Get Inspired by William Baziotes

William Baziotes, American 1912-1963, Desert Animal, 1947, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 ¼ inches. Gift of Marion and Francis Lederer in honor of Marisa Shea, 10-2002.

Design Your Own Symbol

Symbols represent an idea and can take the form of words, images, and sounds. Rather than depicting something objectively—or as it appears in the world—a symbol conveys an idea through an association.

What is Symbolism?

Symbolism in art is rooted in the 19th- and 20th- century literary and art movements. Many writers and artists sought to express ideas through literary and visual forms that were metaphorical or associative, rather than realistically or direct.

While today many artists continue to use symbolism in their work, symbols can also be found in the everyday world and similarly convey ideas through written or visual forms.

Learn more about William Baziotes



  • Pencil, markers or colored pencils
  • Paper
  • Optional: collage material or objects

Step 1

Observe your surroundings, inside or outside, and consider ways of depicting what you see that are based on associations or impressions. You may find symbols embedded into designs in your home or yard or on the street. Photograph, sketch and/or write them down. Examine your found symbols and think about how they use images, sounds, or marks to represent an idea. What characteristics help you to understand their meaning?

Step 2

Once you have observed and thought about how different symbols convey a message, create one that represents you.

You might start by thinking about things you value, characteristics that define you, or activities that you like to do. Write a list of words or phrases that convey these ideas. Once you’ve completed your list, consider which ones to incorporate into your symbol.

Step 3

Sketch your design. Remember, simplicity is important when creating an effective symbol.

Step 4

Once you have finalized your sketch, add color. Remember, there are a variety of ways to convey one idea.   

Step 5

Share your symbol with a friend and ask them what they see in it. Then discuss how your design represents you and other ways you could have represented your ideas.

Submit your artwork