Natural Bundle Dyeing
By Rebecca Starr
This project asks you to think about dreams and how your subconscious imagination and memories can be depicted in art. Focusing on surrealism, you will create your own weird, wonderful and surreal dreamscape that represents a dream that you remember.
In psychology, the term ‘automatism’ refers to involuntary actions that do not come under the control of our conscious minds; for example, things like breathing or dreaming. Artists have used automatism as a way of creating spontaneous images that explore their subconscious minds. Automatic art encourages you to think and create freely, with artists often using automatic drawing as a way of expressing their unspoken feelings or desires.
Wolfgang Paalen, Automatic Drawing (c. 1954), Image source
Now, create your own automatic drawings. You can do this in timed sessions to see where your imagination and pens take you. To begin with, try drawing one image in 2 minutes.
Now, try this activity again.
This time you might want to do the activity with your eyes open or, taking inspiration from surrealism, think about the term ‘dream’. What does ‘dream’ mean to you? Do another automatic drawing and see what you come up with. This time, give yourself 5 minutes.
Surrealism is an art movement from the twentieth century that was concerned with the unusual, the unconventional and the unexpected. Surrealists were interested in how they could unlock ideas from their unconscious minds and depict dreamlike worlds which blur reality and imagination.
A ‘dreamscape’ is an artwork that depicts a dreamlike landscape. Have a look at some examples of surrealist dreamscapes and think about the following questions:
You will notice that these examples often combine objects, scenery and figures that would not usually be found together. Think about how the background contrasts with the objects and figures in the foreground.
Dorothea Tanning, Rêve de Luxe (1944), Image source
Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931), Image source
Gertrude Abercrombie, The Red Rook (1948), Image source
Now it is time to make your own surrealist dreamscape. Before sketching your design, think about and answer the following questions:
In order to create your dreamscape, answer the following questions. Answering these will help you to narrow down what you will include:
Use your answers as the basis for your dreamscape using materials such as pencil, crayons, markers or watercolours to complete your artwork. You might also want to use collage materials (newspaper and magazine cuttings) to illustrate your artworks.
Thank you for taking part in the University of Leeds Saturday Club Workshop.
You might be interested in researching surrealism in further detail. If so, MoMA has a host of resources that will help you to understand Surrealism, including how surrealists worked across mediums from painting, drawing and sculpture to installations. See here for further information
Tate recently hosted a retrospective exhibition of Dorothea Tanning’s work. You might find the information and video interesting here
Wilfredo Lam, a Cuban artist born in 1902, used his artwork to explore his mixed heritage (his mother was Spanish-Afro-Cuban and his father was Cantonese Chinese). He worked in a number of styles but is most well-known for his large-scale surrealist compositions that often features figures from Santerían and Orisha spiritual practices. More information about his work can be found here
Contributed by Rebecca Starr, University of Leeds Art&DesignSaturday Club
Rebecca is an Education Outreach Fellow at the University of Leeds and is currently finishing her PhD in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies.
She has worked with community groups and arts charities to design and deliver arts workshops. She is interested in arts education, widening participation and socially-engaged art.