Painting Surreal

Surrealism is an art style that combines unusual elements together to produce a dreamlike effect; merging reality with fantasy, simulating the subconscious mind. But sometimes paintings are just “a little bit” surreal. The unexpected, unreal, or dreamlike qualities may be so subtle that viewers of this style of art may not even be aware of it, and yet, they’ll probably sense that something is different that they can’t quite put their finger on.

In “Kitchen Devotions“, there are several elements in the composition that are unexpected. why are the flowers in a food bowl? Why is one side of the curtain moving slightly, even though the window is closed and the other side of the curtain is standing still? Why are the walls that odd color and pattern? Why does the mug look like it was made by a pottery student? Why is the bookmark floating rather than in perspective? Why does the book look “ghostly” and blank? Why are the flowers spaced evenly apart and straight?

Artists who paint “freestyle” (painting an idea rather than prioritizing a careful, realistic technique), may inadvertently paint in a slightly surreal style. “Kitchen Devotions” was a freestyle exercise to paint whatever came to mind, without looking at a reference or planning ahead. This type of exercise is beneficial for any skill level of artist and may even emerge to become a favorite work or a signature style.

Freestyle painting is a good option when an artist depicts a past event in which there are no photographs or existing places to re-visit for reference. When recalling the painful real life memory that “Darkened Woods” represents, it wasn’t my intention to paint an unreal, dreamlike scene. I imagined myself back in time, re-living those moments when I was running through the woods. The result is an aerial perspective that is unnaturally flat, like what one might recall seeing in a dream.

Even the video for “Darkened Woods” is a bit surreal, because the opening segment of my cheerful face is juxtaposed to the melancholy in the painting footage, placing unrelated and completely out of sync elements in one place. This was not intentional and it comes across as uncomfortably awkward. I’ve since thought I should edit the introduction out.

People usually see only my hands, so I was trying to put myself in front of the camera more often. This was an odd time to do it, but isn’t life like this? There’s never a good time for profound sadness, nor is there a bad time for a joyful spirit. The two often appear side-by-side. So, at least for now, the video stays as it is. Surreal presentations remind us that life isn’t tidy; it’s often a confusing ball of “good and bad” that defines the human experience.

Painting a dreamlike composition may happen naturally when an artist is daydreaming while painting. “Pumpkins and Mums” was a project assignment for a book, but there were no plans for this art beyond painting pumpkins and mums in a “pumpkin patch” sort of setting. So, I imagined a pleasant autumn scene that I’d personally enjoy.

The result was a painting that expanded to include more things I wanted. Why not add a couple of chairs and alfresco dining? Would I care for a cup of coffee or tea? Let’s add some food on the table for hospitality, as I’m welcoming you to join me. What’s behind us? We need a pretty autumn backdrop. As I painted my ideas, the art took on a dreamlike quality. It was a good dream, indeed, and it’s now a real place to visit. It became real when I shared it here with you.

1 Comment

  1. Derek Hsue says:

    Hi great reading your bllog

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