Painting My Dreamscapes

I think I can say, with relative certainty, that no one, aside from me and Ivan, is aware of the fact that I have hyper-realistic, vivid and vibrant dreams every single night. And I’m so certain because, until now, I never confided in anyone other than Ivan about my dreams. And it’s not that I was keeping them secret or anything. It just never occurred to me that most people don’t have deep, intricate dreams every night.

I love my dreams. Every one of them. Even the creepy, scary and sad ones. I can wake up crying or ready to punch Ivan in the throat because of whatever influence my dream state still holds over me, but once I shake that bizarre aftereffect, I really like replaying the dreams in my mind.

Last week I had a dream that I was at my grandparents’ house. I don’t recall what we were doing there or any fine details — traditionally vague as dreams go — but one point stuck out clear as day when I woke up. My grandma was there. And at no point during the dream did that seem odd or surreal. Despite the fact that Grandma died in February, there she was, hanging out in my dream. And I am forever in my memory and creative mind’s debt for bringing her back to me in a thoroughly unremarkable and realistic setting: a casual visit at Grandma’s house.

Of course, dreams have a funny way of giving you all the feels one week and then truly distorting reality the next. Take, for instance, a dream I had earlier this week in which Ivan, my beloved husband, was the ruler or authority of whatever crazy world we were living. And in this very crazy world, I was a spy or a criminal or some bad guy and Ivan was charged with executing me. And here I was, the lethal agent, begging, “Oh Ivan, my love, don’t chop off my head. It would be ever so unpleasant.” Of course he totally didn’t kill me. He helped me escape or something. I can’t recall. But I know I didn’t die.

Then my dreams were raising the dead again and Ajax, our dog who died a year and a half ago, was returned to me. We were hanging out with him in my grandparents’ backyard (yes, I went back to their house). Sadly my subconscious wasn’t willing to return his youth and vigor, so Ajax was the elderly and infirm dog he was shortly before his death. But he was still there, wagging his whip of a tail and being the best dog ever.

My dreams stick with me like real memories. I can recall these amazing experiences and surreal landscapes from dreams I had years ago. I’ve never been to Morocco, but in my dreams I have. And I can’t even count how many times I’ve been in plane crashes. Somehow I not only survive the crashes, I don’t even wake up. But the moment I take a step off of a curb, my whole body jolts me awake like I just toppled off the bed. (That’s called a myoclonic jerk, if anyone is interested.)

Lately, my work life has been supremely hectic. It’s been so hectic that I felt the need to use an awkward adverb like supremely to describe it. Yeah, it’s that nuts. This month has broken every record I’ve ever made as far as selling art and it’s wonderful! It’s truly, truly wonderful! But when you work from home, finding a break is difficult. Setting strict hours is almost impossible. (My phone alarms are going off 15 times every hour.) And having some sort of escape is not only preposterous, it is also absolutely necessary for my sanity.

So, at some point I silence the alarms, ignore the messages and requests, and have a little decompression time. Despite the fact that I do art for a living, my escape from that type of art is another type of art. Sounds crazy, I know, but at least you can’t claim I didn’t get into the right career.

Back to the dreams: hyper-realistic, vivid, vibrant — all of the qualifications I need to apply them to my art. So I started recreating some of my dreamscapes in digital paintings.

1. Flying


Look, this isn’t an unusual theme for dreams. You’ve all flown, right? But here’s the thing. It’s not really like flying; the sensation is more like controlling a buoyancy. Let go too much and you’ll go flying off into space. It’s more like floating five to ten feet off of the ground, while praying and concentrating with all of your might on not cascading into the atmosphere like a doomed balloon.

2. Lost at Sea


I’m going to level with you. I have a consuming obsession with large bodies of water. They dominate almost every dream and, even when they’re filled with jagged pieces of ice or sharks, I have never feared the water. I think maybe in life I’m confident enough in my swimming abilities that it transcends into my subconscious and so I spend a lot of time on or near water.

This reoccurring dream has me out at sea on an ice floe. The water is black and choppy. Sometimes there’s no ice and I’m just swimming. Along the horizon are the blinking lights of a ship that I never have the urge to flag down.

This also inspired a painting that I did a couple years ago. A friend of mine bought it and two others from the series.


3. The Lighthouse


I painted this just after sunset, when in truth it’s usually really bright in my dreams. The lighthouse is perched at the top of a cascade of limestone rocks and I’m climbing toward it. The land mass in the background and to the right is an island, surrounded by the ocean. Sometimes in the dream, there’s a wicked wind and the ocean waves are spraying saltwater all over. In a different dream, on the other side of the island — the land mass in the background — I’m on a plane that crashes there. And I suppose that’s how I come to be on the island.

No idea what’s in the lighthouse. I’ve never reached it.

4. Water Walkway


I fumble when I try to explain this one. If you can, imagine a dirt road that runs parallel to the ocean. The road is just a couple feet above the water level. You can step down from the road onto raised concrete platforms that are butted up against the edge of the shoulder. The platforms are about three feet wide and five feet long, with a six-inch gap between each. The water is fathoms deep right off the edge and is absolutely swarming with sharks.

That’s all.

5. Evergreen Island


If this place existed, I would want to move here and live the rest of my life so happily. It’s an island (big surprise) surrounded by a crisp, cold ocean (another big surprise). The island is crowded with firs and pines and evergreens. It’s far north. The air is clean and smells like trees. There is this perfect dreamy fog that never leaves. It is heaven.

Well, it’s heaven for someone who really prefers the upper northern hemisphere.

There are cute mushrooms, moss hanging from tree branches and little creeks winding across the island. Also, I can fly, which is helpful for when I’m trying to outrun the bears. Yeah, there are bears. But there are also dogs! There are like a dozen dogs and I love them! This is totally paradise.

I dreamt about this place a couple nights ago and I hope I go back. The only problem is there was some sort of laboratory on the coast. Think Stranger Things. Bad men. Still, I hope I get to go back.

Well, anyway… sorry for the long post. I hope you enjoyed this strange peek into my creative subconscious and the methods I rely on to unwind, decompress and disengage.

6 responses to “Painting My Dreamscapes”

  1. I’m absolutely in love with Evergreen Island! Glad things are going so well, but do take some time for you, as well! 🙂

  2. I’m jealous of your ability to hang on to your dreams. While often times I can see myself walking through my dream, or looking from the outside in, I never remember them for very long. I think that comes my diminishing creativity. Yours is growing and developing all the time so I’m not surprised that your dreams are vivid, precise, and almost eternal. Just another one of those gifts!

  3. Hello Allison Gray,

    This post was amazing, there is so much that I want to say but my comment would be too long, and so I am not sure where to begin first or what should I leave out to reduce the length of my comment. 😀

    Congratulations on being able to have vivid dreams, having good dream recall, and enjoying dreams and dreaming and for sharing some of your dreams.

    My dreams are usually realistic and I have better than average dream recall and I have been blogging my dreams publicly since 2007, and I have not missed blogging my dreams for each day in over two years; but I am embarrassed by the last four days in a row where I have failed to voice record or think about my dreams, and so I barely remembered them the last four days in a row but I blogged them anyway as usual.

    Usually in my dreams where there are dead people I know, I usually do not remember or realize that they are supposed to be dead (some times I do, but not most of the time) which is interesting and strange, and so I understood it when that happened to you in your dream.

    I can also still remember some of my dreams from over the years, especially if given one or more simple clues, and then I will start to remember more of them almost like normal memories.

    I like your paintings and the concept of using your dreams for inspiration, I am surprised that this is not more common, and I think that you did a great job portraying the feeling of each of those things as they relate to dreams.

    1. Flying in dreams is strange and interesting for me like you described, more like swimming and floating and gliding in the air, and so I usually have to run and jump in the air and then flap my arms like bird and/or like I am swimming to gain altitude and then glide and float around.

    2. My sea and ocean dreams usually also have deep and dark waters, sometimes with sharks and other fish, and I am usually not afraid like I would expect; but there is usually not ice, sometimes, but not most of the time.

    3. I find your airplane crash dreams to be interesting and unusual, especially because it sounds like you have had so many, and I can not recall ever really having an airplane crash dream (but I could be wrong, I am normally not inside aircraft or spacecraft in my dreams and I have never flown in real life, and so maybe that is why).

    I am surprised that you usually survive and do not wake up after the crashes, and that land mass and lighthouse sound interesting and mysterious and it makes me wonder what is inside the lighthouse and what else you might find if you explore this dream world one day.

    4. Sometimes in my dreams sharks and fish and other sea/water creatures, when they can be seen under the water as you stand looking down at the water, they sometimes look larger than normal (that used to be common for me in dreams, but it is not as common as it used to be); does this happen in some of your dreams too where they will look larger than normal in the water?

    5. That island sounds like a nice, interesting, mysterious, and somewhat dangerous place that would be interesting to explore so I hope that you get to return there again one day.

    That reminds me of a dream world that I would like to return to (maybe not my top pick, but the first to come to my mind) of a small planet with a mysterious danger-filled multi-story building with many underground levels filled with probably a museum of knowledge and objects from/of cultures/history/et cetera from various planets, but there are various threats on each level probably guarding it; I traveled there by spaceship with a group of other people, we landed on top of an abandoned multi-story apartment-like building with no entrance, and this dream world seemed mostly uninhabited.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing this post, and I hope to read more of your dreams and see more of your dream inspired art in the future.

    -John Jr

    • Thank you so much for sharing! It must be such a wonderful exercise for your memory to recall and record your dreams every day! And it’s fascinating to me that you traveled to another planet in your dreams. That is something I have never done. Though, I assume that my many dreams about airplanes is because I’ve flown quite a bit, including in a little 2-seater. That was a blast!

      • You are welcome Allison Gray, and thank you for responding. 🙂

        Yeah, I am also surprised that I have traveled to other planets and in space a few times before in a few past dreams, even though this is very rare for me it is still amazing that my brain/mind can think up something like that.

        That was my guess as well, I actually have never flown before (neither riding inside of or flying a helicopter or airplane et cetera), and so that is probably one of the reasons that I rarely have airplane/helicopter/et cetera dreams where I am inside aircraft/spacecraft.

        Flying in a two-seater airplane sounds a bit scary and fun. 😀

        -John Jr

  4. You’re so lucky to have these dreams. I rarely remember my dreams, and when I do they’re kind of sad. I could look at your dream art all day! I love reading about the “story” behind them, too. You should make a book about your dreams and paintings 🙂

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