Art Speak

Whale Meaning and Symbolism

Welcome to Art Speak, a video series in which I share the stories, messages, and medicine of the art I create. In this episode I discuss my humpback whale painting.

“Humpback” was painted in April 2018. I was doing a residency in Rockland, Maine which involved teaching classes each week. At the time, I was feeling very much like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, that there was no help, that I had to do everything on my own. So, during one of the classes I taught I was demonstrating the soul scribble and I saw a whale.

Whale meaning and symbolism

First, look within for the meaning of the whale


When you are contemplating the meaning of a symbol in your life, I like to start in a more Jungian manner and write down a few adjectives that come to mind when I think about the symbol. I usually aim for five words.

As I contemplated the whale, I thought about how huge and heavy it is, yet it floats so effortlessly in the water. The water completely supports the whale. It helps the whale move in any direction, at any speed, with ease. It is like this built-in support system for the whale. So in some ways, my scribble was as much about the space around the scribble as it was about the scribble! It was telling me that I, or the whale part of me, is completely supported. I could lay down that heavy burden.

But the fun was just beginning because next I traded with a student and we added to one another’s scribbles. When she handed mine back to me I saw that she had put tiny fish swimming along the back of the whale. Her message for me was that I have company I am not even aware of...out of sight, there are others who love me, follow me, and are cheering me on.

Other ways to find the meanings of your symbols

As with any symbol, you can always turn to an outside source for more generic meanings. Google will send you to any number of places to learn the meaning and symbolism of animals that may be showing up in your life. In this instance I did not look at any such sources because I felt such a strong resonance with the meanings delivered through my own work, and the additions of the student I was working with. One of my favorites is here.

If you decided to go to a source outside yourself, remember to take in what creates a strong reaction and ignore the rest. So, if you read that the whale, for example, symbolizes longevity but that does not make you feel anything in particular, that meaning is not what the whale is showing up to teach you. Keep researching until you find the meaning that creates a strong release of emotion, even if it is a strong negative emotion, like “No way is that ME!’ This usually means there is a message for you!

Painting the Humpback Whale

Later that day I started this painting. What I love about it is how free and expressive it is. It marks a return to a truer style more reflective of me. I think as an artist that it takes us some time to discover our true voice, our true expression. You look to people you admire and may try to copy or emulate them. But it is not until you let all that go and step into your authentic expression of creativity that you find a sense of liberation and freedom.

So, that is the story behind the humpback whale painting, and the meaning and messages it had for me. But as always, I encourage you to work with the symbols I discuss to discover the unique meanings they have for you.

Yours in brave creative living,


P.S. Curious about the soul scribble exercise I mentioned? You can learn all about it in my free guide “5-minute creativity exercises”

Curious about working with animal symbolism? Listen to my FREE ONLINE Spirit Animal Journey.





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    Whale meaning: spirit animal symbolism

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    Whale meaning: spirit animal symbolism

    Whale meaning: spirit animal symbolism