What does the art on your walls say to you?

empty wallsFor such a visually-driven person, the walls of my apartment are surprisingly bare at the moment. Initially the reason was that when my sister and I shared the place, most of the art in the common areas was hers, so when she moved out she took those pieces with her. Still, she hasn’t lived here for coming up on three years now and still those great empty walls remain.

I have been looking, but I am extremely deliberate about the art I choose to put up in my home. I’ve come to believe that our art—particularly the art that we keep around us where we live—tells us stories. It speaks to us, not just about colours and aesthetics, but also about what’s important to us, our desires, our fears and so on.

I first heard something of this theory in that documentary The Secret. I am actually a bit loathe to refer to The Secret as a “documentary” or to include a reference to it at all. There are a number of things in it that I don’t agree with—namely that all you need is the ‘law of attraction’ to materialize million dollar mansions and the like—however I still believe in credit where credit is due.

There was a segment in The Secret where Marie Diamond, a Feng Shui Consultant, was speaking about a client of hers who was looking for love and a committed relationship. She pointed out that all the paintings in his apartment were of women looking aloof or turning away from the viewer, as if they were too good for them. Since these were paintings he’d done himself, she believed that this further cemented the belief in his mind that he felt love was beyond his reach. Instead she suggested that her client paint a representation of the loving, committed relationship that he wanted and put that on his wall instead.

This notion of our art impacting us isn’t as radical an idea as you might believe. Everyday we are bombarded by messages in the media about what we should buy, how we should look, what we should aspire to be and we know that those images eventually have an impact on how we think and feel about ourselves and the world around us. How many times have we heard that teen girls are starving themselves because of images in magazines? How often has sensationalized news coverage of violence and crime fuelled fear and paranoia? What we see clearly has an affect on us otherwise the media wouldn’t be so intent on slamming us with their images day in and day out.

In the end, it’s hard to avoid that media assault, but that brings us back to the images—the art—that we see everyday when we return to our homes.

Little Red

Little RedFor a long time, this was the painting that hung on my bedroom wall. It’s something I painted over a decade ago after being inspired by a Children’s Book Illustration class I was taking at a local college. There wasn’t really any actual drawing or painting involved in that class and I wanted to paint something on my own that might make a good picture book illustration.

I liked the painting and never thought anything of the subject matter until I heard Diamond on The Secret talking about what our art is saying to us. I realized that, while it’s a great painting, it’s also a painting that’s all about fear. It’s the “uh-oh” moment when the Big Bad Wolf comes out of the dark forest to pounce on poor Little Red Riding Hood.

As someone who is a natural worrier was this really what I should be looking at when I wake up in the morning? Could I come up with a better image to put me in the right mindset for the day?

Sir Stumpy as St. George

Sir Stumpy as St. GeorgeThis is the painting that I did last year to take the place of Little Red in my bedroom. At the time when I painted it I had just started freelancing full-time and I knew that fear and worry were going to be dogging my steps for the next while. Little Red was definitely not what I needed so it was time to change things up.

I’m not usually quite this deliberate when I do a painting, but I packed this image with a lot of little references that I knew would have meaning to me. First of all there’s Sir Stumpy, my little alter-ego, atop his mighty steed. He is conquering a dragon who is perhaps a little more lizard-like than the dragons typically found in St. George style paintings. This was a little nod to a chapter in Martha Beck’s Steering by Starlight where she refers to the fearful, worrying part of our brains as our “lizard brains”. Thus, unlike Red Riding Hood who is terrified of the Wolf that stalks her, Stumpy stands victorious over that which he fears. Oh, and yes that is Lola helping to take the dragon down. If I know my dog, there is nothing that would stop her from being in the thick of things. The whole thing is done as pseudo-stained glass since I love the look of real stained glass so much.

So, did it work?

Well, I can say that for many months after I finished the painting, I found myself smiling when I saw it first thing in the morning. It was light-hearted, even a bit silly, and that’s exactly what I needed to face my day as a newly-minted entrepreneur.

Now take a look at the art on your own walls. Is that art a reminder of good times or a reminder of loss? About things you want but can’t have? About things that bring you joy? About triumph? About struggle? Be conscious of what you are saying to yourself with your art and you’ll be surprised at how much satisfaction you can find walking through your own front door.

unknown artist