fears. A hero enslaves his fears.” May you face your fears and hopes fearlessly in your dreams, and harness them to create more powerful art.