Symbolism in Art and Life

I dream of painting, and then paint my dream” – Van Gogh

We live with symbols all around us; some are universal, some are personal. Symbols can be things, such as an animal, or ideas such as a Journey. For example this painting is a Mandala symbolic of the Self.  A circle is a symbol of wholeness and is seen  all over the world.

Sacred Portal: Throat Chakra
Sacred Portal: Throat Chakra

Earlier in the month I was on a women’s retreat in a gorgeous lodge up near Tahoe with 8 wonderful women. Our topic we chose to work with was deep. It was on the subject of Grief. All kinds of grief, not just death, but other losses as well. We all chose medicine cards to help us with our personal journey with grief. I picked ” Wolf”. Wolf is symbolic of many things including the teacher. Wolf totems include Loyalty, Compassion, Communication, Creativity, all which I relate to.

Spider is another personal symbol I have. According to Native American lore, She is the weaver of all life: the web of life.  These are personal symbols that I could use in my art and would be meaningful to me. Perhaps they would have meaning for others as well depending on their experience with these symbols, but more important is the symbolism they hold for me.

Symbols that have universal meanings Carl. G. Jung called archetypes. These symbols hold meaning for everyone, everywhere.

Between Heaven and Earth
Between Heaven and Earth

This is what Robert and Sara say in their blog called the Painter’s Key about symbols:

“I guess there’s about a billion paintings of sky, mountains, trees and water. Beneath these basic and universal elements lie symbols that may empower our work.

For example, the sky may represent infinity, eternity, immortality, transcendence or inspiration. As the traditional residence of gods, the sky may suggest omnipotence. The sky may also be symbolic of order in the universe.

Mountains are thought to contain divine inspiration, and are the focus of pilgrimages of transcendence and spiritual elevation. Mountains surpass ordinary humanity and extend toward the heavens. They symbolize constancy and permanence and at their peak signify the state of absolute consciousness. Mountains can also signify danger. Climbing a mountain may depict inner elevation. Trees may invoke struggle, rebirth, and other traits such as barrenness, complexity, productivity, fecundity, and the presence of the sheltering mother.

Tide Pools
Tide Pools -SOLD

Water — by way of river, lake and ocean — may be suggestive of ambition, tranquility and life-force. Ocean, in itself, suggests the beginning of life on Earth, and symbolizes formlessness, the unfathomable, and chaos. The ocean can also be seen as a symbol of stability as it has existed largely unchanged for centuries. The ocean is considered to be boundless, a place where one can easily be lost, and can therefore be seen to represent the boundless span of life and the way one can become lost on life’s journey.”

I couldn’t have said it better. So you can see that there are so many symbols that we can photograph and paint in our art. I am sure many of you love butterflies, hummingbirds, dragonflies, etc. and have a story that echoes why you love these symbols. Let me know what your personal symbols are and why!

Until next time,


Changing Seasons
Changing Seasons

This painting, ‘Changing Seasons’ was awarded first place in a juried exhibit in Folsom, Ca! It will be hanging  at the Bag Lady downtown Folsom beginning Oct.3rd. Its beautifully framed as is for sale.

Coming soon! Youtube videos with tools, tips, and short demos.

Stay tuned…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *