Friday, March 28, 2008

Using symbols in our art

Symbols, painting by Robin Atkins
I’ve been thinking about Morwyn’s February BJP piece, called Imbolc/The Quickening Moon. She wrote this about the triangle shape in the center of her piece:

I have an emotional reaction to triangles. Something about a good solid base tapering up in a symbolic reach to the heavens. Aspirations, I suppose.
Her beadwork and her words made me recall a rather special appointment with a psychologist a while back. (I had about 10 appointments to work on my relationship with my husband and my changing career.) On this particular day, she brought out a large sheet of drawing paper and some thick markers. She asked me to draw the following shapes:

cross (like a + sign or an x)
She asked me to pick the shape that seemed the most compelling to me at that moment and to write the number 1 under it. Then she asked me to pick the second most compelling and to write the number 2 under it. Then I picked the third, fourth and finally the least compelling shape, writing the number under each.

Then she interpreted not only the meaning of each shape, but also the position it held, the rank I had assigned to each. She spoke of this test as the culmination of years of research into archetypal symbols and their psychological associations in our culture. It was fascinating!

Want to try it?

If so, draw and rank the figures. When you finish, check back here (where I have posted about the meanings) so you can interpret your own response. I've also posted a picture of a painting I did in exploration of the concepts (small detail from it shown above).


  1. Robin - This test looks interesting, but what I really want is an oval.

    Denise D

  2. Can't wait to see the meanings of these symbols. Not nice to tease us with only a portion of your painting.


  3. What about a heart or a star?? :D

  4. Funny, I wondered about other shapes too... expecially the heart which is prevelant in so many cultures. I didn't think about ovals, but did wonder about rectangles. Anyway, I guess the psychologists who were researching these shapes either weren't artists or had enough on their plates with the circle, square, cross, triangle and spiral... Or, maybe the oval is a variation of circle, recatangle a variation of square, and who has a heart or a star anyway? (Haha)

  5. What an interesting concept, of course I am curious to see what they each mean - thank you for sharing this with us ;9

  6. I can't wait to see what it all means. I read a book that said we aren't really trying to label ourselves or put ourselves in boxes when we do these kinds of things, just trying to figure out who we are. I thought that was pretty apparent but maybe not.

  7. I love these types of quiz - it's like opening a little window to your own self. I vaguely remember taking a similar test many many years ago. I think these are the same shapes that appear on the deck of cards used to test ESP.

  8. I love these too and can't wait to see the meanings. I smiled as well when I read Morwyn's piece as the triangle is my favorite symbol and I am so drawn to them.

    Symbols have become very interesting to me over the course of this project as well. I found lots of hearts in what I did, and it was kind of amazing as prior to this, I did not like heart shapes. Now I am srrounded by them and am even considering taking the shape for the 2008BJP.


  9. Well, I love stuff like this, of course, and can already tell which are my favs as I've done this before, but I can't wait to hear a new explanation. I'm off on new projects. I hope I can use them in BJP starting in Sept.

  10. Ooooh, I can't wait. I've drawn mine and await the meanings. :-)

  11. Anonymous5:22 AM

    How interesting! I'll be waiting for the meanings!

    The only question, could you please write a couple of synonyms to "compelling"? My dictionary tells me conflicting translations to that word.. Should I choose shapes I like or shapes I think that are insurmountable?..

    Thank you :)

  12. Tanya ~ I was going to post the meanings tomorrow, but I'll wait another day in hopes that you will read this first. Compelling - I think it means something you are drawn toward... not necessarily "like," but that it calls to you for some reason, maybe because you like it, but maybe for reasons unknown to you. I hope this helps. Robin

  13. OK...Spiral, circle, square, cross, what does it mean? I am intrigued!


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!