Child, acrylic on paper, 2005, carolineallen.com
I’m a writing coach, and a professional tarot reader on the side. The energy I use to channel spirit while reading the cards is the same energy that feeds my characters in fiction and helps me express myself in visual art.
Recently I did a tarot reading for a writing client, and at one point the reading said: the more you engage the dark side in your writing, the more your bad dreams will disappear.
I was struck by this. As an artist, and I know this is true of many artists, the creative side whirls and bubbles while I sleep. My dreams are epic, and often dark and metaphorical and frankly, scary. I’m also psychic, so I always felt that my dreams channelled the darker side of society as a whole.
After I did this reading for the client, I was struck by the fact that I had not had bad dreams in years. I actually remember the last one, and it was nearly 5 years ago.
I understood that because I was doing my artistic work, both the visual art and fiction writing, and because I have been incorporating the dark side, my dreams are being channelled into the art, and aren’t scaring me anymore while I sleep. It was so clear and obvious, but felt like an intense epiphany.
For example, my novel Earth opens with a scene where a little girl is used as a scarecrow in the family’s garden. In my visual art, I draw life models and take the pictures home and paint them. I interpret the drawing in whatever way I see fit, using wacked colors, odd shapes. I’ll make their eyes a bit crazy. Some of these paintings have come out dark and scary, or deeply sad. And I mean all of this in a good way. Art isn’t just about being pretty, or light, or sweet. Merge the two, and see how deeply your writing or art changes.
Think of nightmarish imagery of Anglo-Irish painter Francis Bacon. Think of Picasso, how disjointed his figures look. Think of how much we LOVE these artists. Think of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the original ones; how dark and monstrous the stories. Think of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The dark in J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. The monsters in Beowulf. I know this for sure, all great literature has grappled with universal dark themes.
An artist reflects the spirit of the times. To deny the dark side is to deny a very crucial part of being an artist. If you’re a new writer, trying writing something dark. I joined a writer’s group where a lot of the participants write horror or sci-fi. In other groups, I’ve worried my darkest side was too dark and was hesitant to share my material. Now, I can’t seem to be dark enough for these people. No, that’s not true. I’ve seen a few of the writers scared – a great feat to scare a horror writer, I tell you!
Don’t ignore your dark side. It’s verdant. Write in the dark. See how that will explode open your creativity. Trying to be nice or good in your art is a real creative killer, and not healthy for your psyche. Or society’s.