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January 31, 2021 33 min
Abstract artists find many ways to bring meaning to their work. For some, this may be purely an investigation of color, line, or other elements. For others—it is the expression of emotion or evoking aspects of the visual world. Today we’re going to look at another powerful way that artists can bring meaning to abstraction—through the use of symbols, whether personal in origin or more universally recognized. We recognize and use many symbols in daily life—every company religion, government, and organization adopts symbolic iconography, and written language and numbers are symbols also. In art, symbols—both realistic images and abstract ones—have been used since earliest times and in every culture. They may be based in universal ideas or be very personal to our own experience. As artists, how can we bring symbols into our abstract work? This may be a particularly useful path for artists looking for a way into abstraction and away from literal representation. Symbols that refere to actual objects or figures can be placed into an abstract context and provide a bridge between realism and a more interpretative approach. The most powerful symbols are simple, strong images that distill meaning and have strong powers of communication. Those that have meaning to you can be pulled from any meaningful source, and discovering which you feel most connection with may be a portal to expression thatyou have previously overlooked. You may even find symbols in your work already but not recognize them as such--colors, shapes, or compositions that recur over time--that may reveal meaning if you focus on them. Symbols have strong connections to our subconscious mind and can make themselves known even when we are not looking for them. Symbolism is a very large topic and we can only touch on a few ideas here, but we hope that this episode will inspire you to give new consideration to using symbols in your work. Blurb Thanks to everyone who has been sharing the show and to Laura Smith for donating via PayPal. If you would like to donate to the Messy Studio Podcast donate here ( ​ Have you enjoyed the audio production quality and hearing Ross's voice? Ross is building a website for his audio production business and could use a testimonial from you! Submit a testimonial by email at or by submitting the contact form at! ​ When you buy art supplies at Blick remember to use our affiliate link to support the podcast! Bookmark this link and then you don't even have to think about it again. This is one of the best ways to support the show. It takes a few seconds and costs you nothing! Right now Gamblin products are 40% off, so this is a great time to buy Cold Wax or Gamblin oil paints! ​ Cold Wax Academy (formerly Squeegee Press) would like everyone who enjoys using their special cold wax tools to know that all sizes of SP Create squeegees are back in stock! Rebecca and her partner Jerry McLaughlin are also launching their online live learning sessions as part of the new membership program, and all sessions will be recorded for future viewing by members. For more information, and to become a member of Cold Wax Academy please visit their website at and click on the Membership button. ​ Have an art related product, service, or event you would like to advertise on the Messy Studio Podcast? Email Ross at ( for current mid-roll advertising rates. ​ For more from The Messy Studio: ​ For more from Rebecca Crowell: ​ The Messy Studio Podcast is a CORE Publication MGMT production.
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