Art often comes to me in my dreams. I still remember the moment I realized I had to keep a journal by my bedside. I was young, maybe pre-teen, obsessed with poetry. I had woken up with a poem in my head. A fully formed poem. No edits needed. I felt like I woke up to an unexpected gift. And I never wanted to lose one.
Art can come to me this way, too. I was in that state just before sleep but not quite awake when my brain flashed an image. For months I’ve pondered on my desire to return to portraiture. I’d also drawn on some connections I’d developed after running my free workshop Mapping Your Artist Family Tree. I was recently obsessed with gold leaf. I wanted it in my work.
Just as I was drifting into unconsciousness Frida showed her face. She had a big, beautiful, gold halo behind her head. I also thought about turquoise blue. I wrote down the idea and fell asleep.
About a week later I had printed photo references of the artist and began drawing her in my sketchbook. I had found imitation gold leaf at a local store in Muscat and decided to experiment. Play time! I loved her immediately. I knew this was something that needed to be developed further. I wanted to bring her fully to life.
I dreamt of another artist, also with a halo. It was then I began to understand this work was a series. I began plotting: only of artists? Of women? Names came tumbling out and I wondered: just how much gold leaf am I going to need?!
For as long as I can remember I’ve been drawn (ha, ha) to patterns. Portraits were a focus since middle school. Then of course, was the recent interest in gold leaf. All of these pieces led me to think about Gustav Klimt.
While looking at his work I saw reference to Byzantine imagery I had the fortune to see in Istanbul, Turkey. All the pieces of a puzzle slowly found their way to each other to create my Frida.
I had no finished image of her portrait in my mind. Instead, I’d work until I felt stuck. I’d stop, sit down and stare at the painting. When I’d enjoyed enough quiet I’d ask her in my mind, “Frida, what do you want next?” Sometimes I had an immediate answer. Sometimes I’d wait days before I had an answer. But I kept returning to the work, staring at it, observing, listening. I kept a journal by my bedside, for obvious reasons.
It would be a moment of sometimes unrelated where Frida often explained my next steps. I only had to be patient, give her space and time, and listen. I was open to the guidance of my inner artist.
Frida wanted to be finished. If I didn’t work on her for a few days, I’d feel this quiet beckoning, a call to the paint and the gold leaf. I feel hugely possessive in some ways, yet, she is not mine. Her painting is made from dreams and the 24 karat gold of Istanbul memories.
The title was clear as day to me, too: Frida Strong. Her passionate choice to embrace life, her unapologetic interest in the non-traditional and socially questionable, her commitment to her unique set of values and beliefs… well, I’m not entirely surprised Frida came first in this series.
Frida, we could all use a little more of you.
Be Creatively Courageous: Have you had artwork come to you in a dream? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.