Art Inspiration: How to Create Gripping Storylines From Dreams

Photo caption: Artists who are looking for some art inspiration don’t need to look far: Their dreams have many images worthy of exploration. Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay 

Each night you are invited to take part of an epic adventure into the mysterious world of dreams. Vivid, luminous, and often downright weird, dreams are important messengers that communicate important truths and revelations. 

Thinking symbolically allows for more opportunities to receive inspiration from the world around you. The richness of dreams offers us a treasure trove of insight about our lives, the world, and possibilities. It is a practice of shifting to a higher perspective. 

The literal events of the dream don’t always correlate exactly to the story you’re supposed to receive. They are like riddles, or gifts that require unwrapping to see what’s really there. 

A great way to discern the meaning of your and the story your dream wants to communicate is to think about the elements that make a good story. 

These main elements are, character, setting, plot, conflict, and theme. Here are a few tips that each story element offers when it comes to interpreting dreams.

Finding Art Inspiration in Your Dream’s Characters 

Consider who else was in your dream. Whether they be a human, an animal, or even a fantastical creature, the role they play and what they mean to you is important. Whoever they are, they crucially impact the context of the rest of the dream. 

It’s also worth paying attention to how you feel towards yourself in the dream, as it can be very telling about a situation in your life you have overcome, or are in the process of overcoming. 

Characters in dreams reveal a lot about what emotions your viewers will feel once you translate you dream to a painting. 

The Setting Can Inspire You to Look at New Landscapes

Before focusing on the setting of the dream, think about the current events of your own life. Comparing the symbols to your situation plays a role in revealing the deeper meaning of the dream. 

It gives you a clearer picture of where you ultimately long to be, which is a powerful thing to bring into your artwork. Just as it is in some books and movies, the setting of your dream plays an important role in helping you understand what’s going on. 

For example, literary characters who live in country settings often respond to their settings or environment differently than those who live in the city would. They might be friendlier than their city counterparts, have an abundant love of the land and wish only for a simple life. The setting in the story plays into all of this.

So, it can be in your dreams as well. What does the setting tell you? How do you respond to the setting in your dreams? Is the setting so important that it becomes almost a character in its own right, much like it does in many books.

Plot-Inspired Art 

Sometimes dreams are so haphazard that they don’t appear to have any plot at all. Even if the dream is short, and comes to you in a flash, there’s still a vital plot to discover. While the plot from beginning to end may not be evident in your dreams, there are certainly elements or vignettes of the plot.

Think of these vignettes like the individual frames of a movie or a storyboard. They suggest an action waiting to be captured. Like good narrative art, they also suggest that something happened before the individual frame was captured (or will happen once the “camera” moves on to the next frame).

Because there is always an element of open-ended mystery in narrative art, the open-ended mystery of your dreams can be the source of art that draws the viewer in through the “wonder” factor. 

As the eyes of art lovers move around your dream-inspired paintings, they may try to puzzle out the meaning of the work and even come to some conclusions of their own about the meaning of the painting. 

Ultimately, this is what you want. This empowers the collector to make their own decisions about your work. 

By doing this, you show them respect and appreciation. It’s an action that implies that you and the collector are exploring the message of the piece as equals. You’re not preaching to them about the meaning. 

Rather, you’re asking them to explore it with you. This is a powerful way to look at art and to create it, and it’s one of the chief reasons why trying to pull a plot out of your dreams can bring so much power to your work.

The Art of Conflict 

Pay attention to how the symbols in your dream make you feel, even after you’ve woken up. Was there conflict? Often, there is conflict in dreams. We experience frustration, fear and even anger in our dreams sometimes. 

But this isn’t something to be afraid of. A large portion of the great art in the world explores how we respond to the conflicts in our lives. 

To translate this conflict into meaningful imagery, you might want to explore the emotions that the conflicts caused. Your emotions and attitude towards the symbols are not always the same as how you felt while the dream was happening. 

After waking up, consider the emotional associations to the main images of your dreams. Then, ask yourself if you can turn these emotions into symbols. The symbols you put in your dreams can convey the message of the conflicts you’re trying to resolve, but still leave the dream open-ended enough to invite the viewer to make his/ her own conclusions about the message you’re trying to convey. 

Video caption: See how Dimitra Milan uses symbolism in her artwork. 

Art Inspiration: Finding the Themes in Your Dreams 

The overall theme of your dream can speak to the heart of what the painting will become. It will become the general message of your painting, this is the sum of every other element of the story. 

You can turn these inspiring stories from dreams into powerful paintings with Dimitra Milan at our on-site workshop on April 16th - 18th here at the Milan Art Institute. There are only 20 spots available, so sign up today and paint the beautiful stories of your dreams!


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