Exploring Symbolism

Home Studio Classroom


This workshop will introduce and explore the importance of the concept of connection and symbolism within art. Students will explore their own personal meaning of “connection" in their own lives while using imagery and symbolism to represent themselves throughout a colourful painting or drawing representation.

Symbolism is a way of using images or icons to represent truths or ideas without saying it or drawing it directly. Iconography (using icons) can be thought of as a visual language rather than verbal. In art history as well as contemporary art, symbolism and iconography can be found everywhere.

Did you know there is actually an art history dictionary listing different objects and what their meanings are in paintings? For example, if you see a dog in a painting, it symbolizes loyalty. A stormy sky means there is danger, a dove means peace and calm, and a spider signifies betrayal. Even certain colours have specific meanings such as purple, symbolizing royalty or wealth.

Examining symbolism in artwork is fun because you are searching for the meaning like a treasure hunt!

This activity allows students to create works with their very own and personalized symbolism. By creating self-portraits using iconography, this art lesson allows for students to self-reflect and use the common art practice of symbolism to represent themselves and what makes them who they are through images.

Exploring Symbolism: Step-by-step Downloadable PDF.