Artist Laura Pawlik finds success in depicting dreams

Painter among nine ‘Next Originals’ selected from pool of 1,800


Famed Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung once called a person’s dream the theater, while the dreamer is scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience and critic.

In paintings by Laura Pawlik — one of nine “Next Originals” featured in the Grand Bohemian Galleries — the dream becomes art, the dreamer, artist.

Nearly all of Pawlik’s multi-layered creations are representations of her dreams, which she says have the ability to “tell you something you don’t already know” — usually about the dreamer herself. Perhaps these revelations are the product of a mind left free to wander, or perhaps the process is of a spiritual nature; like so many others, Pawlik believes that dreams originate with an external source. Or perhaps, Source.

Whatever the mechanism, Pawlik has found that dreams are fraught with symbols: colors, numbers, weather conditions, time of day (or night) and more. These are no mere accidents.

“There’s a reason for it,” Pawlik said.

The result is a body of work mysterious, engaging and having a nearly intangible power to connect to the viewer’s own experiences.

Her work is always executed in oils, a medium she finds both “frustrating” and “wonderful.”

“There are a lot of possibilities with oil,” she explained.

She often — though not always — employs a technique that extends selective focus to some elements in her paintings while rendering others in softer clarity, granting the work a distinctive, dreamlike quality.

“I do that with linseed oil,” she explained. “What I usually do is I paint in layers, which I love because dreams are layered, life is layered. So, I’ll ‘linseed-oil’ my canvas and then I’ll wipe it down a little with paper towels so it’s not too wet.”

It’s a technique she learned from the work of artist Kathleen Speranza.

In fact, Pawlik is quick to credit the artists from whom she learned, artists like Alyssa Monks and Adrienne Stein. Surprisingly, Pawlik has the COVID-19 pandemic to thank for her introduction to the techniques that have helped to elevate her own work.

“All these top-notch, incredible artists were now opening up online classes; because of COVID, they couldn’t have people come to their art studios or fly out,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to take their classes before. I probably wouldn’t have gotten in, because they would have been filled. And they would have been really, really expensive.”

This is the 21st-century version of a time-honored practice. Throughout history, the world’s greatest artists have learned from the masters who preceded them.

Despite her proficiency with her art, Pawlik remains humble.

“I feel like I still have a lot of growing to do, obviously,” she said. “I’m learning.”

It’s a surprising admission from one of the few artists selected by entrepreneur Richard C. Kessler of The Kessler Collection to be featured in The Next Original initiative.

After Kessler issued an open call to emerging artists nationwide, more than 1,800 responded. Pawlik was one of nine finalists selected to display her work in New York City’s Times Square and at several of the Grand Bohemian Galleries, including the one in St. Augustine.

Upon hearing of The Next Original, Pawlik applied just as she routinely applied for a variety of museum and gallery shows.

“I really didn’t understand how special it was when I applied,” the Denver-based artist admitted. “I had no idea it was really going to be this!”

Notified that she had been selected and that her work would be exhibited in Times Square of all places, she was, in her own words, shocked.

Her first reaction — one that she now laughs about — was that she’d been scammed.

“I couldn’t believe it was true,” she confessed.

She saw a Facebook post by sister artist Deirdre Barrett, who wrote that she, too, had won. Barrett, like Pawlik, is inspired by dreams and the women were acquainted. Pawlik contacted Barrett to say she had also been selected and related her suspicions.

But then she called the The Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront, home to The Kessler Collection, and was assured that the notification was legitimate. She really was among the few winners.

“Then, I thought: I wonder if they picked someone who couldn’t show up and they needed a backup,” she said.

Sudden national recognition is not something most artists come to expect. It simply seemed too good to be true. But on New Year’s Eve 2022, as celebratory crowds flooded Times Square, there was Pawlik’s work for all to see.

“There are a lot of artists who would give anything to have the opportunity,” Pawlik said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

Perhaps some of the surprise she felt over her selection was due to the unorthodox path she followed in becoming an artist, where expectation of such success was understandably muted.

“As a little girl, I loved drawing and coloring,” Pawlik said, “but I’m from Montana. I’m from a mining town. There’s no art museum. There wasn’t an art store.”

Opportunities to develop her talents were limited to whatever classes she took in junior high and high school. Fortunately, noted artist Martha Cooney offered instruction from her nearby home in Butte.

“I would get on my bicycle and ride to her house and take art lessons with some other little kids,” Pawlik said.

Though she always loved art and thought of herself as an artist, she didn’t return to painting until 2006. She painted primarily in acrylics and dabbled in watercolors and made holiday-themed crafts.

Four years later, she made the transition to painting in oil.

“That’s when I started taking it seriously,” she said.

That same year, she discovered Jung’s approach to dream interpretation, something that would greatly impact the trajectory of Pawlik’s work. In fact, she described this discovery as “everything.”

Whenever she wakes, she quickly records whatever she has been dreaming. This provides her not only the subject of a painting, but what colors she will use, what the composition will look like.

“I just paint what I dream,” she said.

Still, one does not become a Next Original simply based on content. Skill and discipline are essential to any successful artwork.

“I paint every single day,” Pawlik said. “Since shortly after 2010 I made up my mind that I was going to paint at least 10 minutes every single day. Painting is hard work. A lot of times, people will shy away from it because they think they’re not talented enough, or they don’t have it. … You have to sit there and just do it.”

Anyone viewing Pawlik’s art will discover that many pieces feature ghostly figures. She explained that these sometimes represent deceased persons. In other cases, they represent unresolved issues.

Though much of her work relies on very personal topics — many compositions actually depict versions of the artist herself — Pawlik has found that people relate to what she paints. Perhaps these shared experiences infuse her art with a greater, universal appeal.

“There are a lot of things that connect people,” she said. “Maybe it’s a troubled family, where they’re out of step with each other, with their family. … I think people do connect, even if they don’t realize it.”

For now, at least, Pawlik is enjoying the notoriety The Next Original has brought her.

“I’m having fun,” she said. “I want to just enjoy every minute of this.”

Pawlik’s work will continue to be exhibited at The Grand Bohemian Gallery, located at 49 King St. in St. Augustine. Other works are also accessible via other Grand Bohemian Galleries.

To view Pawlik’s work online, go to