How to use appealing timeless symbols in art

An inventive artist can use symbols, give them a modern twist and use them in their art. Check out the FREE CHEAT SHEET that will help you with this.

What great symbols can do

It is more my intention to cover some principles in connection to types and symbols. To open up old treasure chests of art history, and dig up relevant insights. It is also my intention to show how Western types and symbols were a great help for artists through the ages (at least for 500 years). It is not my intention to return to the Middle Ages and start using their imagery. We are living in the twenty-first century and I find it fascinating to see how many of the meanings of some very old symbols are still very relevant in this day and age. We now have come to the field of Iconography.


It means ‘to describe an image. It is not determining who made a painting or whether a painting is beautiful or not. The purpose is to determine the subjects of pieces of art.


Iconology is the logic of the image, in other words, what does the artist mean to say. It is about the content layer of the image. A goal of iconography is to find direct and indirect sources of the artist. These could be literary sources or visual sources the artist used to make the piece.

Another goal of iconography is to study certain subjects or themes and their development through the ages. And to study the manner of depicting and their deeper meaning.

How to bring more content into your art

Now iconography is actually a work area that is about studying paintings or artworks that were made in the past. So it is about looking (back) at works that were made by others. This work area, however, is so interesting because it explains a lot about how other artists’ paintings came into being. And this is the knowledge that we as artists can use to be inspired for our own future works.


In the past, the meanings of paintings were easier to interpret. It was done by the interpretation of the symbols. Art was much more made with a purpose and meaning than nowadays. They were even made to entertain the viewer and give them a riddle to explore. The purpose and message were clearly conveyed through the use of symbols, the setting and all objects worked together for this purpose.

Timeless meanings

Nowadays the meaning of these objects is not known by everyone anymore. However, when I dived into iconography I discovered that many symbols and types are so timeless they could even be used today. We just need to get familiar with some of the symbols and their meaning. Even more, it helps us to understand how it can help us in our won art. It makes our visits to a museum a lot nicer. Two reasons to learn a bit more about iconography.

I am going to share a few principles of iconography to give you some insight into how this works.

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