The Treasure Trove Of The Psyche (Where An Artist Gets Her Ideas, Part 3)

Henry John Stock, "The Uplifting of Psyche," oil on canvas, 1905. Click for full view.
Henry John Stock, "The Uplifting of Psyche," oil on canvas, 1905. Click for full view.

In my last post I explained the everyday sources of my ideas: favorite stories, Pinterest, music. They get the job done, that’s for sure, but they’re not the deepest sources. There are other streams that feed them, streams from further up in the mountains.

Every artist knows what I’m talking about. The psyche is a complex, mysterious thing, and its currents drive all our creative efforts. It’s hard to break down into bullet points, but I’ll try to make some sense of mine.

Here are the biggest deep-mountain sources of my ideas.

"Primordial Mother," Photoshop CC, 4200x3300 px.

4. Dreams

You thought I was kidding with this one, didn’t you? I know it sounds like a woo-woo source of ideas, and I definitely wouldn’t rely on it too much. But sometimes dreams happen. And sometimes they’re so vivid and powerful that it’d be a crime not to turn them into art.

Take, for example, my piece Primordial Mother (see above). It’s one of the pieces I’m most proud of, and it was inspired by a dream. I’m currently writing a blog post about it, which you will be able to read soon.

Yet it’s not my only piece with a root in REM sleep. Recently I had another dream set in the same story-world as Primordial Mother. It’s inspired a related art piece, turning a one-off illustration into – gasp! – a series.

Crazy, right? I don’t know what my psyche is up to, but I’m perfectly happy to benefit from its machinations.

5. The Angst of Daily Life

If you’d told high-school-aged me that all the heartache she was going through would fuel her creative efforts for years… well. I can’t say she wouldn’t have believed you, because she would have. (She was nothing if not dramatic.) But I don’t think she would’ve understood the full truth of it. She didn’t know that as old pains fade away, new pains take their place, and like years of erosion, they form a fertile soil for creative work.

I hate reading my old journals. I’m one of those people who writes in journals almost exclusively to cry and rant. That means I’ve documented more pain than pleasure.

Rereading is good for me though. Why? Well, it shows me which memories I’m stuck on – which particular pains I’ve yet to exorcise. I feel it in the wince I make when I read that one page, in the flush of embarrassment at a hastily scribbled name, in the entries I’m tempted to skip altogether.

When I bring that pain to my art, it gives my work powerI’ve just told the world, “Hey, this thing happened to me, and it hurts!” People see that, and the ones who’ve struggled with similar pains feel (maybe for the first time) that they’re not alone. That kind of connection is golden.

I can’t say I’ve been truly vulnerable in my art yet. Some places in my psyche are so hard to visit that I’m having to “work up” to it. But it’s coming… oh boy, it’s coming.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

6. My Deepest Beliefs

I might lose some of you on this one, but I’ve accepted that. I can’t pretend to be anyone other than myself – and I believe very strongly in a few things. Call them the bedrock of my psyche.

I believe in…

  • Diversity in media. I could make this about diversity in everything, but as a storyteller, the question of representation in media hits hard for me. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in Euro-American culture, the standard hero of a book, movie, or game is a white guy. Do I have something against white guys? No, it’s not as negative as that. I’m not against white guys, I’m for people who don’t fit the mold. People of color, LGBT+ people, women, and minorities of every kind. We all inhabit the same world, and we all deserve to have our stories told.
  • Feminism. This is closely related to diversity in media, but here I’m focusing on the world at large. It is so, so important to me that women be empowered to live life fully, make their own choices, support themselves with dignity, and shape the world for the better.
  • An optimistic view of life. Dystopias are fun, don’t get me wrong. But they don’t reflect my expectations for the future. I believe humanity will persevere through the challenges we face – war, poverty, climate change – and (eventually) create a better life for us all. Call me naive if you like. I just prefer holding out hope for Star Trek over living in fear of Fallout.
  • The endless mystery of the universe. I love science. I love the idea that we can figure out how the universe works. I also love the thought that the more we figure out, the more questions we’ll uncover. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

These beliefs come out in my work whether I want them to or not. I can’t help it – my heart bleeds for them. Look closely enough, and I’m sure you’ll see them in The Oracle Fragment, or any piece of art I put out there.

So…that’s it. That’s where I get my ideas. The stories I grew up with, the art I love best, music and dreams, my deepest scars and beliefs. There’s more to unpack I think – I can only say so much when I’m condensing everything to bullet points. So this intro series might become a road map for my future blog posts. Seriously, I’d love to tell you about my favorite video game of all time, SOMA, and how it affects my work. Or my favorite art of all time. I’d also love to talk more about diversity and feminism and what they mean to me.

That’ll come later though. For now, I want to thank you for reading. I’m opening my heart on this blog, and it means a lot to have you around. \\//

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