Psychology & Art: A Conversation

This post is a conversation between Frank Arnold and I. Frank is a celebrated abstract figurative artist. Depth Psychology and Art share a common interface: The Creative Imagination.

J=Jim. F=Frank.

F: I am driven to do artwork. I know many artists friends who say they feel the same way, as if they are pulled to do the work. What do you think makes us feel like that?

J: We all have an inner need to create, a need that calls to us from our soul. For artists who work from their deep interior, the call to create is a call to be alive.  It’s the mystery of life that drives deep-mind creativity. It’s a way to be with yourself and find out who you truly are.

F: How would you explain to someone what you think drives creativity? And what do you feel suppresses it?

J: Artists like you, Kandinsky and Twombly work from deep emotion, emotion drives the intent and love to create. To have access to deep emotion we must have some entry into our intuitive-mind. So our imagination can transform emotional experiences into images.

What crushes creativity is self-doubt and families and cultures that don’t value it. Self-doubt comes with being stuck in a thinking-mind self-image trance. While in it, we don’t expect or believe we are good enough to create.

F: I don’t think anyone expects to walk into my gallery and start crying while looking at a painting. But something grips them, something deeply emotional.

J: Your images energize viewer’s emotional systems in ways that connect them to their feelings. Your paintings and sculptures open their imagination. And it gives their emotional life a charge of energy—a zing.

F: People who have these deep emotional experiences looking at my work later tell me how they feel and how powerful it is. That means a lot to me. I am not certain about what actually goes on it’s their feeling.

Sometimes I feel like they look at me as if I did it. But it’s not me, it’s the IMAGE.

J: Yes, you access a deeper part of your mind and so enter a realm of experience sourced from what Jung called the “wellsprings of life.”  Then your imagination transforms your experience into an IMAGE.

The real power of art is that a viewer can also drink from the “wellsprings of life”—through the image.

If the viewer can really SEE the image (and not just look at it), then its symbolic power will unpack.

And so the viewer’s Creative Imagination can reverse the process and transform the image into experiences that resonate with the archetypal experience that gave rise to your painted or sculpted image.

F: I feel imagination is among the most important things in your life. As children our imagination is very alive and active, but it gets shut down. The imagination is the artist’s creative source and power.

A good and sane world would educate and support the imagination. A crazy world like the one we live in crushes it. Adults can crush a child’s imagination by failing to see and honor it.

When children and adults are in the same room, it’s amazing to see how much more alive the children are. Their eyes are more open and filled with wonder.

J: Art has the potential to become a path to a second awakening. With a second awakening we awaken to more of who we truly are.

When a critical mass of people become who they truly are, then we can get the collective escape velocity to break free from the deluded materialistic trance we are in.

A trance that values stuff, fame, money, profit, power, and plastic surgery more than each other and more than truth, love, beauty and wisdom.

F: How did your therapy work contribute to your knowledge of art images.

J:. Doing deep therapy gave me the opportunity to witness how dream images can be symbolic messages from “who we truly are.”

As I studied the imagination’s work I learned that that it transforms experience into images.

Images are the real language of our psychological life. But sadly, most of us think about these images instead of experiencing them.

It’s in therapy that we begin to experience them and so gain access to greater depth and meaning.





Psychology & Art: A Conversation