In the ‘80s, I started to write down the weird words and phrases I occasionally heard and read in dreams and during hypnagogia, the borderline state between wakefulness and sleep. By 2008, I had amassed thousands of these dreamwords and began creating visual imagery based on them.
Seemingly blurted from the subconscious—often by a faceless entity—many of the words feel like playful, highly inventive, sometimes vulgar parodies of actual, waking life words or phrases and I feel invited to flesh out their visual accompaniment. Possibilities are endless because there are words ("alfafazen", "runnytoxic"), phrases ("a parella of pigs' prude perfumes", "abandoned fruit cup causes space shuttle disaster"), people ("Mortimer Chubbs"), places ("Go Ahead Rebuild, CA"), movies ("No Plotvia in Latvia") and more, waiting to be visually represented.
In the beginning, my process was to take a word from the collection and illustrate what it could mean. After a couple years, I discovered that a game of matchmaking yielded even more satisfying results: I take an old drawing that I've already done and read through my collection of dreamwords to find which word might apply thematically to the image. It's at once eerie and exciting for me when serendipity and synchronicity come into play, like when an isolated vocal track from one song falls perfectly into place within the music of another, becoming a successful mashup without having to be forced.
My favorite results happen when I don’t try too hard and when I do few, if any, preliminary sketches. This automatic drawing seems to let the words maintain their own strange life and logic.