Abstracting With Symbols

Episode 163 · January 31st, 2021 · 33 mins 12 secs

About this Episode

Abstract artists find many ways to bring meaning to their work. For some, this may be purely an investigation of color, line, or other elements. For others—it is the expression of emotion or evoking aspects of the visual world. Today we’re going to look at another powerful way that artists can bring meaning to abstraction—through the use of symbols, whether personal in origin or more universally recognized.

We recognize and use many symbols in daily life—every company religion, government, and organization adopts symbolic iconography, and written language and numbers are symbols also. In art, symbols—both realistic images and abstract ones—have been used since earliest times and in every culture. They may be based in universal ideas or be very personal to our own experience. As artists, how can we bring symbols into our abstract work?

This may be a particularly useful path for artists looking for a way into abstraction and away from literal representation. Symbols that refere to actual objects or figures can be placed into an abstract context and provide a bridge between realism and a more interpretative approach.

The most powerful symbols are simple, strong images that distill meaning and have strong powers of communication. Those that have meaning to you can be pulled from any meaningful source, and discovering which you feel most connection with may be a portal to expression thatyou have previously overlooked. You may even find symbols in your work already but not recognize them as such--colors, shapes, or compositions that recur over time--that may reveal meaning if you focus on them. Symbols have strong connections to our subconscious mind and can make themselves known even when we are not looking for them.

Symbolism is a very large topic and we can only touch on a few ideas here, but we hope that this episode will inspire you to give new consideration to using symbols in your work.


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