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  • Writer's picturemarti mcginnis

"101 Ways To Identify Your Personal Symbols As An Artist"

Are you feeling a little stuck in your creative process? Are you looking for ways to inject more personal meaning into your art? Well, have you considered exploring your personal symbols? Personal symbols are like little nuggets of significance that can add an extra layer of depth and emotion to your artwork. They can be objects, images, or even concepts that hold a special meaning for you. And the best part is, discovering your personal symbols can be a fun and rewarding journey! Let’s look at some ways you can tackle the rewarding project of figuring out the visual symbols that resonate with you.

I use a TON of cute animals in my work


Start by reflecting on your experiences, values, and beliefs. What images or concepts resonate with you on a personal level? It could be a childhood memory, a favorite place, an object or even a specific emotion.

  • What shows up in your doodles?

  • Where do you start on a blank page and does your arm want to make the same gesture every time you begin?

  • What myths or other stories do you love?

  • Have you got spirit guides? What do they look like? From where do they hail?

  • Have you got a lucky talisman?

Keep in mind that personal symbols are a powerful tool for self-expression and can add depth and meaning to your art. Don't be afraid to experiment and try new things. With time and practice, you'll develop your own unique voice and style as an artist.

So embrace your creativity, explore your personal symbols, and have fun bringing them to life in your artwork!

As an artist, you can look for symbols that shape your point of view in various places in your life at the moment.

Lots of artists LOVE using ancient Egyptian symbols

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Personal experiences: Look to your own life experiences for inspiration. Your memories, emotions, and beliefs can all be sources of personal symbols that you can incorporate into your artwork.

  2. Culture and history: Symbols often have cultural and historical significance. Explore your own culture or other cultures that interest you to find symbols that resonate with you.

  3. Nature: Nature is full of powerful symbols that can inspire your artwork. Think about the natural world around you and the different elements, such as animals, plants, landscapes, and weather.

  4. Literature and mythology: Stories, myths, and legends are rich sources of symbolism. Consider exploring literature, mythology, and folklore to find symbols that capture your imagination.

  5. Dreams and the subconscious: Dreams and the subconscious can reveal powerful symbols that may not be immediately apparent in your waking life. Pay attention to your dreams and use them as a source of inspiration for your artwork.

Symbols can be found anywhere and everywhere, so keep an open mind and be willing to explore new ideas and perspectives. Go with sparks your heart! By seeking out and incorporating personal symbols into your artwork, you'll be able to infuse your work with deeper meaning and resonance.

101 Starting Points For Personal Symbol Identification

  1. Animal totems

  2. Family crests

  3. Birthstones

  4. Zodiac signs

  5. Favorite flowers

  6. Meaningful quotes or phrases

  7. Childhood toys

  8. Significant locations (e.g. hometown, favorite vacation spot)

  9. Musical instruments

  10. Personal or family symbols (e.g. from family lore)

  11. Favorite foods - because why not!

  12. Treasured possessions

  13. Favorite books or movies, etc

  14. Personal heroes or role models

  15. Colors with personal significance

  16. Important life events (e.g. wedding, birth of a child, graduation, accomplishment)

  17. Astrological symbols

  18. Hobbies or interests - this is a huge one!

  19. Favorite types of weather or natural phenomena (e.g. lightning, rainbows).

  20. Tools or equipment that exemplify personal goals or striving

  21. Images that represent a difficult life event or period of personal growth (e.g. a broken chain to represent breaking free from an unhealthy relationship)

  22. Sports icons, teams or athletic gear - because these people inspire!

  23. Musical genres or instruments related to your favorite music, this opens up whole sub-cultures

  24. Elements of nature that inspire you (e.g. waves for a surfer, mountains for a hiker)

  25. Symbols related to your favorite intellectual pursuits - for me I go for quantum physics a lot as well as the realm of spirit.

  26. Transformational vehicles, literally (planes, trains, automobiles, bikes) and figuratively (enlightenment, aha moments, etc)

  27. Items related to your favorite type of cuisine or cooking style (e.g. rolling pin for baking, chopsticks for Asian cuisine)

  28. Artistic movements or styles that inspire you (e.g. abstract expressionism, Art Nouveau)

  29. Emblems or logos related to your favorite brands or products or those you vilify.

  30. Ribbons or symbols related to an illness or health cause (e.g. pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness)

  31. Images related to a specific disability or medical condition (e.g. wheelchair for mobility impairment, red ribbon for HIV/AIDS awareness)

  32. Political slogans or symbols that hold personal significance (e.g. “Yes “We Can, rainbow flag for LGBTQ+ rights)

  33. Historical or current political figures that inspire you (e.g. Martin Luther King Jr., Ruth Bader Ginsburg)

  34. Icons that represent a social movement that you support (e.g. the fist symbol of Black Power, the symbol that unites the major religions)

  35. Religious symbols or emblems that relate to your political views - there are SO Many!

  36. Images related to your personal values (e.g. earth icon for environmentalists, scales of justice for civil rights activists)

  37. Icons related to large public activities you’ve participated in - marathons, parades, movements, etc…

  38. Icons related to political organizations that you belong to (e.g. Democratic donkey or Republican elephant, the IWW red star)

  39. Images related to social justice causes that are important to you (e.g. the raised fist, the "Free Palestine" keffiyeh).

  40. Symbols or emblems related to your cultural heritage (e.g. a Celtic knot for Irish ancestry, the yin-yang symbol for Chinese ancestry)

  41. Icons from your favorite films, TV shows, or books

  42. Traditional clothing or accessories from your culture or a culture you admire

  43. Symbols or objects related to your favorite cultural traditions or celebrations (e.g. the piñata for Mexican culture, the Holi powder for Indian culture)

  44. Images related to your favorite cultural landmarks or historical sites (e.g. the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower)

  45. Emblems or logos related to your favorite cultural festivals or events (e.g. the Mardi Gras mask for New Orleans, the Carnival mask for Brazil)

  46. Icons related to a specific art movement or style that holds cultural significance (e.g. the Dot paintings of Australian Indigenous art, the Ikenga figure for Igbo art)

  47. Traditional music or dance icons that you enjoy or are familiar with (e.g. drums for African music, the castanets for Spanish flamenco)

  48. Traditional food or drink icons from your culture or a culture you admire (e.g. the teapot for Chinese tea culture, the empanada for Argentine cuisine)

  49. Traditional crafts or folk art icons related to your culture or a culture you admire (e.g. the Oaxacan alebrijes for Mexican folk art, the textiles of Andean weavers).

  50. Images related to your personal struggles or triumphs, such as a butterfly for personal growth or a phoenix rising from the ashes for overcoming adversity.

  51. The double helix structure of DNA

  52. The atom symbol

  53. The periodic table of elements

  54. The symbol for pi (π)

  55. The infinity symbol (∞)

  56. The symbol for the speed of light (c)

  57. The equation for the theory of relativity (E=mc²)

  58. The microscope symbol

  59. The telescope symbol

  60. The equation for gravity (F= G(m1m2)/r²)

  61. The symbol for the hydrogen atom

  62. The symbol for the electron

  63. The symbol for the proton

  64. The symbol for the neutron

  65. The equation for the Pythagorean theorem (a² + b² = c²)

  66. The symbol for the Richter scale used to measure earthquakes

  67. The spiral, which represents growth and evolution

  68. The sun, which represents life and energy

  69. The moon, which represents femininity and mystery

  70. The snake, which represents transformation and healing

  71. The feather, which represents freedom and spiritual elevation

  72. The arrow, which represents direction and protection

  73. The hand, which represents power and creativity

  74. The tree, which represents balance and connection to the earth

  75. The circle, which represents unity and the cycle of life

  76. The mask, which represents transformation and the connection to the spirit world.

  77. The ankh, which is an ancient Egyptian symbol of eternal life

  78. The Om symbol, which is a Hindu symbol representing the universe and the divine

  79. The yin-yang symbol, which is a Chinese symbol representing the balance of opposite forces

  80. The pentagram, which is an ancient symbol of protection and spiritual awakening

  81. The Eye of Horus, which is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and power

  82. The Lotus flower, which is a Buddhist symbol of enlightenment and rebirth

  83. The Star of David, which is a Jewish symbol representing the connection between God and humanity

  84. The Triskele, which is an ancient Celtic symbol representing unity and the cycle of life

  85. The Cross, which is a Christian symbol representing redemption and sacrifice

  86. The Crescent Moon and Star, which is an Islamic symbol representing the connection to God and spiritual growth.

  87. The house, which represents safety, comfort, and security

  88. The tree, which represents growth, stability, and connection to nature

  89. The spiral, which represents personal growth and transformation

  90. The bridge, which represents connection and transition

  91. The mandala, which represents wholeness and the universe

  92. The labyrinth, which represents a journey and self-discovery

  93. The butterfly, which represents transformation and rebirth

  94. The circle, which represents unity and the cycle of life

  95. The heart, which represents emotions and love

  96. The ocean, which represents depth, mystery, and the unknown

  97. The mountain, which represents strength, resilience, and stability

  98. The sun, which represents light, warmth, and positivity.

  99. An energy field or aura

  100. . Your pets!

  101. . Oh yeah, and the ones you see portrayed in emojis - those are Perry popular and current and you may find that you only use a few - so I’m saying these are probably part of your personal library.

Once you have identified the symbols you want to work with now, consider how you can integrate them into your artwork. Think about how they could be represented visually, whether it's through color, shape, or texture. Experiment with different ways of using your symbols to express your ideas and emotions.

Creating a mood board or inspiration board can also be helpful. Collect images or objects that inspire you and relate to your personal symbols. This can be done either physically or digitally, hello Pinterest.

I am working on a Personal Symbol Deck Of Cards to draw from.

I have about 50 so far that represent themes that come up time after time in my own work. I need to refresh and add even more though - because this is an ongoing process.

Several cards from my Personal Symbol Deck

11 Excellent Compendiums of Visual Dictionaries of Symbols

  1. "The Secret Language of Symbols: A Visual Key to Symbols and Their Meanings" by David Fontana.

  2. "The Complete Dictionary of Symbols" by Jack Tresidder:

  3. "A Dictionary of Symbols" by J.E. Cirlot.

  4. "Dictionary of Symbols" by Carl Llungman.

  5. "Symbols: A Universal Language" by Joseph Piercy.

  6. "The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols" by Adele Nozedar:

  7. "The Illustrated Signs and Symbols Sourcebook: An A to Z Compendium of over 1000 Designs" by Adele Nozedar:

  8. "The Hidden Meaning of Dreams" by Craig Hamilton-Parker:

  9. "The Complete Book of Symbols: A Guide to Their Meanings and Uses" by Mark O'Connell and Raje Airey,

  10. "The Herder Dictionary of Symbols: Symbols from Art, Archaeology, Mythology, Literature, and Religion" by Boris Matthews.

  11. "The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols" by Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant.

If you purchase a book using the links above, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.



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