Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
June 13,   2011
The Art of the Dream Henry Reed

The Art of the Dream
Henry Reed

My Art and My Story Behind It

   One of the things that I value most from my dreams is that they got me to value more the artistic side of myself.

   I always had an interest in art. I entered a sculpture in a grade school art show. In grade school, I remember admiring the girls who could draw pictures copied so well from Ideal magazine whenever we had some kind of show. I dabbled in art, here and there, sometimes as a way to express feelings for a girl, or some other subject that had gotten me into a mood. In college I would periodically go on a drinking binge and paint, or create. I have found what I could of this material and included it in "Early Works."

   While I was a graduate student at U.C.L.A., I began to record my dreams. At the same time I began some doodles. There were some faces. When I left U.C.L.A. and moved to the East Coast to begin teaching at Princeton, I continued my doodles. I added color markers. Then a woman friend gave me a set of pocket water colors. This present opened up a whole new world. But it was a bit scary, too. I couldn't control the colors at all. They were a bit outside my comfort zone. But then, as I began to experiment with them, I had some dreams.

   These dreams gave me some ideas on how to paint with watercolors. I painted in my dream journals. I have collected some of these works in the section, "Beginning Dream Drawings" and then in the section of paintings called "Mandalas."

   When I left Princeton and moved to Virginia Beach, I began to organize Dream Art Festivals in association with the City of Virginia Beach Art Center. One year I was the featured artist for a one-man show of my dream inspired watercolors, in 1982. I have included what I can of those works, as well as some works from other artists who participated in this program during other years, in the section, "The Dream Art Show."

   Painting for the Dream Art Show put a hex on my painting, and I stopped for several years. I don't recall the impetus now, but I did start painting again. I had to do it for the fun of it, as I had done before the show, and I found myself venturing into new territory. I painted mandalas, primarily, circular and square designs that didn't require me to think too much about what I would paint. I risked looser and more spontaneous techniques. These paintings are shown in the section, "Mandalas."

   As a result of experimentation with mandalas, there began to occur some other kinds of paintings. I did several expressionistic landscapes while on various cruises in the Caribbean. Those and other paintings are shown in the section, "Recent Works."

Early Works

   These pieces will wait until after February, as they are currently not scanned for web presentation

Art and Dreamwork

   This section contains art produced in conjunction with dreamwork. Some of them are representations of dreams. Most are expressions of feelings, energies, ideas, etc. that emerged in dreamwork. Some are adjuncts to dreamwork, as in making masks, dream mandalas, etc. In effect, these works were done, not for the purpose of hanging them on the wall to show other people, but for the purpose of drawing to the surface a fuller awareness of "stuff" that was inside me, or to establish a better relationship with that "stuff."

   I began dreamwork in 1967-1968. During the early stages of this work, I drew a lot of masks. Anticipating what would appear as a pivitol exercise in the book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain," I drew these faces upside down. Then I would turn them over to see the face created. I made countless faces. The eyes were often prominent. Some were elaborate. What is happening in these is a certain amount of self-reflection, exploring unknown aspects of myself, as well as exploring symbolic aspects of the face, such as the hair and its relation to thoughts, and the eyes as windows on the soul. In painting the faces I was also exploring certain dimensions of personal power, power not so much of the ego, but worn by the ego in recognition and honor of that power, and also, perhaps, posing with it. Looking back, I can see that I was exploring the idea that there was another consciousness within me. I would look into the eyes of the folks, and see their ritualistically styled features, and think about other sources of awareness. I don't believe I was conscious of the significance of what I was doing, but was more mesmerized by the process.

Illustrating A Dream

   This picture is my very first dream drawing, from my first dream recalled as an adult, when I was 24, learning to remember my dream. In this drawing you see the flying goat, the animal who would later be named "Starbuck." The story of this dream is given in my booklet, "From Alcoholic to Dreamer: My Personal Story Learning to Get Help From My Dreams."

   You can see how I illustrated this dream almost twenty years later for that article, and shown at the dream art show, in the next section.

   I enter a restaurant and see an old man sitting at a table. He invites me to sit at the table with him. I don't want to join him, because he seems like an undesirable character, dirty, unkempt, perhaps dangerous. Someone's voice whispers for me to sit there, but I don't.

   After playing the "Dream Drawing Story Game" I had a different perspective on this dream. Looking at this drawing, but not knowing my dream, someone told a story about an artist at work in his studio. That someone would perceive the man at the table as being an artist made me wonder if I blocked recognition of my creativity by judging it on social appearances. I needed to take a second look at my "rough and unkempt" side. You can see a later rendition of this dream

   Here is a picture of a dream, of me flying on my bicycle. It is one in the Starbuck series, integrating heaven and earth.

   This dream is perhaps one of the most important in the Starbuck series. Here the energies of the flying goat appear in the form of a railroad locomotive and a sail plane. In this dream, the purchase of the sail plane has an added bonus. It receives free lifts into the air by the locomotive. The linear, cause-and-effect, power of the locomotive, channeled by the tracks, creates the necessary lift to allow the free flying spirit of the sail plane to get off the ground. This dream contains some important information, to me, about the role of physical incarnation in supplying the spirit some important, propelling, experience.

   I came to this conclusion by role-playing the elements in the dream, primarily the locomotive and the sail plane. When I played both of them simultaneously, I had a vision of the link between spirit and matter.

Portraying Feeling in Dreams

   While I made a few drawings of dreams, I also began to experiment with drawing feelings that arose as a result of dreamwork. A major theme, that resulted in numerous drawings, had to do with the tree, with dancing, and the dancing energy in landscapes. I was an emerging dancer at the time, and I could vicariously dance on the page, putting down dots on paper, and these dots would form the image of a tree.

   Using colored pencil or marker, I could dance across the page, leaving a trail of dashes, and the energy of the spirit in me would begin to emerge on the paper. This one looks almost like some kind of nature energy.

   A dot-based drawing of a tree bent with some energy like the wind. Perhaps symbolic of the growth process being shaped by the spirit.

   Here the dancing, the energy and the tree are all equally evident. Again, the image forms itself as I allow my colored pens to hop and scratch across the page. I don't have the sensation of me implementing some plan, but rather that an image begins to form as my pencil dancing leaves a trail, gradually building up the forms and images.

   Here the image of a person, a dancer, is more clearly visible, and there is a suggestion of a mood, perhaps a tentativeness. In my dreamwork and analysis I explored my tentativeness at incarnating into the physical world.

   The energy here has taken on a life of its own, remote, up on a mountain top. At such elevation we have the intercourse between the heavenly and the earthly forces. It is dramatic, aloof, powerful, not human.

   Here the dancer is very clear, but rather than dancing within a background of nature, there is a suggestion of a face in the background. This effect was not intentional, but was a "discovery" later. It was one that suggested that behind the scenes of a more conscious activity, even if it seems random and playful, there is a higher intelligence at work, aware, and perhaps guiding the more conscious, ego-oriented activity. This drawing is one that most clearly demonstrates a principle that I learned from my dream drawing work, but which applies to other areas where the Creative Spirit is invoked. That principle is that through play, improvisation, random, or even apparently chaotic, activity, we can allow the higher consciousness to guide, to manifest. Today, we have chaos theory which suggests much of the same idea.

   Sometimes these built up drawings did not reveal a single, focussed element, like a tree, but a more diffuse landscape. Hills were not uncommon. The energy is mixed in with the earth, there is a marrying going on, an integration. The light of the spirit energy and the dark of the material is blended.

   Here is one of the hills and the sky, and they each have a bit of each other in them. Another step of integration.

   But hiding in these hills, embedded in their curves, I could make out the dancer. Invisible, yet visible, omnipresent, a floating spirit infusing the landscape.

Harnessing Energy

   Another series of images represent nothing more than energy. They may be expressions of the dance between energy and form. Sometimes I had the intuition that these drawings were attempt to find ways of giving form to feeling, to incarnate energies, ideas, or intuitions.

The Dream Art Show
at Virginia Beach Art Center

Images not ready for web presentation: To Scan

The Mandalas

   A Mandala is a pattern. Square, round, sometimes symmetrical. The psychiatrist Carl Jung was the first to bring to our attention the significance of this design. The first known instance of a mandala is that of town designs from India. The ideal town is arranged to allow the ideal of human interactions together, to bring Heaven into Earth.

   The theme of bringing Heaven into Earth is central to the deeper meaning of the mandala. The circle aspect of the mandala reflects the original wholeness and unity of nature. It represents the heavenly aspect. The square aspect of the mandala represents the earthly aspect, as in the "four corners" of the earth.

   To "square the circle" was an ancient challenge to geometers. How do you use a compass and a ruler to take a circle and create a square of equal area? Still a mystery. Maybe it can't be done. The esoteric meaning of this challenge was to incarnate all of one's potentialities. As souls, or spirit, or as one with God, we are so much more than we can possibly bring into life. Although it is impossible, we must still try.

   Carl Jung interpreted the appearance of mandalas in dreams to mean the workings of that life principle that pushed us towards wholeness. In his famous essay, "Mandala Symbolism in Dreams" he saw mandala symbols in ordinary objects. The first dream of the series has the dreamer putting on someone else's hat. Dr. Jung interprets the "hat" as a mandala symbol, relating to crown. Other objects that can serve to suggest the mandala theme are plate, as in, "Here is all your food," or the ball in a game, as in "here is the object that is the focus of attention in the battle of the opposites we call life," or even flying saucer, as in "here is a higher order of awareness that is not of this earth."

   When I first began painting mandalas, it was in the manner that Jung most abhorred and warned against: reducing them to pretty designs, contrived exercises, rather than allowing them to be spontaneous expressions of the psyche. I used the mandala design as a way of practicing the methods of laying down watercolor that I had learned from my dreams.

   One method was the stained glass approach. This method came to me in a dream where I was walking into a movie theater. Up on the screen was a scene--I don't recall what the content was--and I heard my father's voice say, "You could paint like that!" I looked at the scene and saw that it was created by little areas of color, a mosaic approach, or something like a stained glass window design. Each portion was its ow color. I realized the formula my father was suggesting. Divide up the space into parts and color each part as a separate painting experience. I found I could lay down very thin layers of color and gradually create glowing pictures of very subtle and complex colors. The mandala design was a convenient way to organize my efforts into a pleasing effect.

   My favorite of these was inspired by an artist I met in Livermore, California, named "Ben."

   Another favorite was based upon the Mexican motif of the rattlesnake skin. The Square is divided into thirds, and only two basic colors are used, red earth and blue sky.

   I created many mandalas in this manner, most of them given away as gifts.

   I also began to experiment a bit with a compass, and veered away slightly from the pure mandala design, and I began to focus more on the complex colors I could create from the overlaying of tints.

   Another direction of experimentation I explored was the beginning of layering. Rather than simply divide up the space into sections, then filling each with a single color, I would create, in effect, subsections, by painting over portions of the section with the brush, creating staircase layers. I began to see that this method could create some dramatic gradient effects.

   I had another dream that was influential in my learning how to paint in watercolors. In the dream I was sitting at the feet of my analyst. She happened also to be an artist, and I often showed her my work, especially related to dreams. She was looking at the painting and telling me what she saw in it. In her own teachings, by the way, she had us use colored tissue paper, and glue them on a piece of cardboard. In effect, we were doing layering of colors. She would then look into our collages an see images that she would interpret. In my dream, I have done a painting by layering colors with my brush. I then began to use this method in my painting. The mandalas became less structured, more free flowing. The idea, to take from the theme of squaring the circle, was to allow myself the spontaneity of the free flowing brush, as in channeling the spirit, and bring it down to the paper. I used the mandala symbolism, both as structure and as guiding spirit, in these paintings. They became as meditations in focused spontaneity.

Mandalas for Dream Quests

   In the past few years, have found that one of the new ways that intuition and the Creative Spirit has worked through my painting is my doing watercolor mandalas for other people. These mandalas are part of my dream quest mentoring, and serves as a bridge for prayer, "energetic" or "subtle body" support and communication with the person who is experimenting with a dream quest.

   The Dream Art show intervened in this discovery process. After preparing paintings for "show," I somehow lost touch with painting. When I picked it up again, it was to continue painting mandalas. I found that if I was feeling shy, I could revert to a more structured approach, yet the designs were freer, and more experimental. Usually when I am more concerned with how the painting "looks" rather than with how it "feels" to be painting, I get these more structured mandalas. They are not without some charm, but they do feel a bit constrained. Yet sometimes there are some surprisingly interesting results.

  On the other hand, at times I could loosen up and let the brush fly, obtaining a much more spontaneous result.

Camp Veronica
Camp Lite Mandala
Oriental Look
Vision 1
Vision 2
Vision 3
Vision 4
Big Bold

   My favorite to come out of this series is this one, which I have called "May Day," because of the significance of the date, May 1, when it was painted, and the symbolism of spring, the death and rebirth imagery of Easter, and its significance for the creative process. I have used this design to make t-shirts and coffee mugs for friends. It is one of my favorite paintings that I have done. It represents to me, at a particular stage of development, a true letting go that resulted in something special. I have had similar moments since then, of course, but this painting is a milestone for me.

   What is happening that is important to me, is the increasing confidence in handling the brush and the paints. When I first started painting, I was concerned about getting "mud." I was worried about the colors running into each other, things getting messy, out of control. These paintings, using the simple methods that I learned from my dreams, allowed me to experiment with working on my character, loosening my personality, by exploring changes on paper that would then appear in my life. Just as in the Dream Art series, where I drew many images of the dancer, and then discovered dancing in the physical world, with my body, so these mandala meditations have been little experiments in a virtual reality, helping me to incarnate the principle in my physical life.

Grayson Highland
Smiling Flower
Holiday Feel
Book Cover

   What is happening is that these mandalas are gradually losing their mandalic structure. They become increasingly free. I am becoming more comfortable with the spontaneity of the water color medium, allowing the watercolors to run, mix and create surprises. This level of improvisation, allowing the materials to contribute their own element of creativity, marks an important level of development in my trust and openness to the creative spirit.

Wild Fling
Crab Splash
Blue Lookout

   That concludes my mandala series, but not the paintings. The progressive loosening in these resulted in some quite expressionistic landscapes. You can see them in the next section.

Recent Works

My first watercolor. 1974

   This section contains art work done since the Dream Art show (exclusive of the mandalas). I did very little art after the Dream Art showfor several years . Partly that was because I discovered computers at that time and explored computer art, book publishing, and got involved in black and white graphics. I illustrated my first book on dreams with a dream "comic" I created. But here and there I did some painting, and continued to explore that ideal, most developed in the mandalas, to use painting as a way of exploring my relationship to the creative spirit. Often, it would be in response to a desire to give a gift that I would create a painting. The downside of that context for creating is that I don't have a copy of the work to share here.

   The first one is not a watercolor, but one done in color pencil. It is the result of a genuine vision. I was in Alaska, just north of Anchorage. I had been there once before to do a workshop on dreams and intuition. Now I had returned the following year. The workshop was sponsored by the local Unity church. Whereas the previous year we had a great turnout, this time, no one showed up! I was quite upset about it, so I had borrowed a car and drove north to Portage, to look at the glaciers. I was pretty down in the mouth, feeling rejected and put out, coming all the way out to Alaska and having such a pointedly non-turnout. On the way, I saw a foot bridge over an interesting landscape, so I stopped the car, got out and explored. As I was walking across the bridge, the sun shining brightly in my face, making it a bit difficult to see, I came upon Rolling Thunder. He was a Native American shaman I had known from many years back. I was only a bit surprised to see him there, and he was dressed in Eskimo clothing. He tapped me on the chest somewhat forcefully, and said that rather than complaining about the burden, I should take it as a PRIVILEGE to be able to give workshops and share with other people my viewpoints. I felt a bit scolded, and as I walked on, suddenly I realized that it was impossible that I had just met Rolling Thunder. I realized it was a vision! To me, what was special about it was that I was able to recollect exactly the process of the vision. I realized that I had involuntarily used my imagination to conjure that encounter. The experience was in my imagination, yet it was real. I realized that my teaching about the mechanics of having a vision had been confirmed in this experience. A vision is an experience of the imagination that is so arresting that it appears as reality. I was surprised and pleased to have that idea played out. What a gift! Later I had the opportunity to reflect upon the MESSAGE of the vision.

   At times, but not always, the recent works show more willingness to experiment, moving away from the mandala image. Here's one that just plays with the brush stroke.

   This next one reflects a lot of experimentation with colors interacting. Once I was familiar with what certain pairs of pigments would do when put together, I made this painting. It suggests an energy opening up the shell of the growing plant. I am reminded of the life force as it condenses down into growing things. Sometimes we have to shed our skin to let the light out.

   One type of painting that I've explored is doing paintings for other people. These are inner portraits, "intuitive reflections," I don't know what to call them. Years ago, I did this one for a counseling client:

   Not too long ago, I did this one. The years tell a difference. There is more confidence in approaching a design. There's the overlay method, but it is much less obsessive.

   What has interested me most have been the series of landscapes done while on the "Intuition Cruise" and the "Inner Voyage," a series of cruises to the Caribbean, on which I served as Staff Psychologist.

   Being in these luscious environs, with the bright light and blazing colors did something for my painter's personality. You won't recognize any scenery, but you might get the feeling that I was pretty happy on these cruises.

   Being on the Caribbean sea was an experience in itself. Here I was expressing the joy of the sun and sea.

   Visiting a waterfall on the island of Dominica unleashed a fervor that propelled my brush. I dipped it in the flowing water and rushed a painting. Never before had I allowed my paper to get so wet. It marked a turning point in my willingness to be free in my painting. It proved, however, to be a state of mind that I have not yet been able to access at will. Being near moving water still helps.

   Sitting on the beach of a Caribbean island, I don't even remember which one it was, only how bright it was. I'm not used to wearing sunglasses and I was really squinting. I enjoyed sitting in the sun and painting this one. It's really an intuitive portrait, more how I'm feeling being there than what I'm seeing. I don't know how to represent external reality that well. It's more an experiment in allowing myself to express with the brush.

   I like the mountains, the rain, the foilage. I like being in that environment, and perhaps it is the moist climate that inspired this loosening up. In many dreams the image of water meant a loosening, a lubrication, flowing, dissolving. Here is a reaction to being on a hike in the forest on one of those islands. I don't remember, again, the name of the island, but I can remember sitting on the rocks by the river, looking up at all that green, and the color.

  On one of these cruises I went scuba diving for the very first time. I saw plenty of coral reef. It wasn't the pink that I thought it would be from the jewelry stores, but a light tan. The water seemed to magnify the size of everything. Once back on the boat, I made this painting.

  When we visited Jamaica, we went to explore Dundee Falls. That was quite an experience climbing the falls, hand in hand with other people. There were many levels, and it was quite wet! At the end, I got my paints out and the excitement flew across the page. There's nothing recognizable, externally, but the bright colors, the splash, the blue sky, these are the things that got me.

William King Regional Art Center

The Art of the Dream

After I emigrated from Virginia Beach and moved up into the mountains, I received an invitation from the William King Regional Art center in Abingdon, Virginia. They wanted me to teach a course on making art from dreams. I titled that workshop "The Art of the Dream." We learned many ways of creating relationships with our dreams, not by analysis, but by artwork and other aesthetic experiences. Just as dreams are not a luxury, so is art also necessary to our health. I've found that art and aesthetic experiences creates a receptivity in the person to appreciate the bigger story behind their dreams, and their participation in artistic exercises furthers that receptivity.

I am currently mentoring artists on how to use dreams to innovate in their art. For further information, contact me at STARBUCK@LS.NET

Copies of my art books are available at lulu.com. They do a wonderful job of printing on fine paper, the cover stock is fantastic, and the pictures come out really good.

Early Watercolors: http://lulu.com/content/9449202

Dreams of the Flying Goat: http://lulu.com/content/8041094

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