Symbols in art

I love symbols. I’m one of those people who will make up entire alphabets of invented symbols and then actually use it to write in my journal. I fell in love with the Norwegian language just because I like their special letters, Ø Æ Å. My journal is full of tiny symbols that have big meaning for me, and I thought I’d give you a run down of the symbols I use, especially in my art, and what they mean to me.

I use the skull and crossbones to represent difficult feelings, depression and negativity. I have a little stamp I use in my calender when I’ve had a dark day. On this painting I did a couple of years ago, I saw this amazing girl on New Year’s Eve who I just had to paint, and I included the skull and crossbones as a reminder of the bad things that happened that night. My “Happy New Year” that year was a little sarcastic. Which is not to say that the image has to be – for other people it can just be a juxtaposition of interesting imagery. But that’s the meaning that was inherent in it for me. If you see the skull and crossbones, it’s usually because something dark is happening.

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Antlers – I love antlers! For me they are a symbol of quirkiness, of daring to be different and individual, in a really good way. I put antlers on my girls to show all that makes them unique, special and odd.

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Rabbits are a happy symbol for me. They are about nature and love, about frolicking and being free of spirit, about being soft and sweet too. And rabbit ears on a girl, she’s a girl who embraces all those qualities within herself.

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Flowers, too, are a happy symbol. They are about growth and vibrancy, about a connection with the earth and nature, with a magical, ethereal quality to them. Truly, stop and think for a moment, aren’t flowers just the most magnificent creation of nature? They are so exquisite it’s hard to believe they are real. And they even smell good.

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I love to scratch little tallies into my paintings. These are a sign of achievement, of getting things done, of being productive and useful, of meeting my goals and my dreams. They are the measure of a life well-lived.

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Gothic arches, to me are a symbol of home, with a touch of history about them, a sense of puttinng down true roots in time and place. They represent shelter, protection, comfort and nourishment.

Birds are a symbol I have been loving in my work lately. For me they are about flight, about courage to take a leap and try something new and different and scary. On the other side of the coin is the caged bird, trapped, stuck in a rut, protected or maybe afraid of the world. The classic bird cage is gothic-arch shaped, the shape of home and nourishment, but also sometimes confining and stifling. A bird and a cage – this represents to me struggle to be free within ourselves, while still honouring our roots and the home/lives we have created for ourselves.

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And dolls, dolls are everywhere in my work. Dolls represent the opportunity for us to recreate ourselves and reimagine our lives in another dimension. I love the fantasy world that dolls embody, the complete break from reality and the ordinariness of day to day life. They represent a childlike innocence, a sense of play and imagination.

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My symbol for 2015 is the cross. Not a religious cross, but a medical one, that represents healing, first aid, health and kindness.

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Tell me about your favourite symbols. What are they and what do they represent for you? How do you use symbolss in your day to day life? I’m always looking for symbol-inspiration. I hope, too, that this post has given you some symbol-inspiration for your own creations.

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