Have you ever had a dream that gives you an idea, helps you solve a problem, or crushes a creative block? When an artist consciously and consistently enters their dream space, they can intentionally draw inspiration and information that will assist them in their creative process, producing an incredibly unique result. The result of a lucid dreaming artist can be a wave of innovative ideas, acquiring new skills and techniques, and overall mystical dream experiences that contribute to the creative process. Although they tend to be more vivid during REM, dreams can happen in any phase of sleep. (REM stands for ‘rapid eye movement,’ a phase of sleep in which the brain is more active).
There is a liminal phase between wakefulness and sleep called hypnagogia, where the subject is still partially conscious but begins to experience free-associative kaleidoscopic mental imagery, outside of their normal REM sleep. Dreams were a primary source of material for the Surrealists in the early 20th century, who had the intention of freeing themselves from the restraints of an oppressive society.
In his creative dreaming practices, Salvador Dalí worked a lot with the hypnagogic phases of sleep and dreams. Hypnagogia is related to the states of drowsiness immediately before falling asleep. This is where one may see vivid patterns or random hallucinations, as well as experience muscle-jerking sensations. In this phase, the subject may notice themselves begin to enter the dream world as they are falling asleep into deeper stages.
Salvador Dalí became an expert in navigating his hypnagogic states by taking short naps throughout the day, with the intention of accessing his dream space for creative inspiration. His famous strategy was to put a metal bowl next to his chair, and a spoon in his hand as he would drift off into an afternoon nap. When falling asleep, the spoon would drop into the bowl and slightly wake him up enough to keep him lingering in Hypnagogia.
This is where his imagination started to produce the vivid imagery that appears in his work. ‘Sleeping on it,’ as the term says, was a crucial part to his creative process, which would access the depths of the spirit to solve technical problems. Inversely, in his state of waking consciousness, he would not have been capable of solving these problems. Although many artists were already interpreting dreams, Dalí began consciously using sleep to guide and control artistic creation to be executed in the waking state. He treated his dreams as magical diamonds mined from his unconscious state.
The desire to depict dreams in film spilled over into the 21st century. Most lucid dream fanatics today have seen the film ‘Waking Life,’ a 2001 experimental animated film that explores reality, lucid dreams, consciousness, the meaning of life, and existentialism. The film is entirely rotoscoped and follows a young man through a philosophical exploration of his dreams.
Artists who master the art of lucid dreaming, often use it to find inspiration for their work. Dreams may produce dreamlike and surreal artwork, but also surprisingly realistic pieces as well.
For example, people who are trying to write something can use their dreams to help them progress and crush writer's block. Whether it is a blog post, script, or best-selling novel, you can do something as simple as triggering lucidity and holding a book in your hand. Then you ask the dream “show me the next chapter of my book,” or “show me the title of my best-selling book”. Open the book up, and literally see the answers on the page in front of you.
This works for many different things. If you’re an artist and want to make an incredible painting to sell for an exhibition, you can get lucid and walk into the building where your exhibition will be held, look at all the paintings on the walls and take inspiration from that. Similarly, holding a blank canvas in your hands during the lucid dream, and saying something like “show me my best-selling piece” and then waking up and recreating that in the waking state.
The possibilities on what you can do are just endless. Exploring our subconscious mind through lucid dreams can help bring things into reality from dreams, just like Salvador Dalí used to do. Consciously seeking ideas and answers through dreams can help crush the artist’s creative blockages.