Sunday, November 27, 2016

How a Dream Turned into a Painting

Carla: Elaine Drew links one of her paintings directly to a dream. In this post she'll show us the path that took her there.

Elaine Drew
: The inspiration for this piece, called Journey was a dream in which I was to about to be sacrificed in a primitive religious rite. (That scene is represented in the 3rd panel of this 4 panel painting.) What, I wondered, was that all about?

Because the dream seemed to embody a spiritual quest of some sort, I organized the artwork along the lines of a medieval predella, a small strip of narrative scenes that appear at the bottom of an altarpiece. This organization reflected my asking myself what was at the bottom of the dream?

This led me to think that consciousness, the great gift that makes us human, might be a double-edged sword. That is the theme of the second panel. Here the figure carries consciousness like both a precious gift and a burden.

So, in the first image we enter life, unconscious, enclosed in a particular culture and point of view. Our first task is to break out of our shells, hit the road, and experience life in all its complexities. As we do this, in the second panel, we attain consciousness, and this includes the awareness of our own mortality. In the third panel we face the threat that this hard earned consciousness will be obliterated.

Wait a minute! I thought. I've been told that dreams come to us to tell us things we don't know. My piece needed a 4th panel, one that would get me past the limits of my current understanding.

It took a while, and some of the false starts most of us are familiar with when we try to solve a problem. Finally, as you can see in the 4th panel, the idea of the renewed self emerges into a built environment. And then the meaning of the piece became clearer to me: while I will probably never understand the mystery of life on earth, I can understand the process of death and resurrection that often plays a part during our lives. We are asked to sacrifice, and at times it feels like too much. Or we find our hopes or ideas dead in the water. But then a kind of natural salvation kicks in. We re-emerge with an expanded consciousness. It engulfs us, and we see the world through it. We are now in the world we built, no longer wandering in a barren wilderness. The sacrifice is behind us.

So, the Journey begins again. The painting is about life, about change, about learning as we go, and about the hope for an ultimate understanding that makes sense of it all.


  1. Awesome...Very cool to hear your process. I have a number of paintings I have done from dreams...often I bring together two or more images or feelings from a cluster of dreams which inform each other.

  2. That sounds very interesting, Laura. I bet you've found, as I have, that recording our dreams gives us a treasure trove to mine for inspiration.