Ep 33 Using Art to Convey a Message or Story

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In today’s episode, we talk about using art to convey a message. Art can be used to say something you want to express without having to actually say it. This could be anything from expressing your emotions to telling a story.

This is a special episode because it kicks off the start of a podcast relay. We have tagged two of our own favourite creative podcasts, which are the ‘Your Creative Push’ podcast, hosted by Youngman Brown and the ‘3 Point Perspective’ illustration podcast, hosted by Jake Parker, Will Terry and Lee White. They will then share their own thoughts on our topic on one of their future episodes. They, in turn, will tag another creative podcast to do the same… and so on.

But back to this episode. Today we talk about

  • How you can use your own experiences in your work
  • How you can put a twist on your own experiences and add humour
  • How creating art from something that annoys you could make you feel better
  • How choosing a well thought out title might add another dimension/extra interest to your work
  • How you can subconsciously put a message in your work, but not realise until you are finished.
  • How you can create art that has a meaning to you, but no one else has to know unless you want them to

Do you ever put a message or story in your work?

Somehow we also end up talking about family not putting dirty washing away and toilet roll tubes – sorry!

This week’s creative question

Q. What is the best piece of art advice you have ever received?

best creative advice question

The best answers will be read out on the next joint podcast.

You can Tweet us your answers @KickCreatives or let us know in the Facebook Group, which by the way if you haven’t already joined, I highly recommend that you do! We will put the question up there and also on the facebook page… and of course, on our Instagram page @kickinthecreatives.

join the Kick in the Creatives Facebook Group

If you have any suggestions for the podcast or our challenges please feel free to get in touch.

To see the podcast show outline click here


Welcome to the show.

Thanks to everyone who’s been sharing their work with us on social media

This is a special episode, because we are starting a podcast relay where we will tag two of our favourite podcasts an ask them to share their views on “Using Art to Convey a Message”. We are tagging Youngman Brown from Your Creative Push and the  Illustration podcast “3 Point Perspective” with Jake Parker, Will Terry and Lee White to share their views on the topic

Talk about the work that’s caught my eye

Ask Tara what’s caught hers


Respond to above.

I just want to remind everyone that the prompts we provide are optional. We seem to get a lot of people apologising for going off prompt, but that really doesn’t matter at all. They are only there if you are running out of inspiration

Ask Sandra what’s new


Respond to above.

Ask Tara what’s new


Respond to above

(mention the videos we have uploaded so far to Youtube)


In today’s episode, we talk about ways of conveying a message or a story through your art.

This can be anything from saying something you feel the need to say without having to actually say it; in other words a way of expressing a message or your feelings. To creating a piece that tells its own story. And everything in between.

We see it all the time don’t we; a painting of an object, maybe a still life or something and there is nothing more to it than that. It’s simply art that matches the decor.

And there is nothing more to it than that, but art can be so much more multi-layered than that, and a painting can have a much deeper meaning behind it, often something only the artist knows.

Or sometimes there is a more obvious story. And sometimes you’re just not sure and it leaves you asking questions. And I really like those ones in particular; the ones where you can almost create your own story.

Mention the painting I saw once of a woman embracing a man but looking elsewhere

Do you ever create a story in your own work Tara?


Not usually no. But I have drawn on my own experiences in the past and created fun things off the back of it.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be deep and meaningful…

For example…

Share your rabbit story (and any others)
Post-it cartoons

What about you Sandra? Do your paintings all have a meaning behind them?


I always find that when I paint something that has a story behind it, it turns out better than the ones that don’t and I think that’s because I’ve invested a little bit more of myself into the piece.

But not all of them have any meaning, no.

For example, I paint a lot of reflective things purely because I love capturing the play of light.

I once painted a raw egg and obviously, that was simply because I fancied painting a raw egg! But when I do paintings like that, I always try to give them their own story in the title. (Your Place or Mine).


Some stories are only clear at all when you see the title

Ask Sandra for some examples of titles she has come up with for those types of paintings


Apple – Not a Banana
Sweets – Toothache and Denture Venture
Cup with lipstick – Evidence

As obvious creative people as Artists are, I’m always really disappointed when I walk around a gallery and find paintings that are titled things like ‘Still life with apples’ or titles that are so literal. I can’t believe that they can’t come up with something more creative than that!

I find titling a painting to be as much fun as I do painting it!

The type of art you create Tara is more geared towards amusing stories, so I don’t suppose you need to title it do you?


No, but an idea for a series of drawings did pop in my head at the weekend which would have a message that would run through them, if it works.

Talk about the cartoon you made about running out of ideas so you’ve got to execute them
Talk about the cartoon strip you made of how we met on the Podcast
Other examples?

So what paintings have you done that have a deeper meaning behind them, Sandra?


I’ll talk a little bit about Light-fingered

I’ll talk a little bit about the lost bear story


I always say I have a light side and a dark side in my painting and I’m still trying to work out why that is. But I go through periods of both.

Whether that reflects my personality (I am a Gemini) I’m not sure… But maybe that’s just a pretentious way of looking at it!

So does your work change according to mood?


Respond to above

While I believe that some art is made to convey a message, sometimes I think that some artists have to come up with a message for their art in order for it to be more saleable, because that’s what is expected. I think art can be a bit pretentious like that sometimes

But it’s true that the way you feel can reflect in the work you produce.


But a lot of people stop creating when they feel depressed, but actually it can help to instead do more.

If you think about ‘Adele’ and the Album she wrote off of the back of her break up, she was literally splurging her own feelings out in words and out of that came some of her most popular songs.

And in the same way, other art forms can help you to document your thoughts and feelings when going through a darker period in your life.


Talk about art journaling and how it can almost be like self therapy. Mention that that is how Danny Gregory helped himself through his grief when his wife died.


Going back to Danny Gregory, mention the sketches he recently did during his cancer treatment. Mention that we know a few others who have done the same thing.


But you can use art journaling for the more usual things in your life. For example if you’ve had a crappy day, instead of letting yourself sink into a foul mood, why not create an illustrated page about it and put an amusing spin on it? Eventually you might be able to look back and laugh about it.
Give some of possible scenario examples

When I was at college I really didn’t like one lecturer we had. He would give us weird performance type projects to do. For example to sit with a friend and one had to meow and one had to bark like you were having a conversation. He decided that we should all give some sort of performance to the class. So I wrote and read a poem about all the ridiculous thing he had made us do


Add a couple of possible scenarios that can be turned into something fun
Talk about the guy who made the toilet roll tube teenage instructional video – Will Ried. Instead of allowing himself to get frustrated about it, he channelled his frustration into something that turned the whole thing into something really amusing.


Art of any kind can be used in the same way, whether it’s a funny poem, a short story… You can use any of it to lighten up something that might otherwise have you tearing your hair out.

If you are having a good time you can also use Art Journaling in that way too. Imagine capturing how you felt on holiday, or on a great day out. Unlike a photo, with sketches, you can capture your personal viewpoint with notes and images and tell a story of your day/moment.


Equally, you can put a deeper meaning in a piece of art and nobody ever has to know it’s not purely fictional. That’s the beauty of art… Only the artist has to know the whole story. They can choose to hold some of the story back And that’s true in the ones that leave the viewer asking questions… Example ‘Who is that person waiting for in the cafe’


Although your art may not necessarily have this great big meaning, sometimes the way you make your marks can say something about how you were feeling at the time. Was it engrossed in detail and delicate, whimsical or are your marks loose and energetic? It can take you back to how you felt when you made it.

And like Tara said, your art doesn’t have to have any meaning at all. If you want to paint something purely because you like the look of it then there’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes it can be more fun to create something that has some relevance or meaning to you, even if the viewer doesn’t know.

Rose – petal example

The way you put together your composition, lighting and colour can also really completely change a mood or feeling that you put over to the viewer. You can make someone feel uneasy or comfortable all by changing your viewpoint and can change the story that you are telling. In general I am not a big Superhero series fan, but I loved the series Daredevil, not only because he is the worst Superhero ever, but also the amazing lighting and colours and compositions, that completely change how you feel.


Yes, it’s surprising how the exact same subject can convey a completely different feel just by changing the lighting.

It doesn’t need to be obvious at all… It could be something as simple as a look in someone’s eyes or an object that has some meaning to you or something like that.


You can twist stories in unusual ways to make something ordinary funny. I like to take ordinary situations and then try and twist bits into unexpected ways to make a cartoon.

I love the way cartoonist share how they feel, in interesting ways. Such as Maureen Marzi Wilson’s Introvert Doodles. She takes simple daily things that all introverts can relate to and makes a humorous story from them. And Gemma Correll completely puts her own spin on everyday things. For example she has a cartoon about being beach body ready where one of the suggestions is to stretch your belly button until it’s large enough to hold a beer can


It can even be completely fictional of course and not necessarily be directly related to the artist at all.
Think about the political cartoons you see. The story isn’t related to the artist, but may convey their own point of view on a political topic.


I’ve heard some artists talk about their art not intentionally having a story, but when they finish, they realise that there are elements that relate to an aspect of their life. So subconsciously there was a message within their work even if they didn’t realise it at the time.


Yes, that’s happened to me. I think it’s important not to force it, but try to be open-minded and allow a painting to take you where it wants to and see what happens. Forcing it will only lead to something that looks over contrived and you really don’t want that.

Some famous artists have left secret messages within their art
For example Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa has a series of hidden letters and numbers hidden within it, and no one else knows what they mean


Mention the film as an example – The Da Vinci Code


Finally read out the answers to our previous question…

The question was…

Q. What do you do to stay creatively motivated?

TARAJohn Munro The following helps

1. Getting old and dreading not doing something I love

2. Running a writing group

3. Challenging myself mentally, because physically I’m no longer the Olympian I always imagined I was ( I was going to say athlete, but if Break Dancing is being considered an Olympic sport then I’m an Olympian )

Angela Murphy Pink gin does the trick for me lol only kidding!! Well not really kidding!! Things pop into my head at all stupid times of the day and if I don’t sketch something from the nonsense my brain generates I become a nightmare to live with!! So I suppose keeping my sanity keeps me creative!!

Christi C Neff Following my quest for peace. Running from stress. Hiding in my blue room. My creativity comes from within and is essential to keeping my sanity. Vodka… occasionally only because I haven’t tried pink gin yet.

Otilia Heimat Sometimes I will draw without thinking, other times I read an article or a book about art. Mostly, I go to an exhibition/gallery and that’s enough to trigger ideas.

Teresa Jolliffe Cameron I start a new job tomorrow after a year off so I know that I will need to purposefully schedule time for me.

Gabriela Popp The challenges push me to draw every day…. and that is my start of the day.

Regularly I take part in a portrait-drawing-group without a teacher, only to spend relaxing time together and share the costs for the model…

And an upcoming exhibition makes me busy, too. In May there are three

Mary Flynn Nature always inspired me. This group inspires me. Having to wake up at 4:30 every morning to go to work is inspiring me to work harder so I can become a full time artist.

Anna Sellers Our family plays roleplaying games once a week which gives more art needs than I can keep up with. We play Dungeons and Dragons. Because I post some of my images for our game, I have had requests for commissions

Russila Moodley Have been creatively motivated for as long as I can remember. ..it has expressed itself in poetry,photography, painting and writing a book!!

The problem is always finding time to unleash my passion in these creative ventures😊


Surround myself with art every day for example watching YouTube videos and keeping sketchbook. If I’m somehow blocked I think what I most love about art and draw something that is connected with that.


@kickinthecreatives – I don’t hesitate. Whether it’s a small action like jotting an idea down in my phone’s memo or scribbling on a piece of paper or just going for a walk or talking an idea out loud or using my phone to record and talk an idea out….I take ANY kind of action in the moment. Then immediately act on the idea when you get a moment. It might not work or be want you wanted and maybe you’ll come back to it later…but doing SOMETHING will always be better than doing nothing.


I have a sketchbook for every idea, but sometimes I challenge myself to visually relate two random words to get my brain going. I like to letter and I follow these lovely German calligraphers. I decided to do their lettering challenge in March with a twist. I put everything into Google Translate and lettered the literal translation. That’s been a challenge. #letteringforoneyear.


Stay focused on projects already in the works and make sure to take two days off a week now from drawing. Otherwise, I get overwhelmed and frustrated.


And we have a brand new question for you, which is:

Q. What is the best piece of art advice you have ever received?


As always you can Tweet us your answers at KickCreatives or let us know in the facebook group, which by the way if you haven’t already joined, I highly recommend that you do! We will put the question up there and also on the facebook page… and of course on our Instagram page, kick in the creatives.

Don’t forget we are tagging Youngman Brown from Your Creative Push and the  Illustration podcast “3 Point Perspective”with Jake Parker, Will Terry and Lee White to share their views on the topic, so keep an ear out for their podcast episodes too – links to their podcast will be in our show notes.


Don’t forget to pop over to our website at kickinthecreatives.com to find out how you can take part in some of our upcoming creative challenges! And of course there you can also subscribe to the Podcast, so you never miss an episode… And if you are enjoying the Podcast, we’d be so grateful if you would leave us a little review on iTunes, or even just a star rating if you don’t have much time.

Also, you can now subscribe to our Weekly Youtube video if you want to learn something creative every Sunday and see Tara and I making complete fools of ourselves at the same time!

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