Symbolism in Art and in Life

Waiting to Enter
Waiting to Enter

As an abstract artist I often notice people look at my art with a quizzical expression. Sometimes they don’t ‘get’ it. That is okay. Painting an abstract is sometimes more difficult than painting a realistic painting, or representational. Using value, color,shape and line I attempt to evoke an emotional connection with my art. To do this I like to use symbols that are meaningful to me.

I will often suggest a figure, or as in this first painting, I have suggested a doorway. I will also embed images, cover them up, and scratch back some part of it as I did in  my Artifacts series. Working with symbols brings depth and meaning to a painting. I feel imagery and symbols work this way in life as well as when we ‘resonate’ with them and they give us meaning.

Red Door
Red Door

Personal symbols can be both representational, as the door is in this painting, or abstract. I have a friend who loves butterflies, and another who loves dragonflies. These have both personal meaning to my friends and yet have a universal meaning as well. The universal meaning for Butterflies is about death and  rebirth, and Dragonflies symbolize transition.  The eminent psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Jung, identified universal symbols as imagery that anyone everywhere could identify with. For example, he found that the image of a sun in art is ‘understood’ throughout the world as a universal symbol.

Some of my favorite symbols I use often in my art are doorways, or thresholds. I love this archetypal imagery as it suggests a ‘call’ to the unknown, a transitional point, like standing at a threshold in life. It is also an in between place, neither here nor there, a portal into another world. Spirals are another symbol I use often in my work. Like an Labyrinth, spirals suggest a journey inward and back out again. This can be seen as an awakening process and is symbolic of the Journey in life. Spirals are also seen in ancient art depicting the goddess, or the feminine.

Numbers are also symbolic. For example, the number 4 is symbolic for wholeness, the earth and the first chakra.


Five is the number of man or humanity. You can see I used these numbers in this painting. All numbers have symbolic meaning which is why numerology is so powerful.

There are so many symbolic meanings of imagery. These can come in dreams and are placed in art. The list would fill a book, several in fact! The important thing is, whether you are an artist or not, is to find symbols that speak to you personally and use those symbols often. Like an unspoken pact between you and the symbol, synchronistic  events may begin to occur as these symbols show up for you in your life. If you are an artist use them in your art. If not, bring them into your home, perhaps setting up and altar of sacred symbolic objects that keep you connected with the divine.

Until next time,

What’s New:


Come to the Rock Hill Winery in Rocklin for the Wine and Art Membership Show  & Reception on Oct. 9th: 6:00 -9;00. Would love to see you there. Entry is free. This is a wonderful winery and if you haven’t yet been there, make this an evening out!


November 13-15th is Placer County’s 21st Open Studio Tour. Over 90 artists are selling their art, and I will be at Gallery IQ showing with 3 other wonderful artists that weekend. 3700 Midas Ave, Rocklin. Bring your Christmas list for one of a kind gifts. 10:00 – 5:00. We have an under $45 gift table.