Creative Inspirations: The Dreamlike and Surreal

(Header Image: Tim Walker)

I have always been captivated by the dreamlike and surreal. Whether it’s art, fashion or film, the works that have stuck with me the most are the ones that experiment with strange, fantastical imagery and concepts. The following is a list of my favourite creative inspirations.

~~~1). Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland (specifically the 1999 film adaptation) 

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Film shot from Alice in Wonderland (1999) 
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Film shot from Alice in Wonderland (1999)
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Film shot from Alice in Wonderland (1999) 

As a child, reading Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland for the first time was truly enchanting. To this day,  Alice is my first port of call for a healthy dose of escapism. My favourite adaptation of the book was the 1999 film directed by Nick Willing. It is shot beautifully and the most faithful adaptation I’ve seen. It captures the whimsy, quirk and kaleidoscopic nature of the book without being over the top. Whilst entertaining, Tim Burton’s 2010 reworking of Alice felt overblown and devoid of the story’s original quaint charm. Alice in Wonderland is a tale which is eccentric and fantastical enough without the need for extravagant filmography and convoluted plot-lines. 

2). Salvador Dali 

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“Landscape with Butterflies” by Salvador Dali
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“Meditative Rose” by Salvador Dali 
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Salvador Dali’s ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ illustration for Alice in Wonderland

I first encountered Dali’s art on a trip to a London gallery at the age of six. It was the first time I’d ever seen art that deviated from the ‘norm’ and the work left a lasting impression on me. A cultural icon for the bizarre and surreal, Dali is cited as an inspiration by numerous modern artists and designers. Dali himself created illustrations for the 1969 edition of Alice in Wonderland which evoke the curious and vibrant realm into which Alice falls.

4). Mirrormask (2005) 

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Shot from “Mirrormask” (2005)
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Shots from “Mirrormask” (2005) 
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Shot from “Mirrormask” (2005)

Neil Gaiman’s ‘Mirrormask’ is a film I can watch time and time again and still be just as engrossed by the weird landscapes, gripping story and experimental soundtrack. There are definite resonances of Wonderland in this film; the dark queen, the female protagonist who stumbles into a fantasy land and the legion of mystical creatures. Dave Mckean’s gorgeous concept art brings Gaiman’s dreamlike tale to life in a truly mesmerising manner. 

5). Tim Walker 

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Shot from “The Lost Explorer” by Tim Walker 
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Photography by Tim Walker 
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Photography by Tim Walker 

If only I could live within the worlds depicted in Tim Walker’s photography. Walker’s unmistakable style is characterized by dreamy, romantic motifs and resplendent staging. I was lucky enough to hear him in discussion with his creative team at the 2015 Vogue Festival and was amazed by the lengths he goes to in order to find the most awe-inspiring settings and take the perfect shots. Walker has a unique ability to create an elaborate, theatrical story with one image. His considers the viewfinder ‘a window to something magical’; a conception which is evident throughout his body of work. 

6). Lee Alexander McQueen

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Shoes by Alexander McQueen
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Alexander McQueen couture

Lee Alexander McQueen was a fashion visionary and one of the greatest designers of our age. His work evoked both fantasy and the macabre and often involved elaborate narratives inspired by fairy-tales, mythology and the Gothic genre. His work represented everything I love about fashion; drama, fearlessness and escapism. McQueen’s designs went far beyond vanity and carried highly sophisticated underlying messages which bridged the gap between fashion and art. 

Josephine x

2 thoughts on “Creative Inspirations: The Dreamlike and Surreal

  1. Very nice post. Good taste. However, the first painting with the ship and the butterflies is not from Dali but Vladimir Kush, a contemporary surrealist artist. His style is quite different. More naive and happy in a sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for pointing that out! I had never seen it before which is why I posted it. It’s strange that it’s listed as a Dali work on so many internet sources. I will replace it with another image 🙂


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