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.
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
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."
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
These pieces will wait until
after February, as they are currently not scanned for web
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
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
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
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
mesmerized by the process.
Illustrating A Dream
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
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
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,
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
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.
drawing of a tree
bent with some energy like the wind. Perhaps symbolic of the
growth process being shaped by the spirit.
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.
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
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.
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
But hiding in these hills, embedded in their curves, I could
make out the
Invisible, yet visible, omnipresent, a floating spirit infusing
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
to feeling, to incarnate energies, ideas, or intuitions.
The Dream Art Show
at Virginia Beach Art Center
Images not ready for web presentation: To
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
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.
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.
also began to
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,
by painting over portions of the section with the brush,
creating staircase layers. I began to see that this method could
dramatic gradient effects.
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
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
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
On the other hand, at times I
could loosen up and let the brush fly, obtaining a much more
Camp Lite Mandala
My favorite to come out of this series is this one, which I have
"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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Dreams of the Flying Goat: