It was probably in high school when I first heard the word surrealism to describe a style of art. I am sure that it sounded like too much work to understand back then and ignored the term, that is until sometime later when I came across “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali that my curiosity was peaked.
History of surrealism
The surrealism movement began in paris in the 1920s and combined unrelated images or events in a strange and dreamlike way.
These great imaginative works often had a deep meaning to be interpreted through the drawing or painting but I suspect that just as often, these paintings were flights of whimsy by great hands who created them just because they could and it was exciting.
I bet at first, the fantastic imagery in these pieces really turned the art world upside down.
Even today, many of these works of art look timely and some even futuristic by today’s measure. Just imagine how museum visitors in the 1920s viewed these paintings.
One the legacies these artists left, along with beautiful art, is that we as well can put our pencils and brushes to paper and take our own flight of fancy to create a touch of surrealism no matter what our skill level.
Let’s explore how to make surreal art
Below, you’ll see a little sketch done in my my own style. The composition is understandable and natural for me because I mostly work in anthropomorphism —creating animal characters with human attributes and gestures.
In the whimsical world, it is OK for a fish to be reading his book in the water. He is still grounded in his water environment, so all of this just might be possible in a children’s book.
Now we are going to go further in our flight of imagination by placing the fish up in the air reading the book.
This new imagery makes us wonder more because we need to understand not only why is a fish reading a book but why the fish is out of his water environment. He is no longer grounded, even in his whimsical world.
Now let’s really juxtapose this little fish’s world and have him reading a book out of water and upside down and even turn his atmosphere upside down along with him. Which is up and which is down anymore?
It has now become more dreamlike, more surreal. I could even put a serene face on my fish, as if he were dreaming, too.
Complexity of surrealism
Surrealism can be very profound and complicated in its dreamscape or it can be very subtle. It does not always have to have a deep meaning. It is not limited only to the great artists to accomplish.
As long as it captures your eye in a pleasing or curious way and gives even a little wonder about why it is and what is is, though there may not be an answer, then you have succeeded in touching a surrealistic note.