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Dream Machine
computer assistance to make art, images of toys, dream machine, whimsical paintings, humourous paintings, narrative paintings, text in paintings, word-play in paintings, layers of meaning in art, layers of paint in art, slot-machine, VLT, illusion, luck, gambling, fate, reality,

Jefferson Little is one of the generation of artists who uses the computer to aid in his image and idea development. Little uses images of toys, in the case of Dream Machine 1950s tin toys, as his starting point to produce many of his works. He takes old discarded parts, scans them into his computer and rearranges them to make new original creations. He is having fun playing with the computer, an adult toy, to make his playful, somewhat distressing, yet  nostalgicTo feel a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past. The condition of being homesick; homesickness. Those who are nostalgic are likely to favour traditions over the future's potential to be the site of better things. Everyone would like to escape the present for some qualities remembered from (or associated with) times past. Nostalgia is that yearning for whatever it is that makes the present less desirable. Modernists were the most thoroughly anti-nostalgic group of people, whereas postmodernists pursue newness without being embarrassed by their embrace of references to the past. (  images.

As Jack Anderson states about Little’s work, “[l]ike a child in a sand box, the artist at work on his  canvasCommonly used as a support for oil or acrylic painting, canvas is a heavy woven fabric made of flax or cotton. Its surface is typically prepared for painting by priming with a ground. Linen — made of flax — is the standard canvas, very strong, sold by the roll and by smaller pieces. A less expensive alternative to linen is heavy cotton duck, though it is less acceptable (some find it unacceptable), cotton being less durable, because it's more prone to absorb dampness, and it's less receptive to grounds and size. For use in painting, a piece of canvas is stretched tightly by stapling or tacking it to a stretcher frame. A painting done on canvas and then cemented to a wall or panel is called marouflage. Canvas board is an inexpensive, commercially prepared cotton canvas which has been primed and glued to cardboard, suitable for students and amateurs who enjoy its portability. Also, a stretched canvas ready for painting, or a painting made on such fabric. Canvas is abbreviated c., and "oil on canvas" is abbreviated o/c.  (  enters into the peaceful kingdom. These are not playful images, but they express play. These are not humorous images, but express humour. Through innocent modes of behaviour, through conscious contemplative acts and through a commitment to art-making (where something is made from nothing), Little earnestly hopes to manifest order from chaos.” Anderson continues, “[a]sserting a bubbly California-style image-lite ethos and following in the steps of  surrealistSurrealism is an art movement in the early 20th century based on dreams, and the subconscious, and the distortion of representations.  painters like Magritte and de Chirico, where object-symbols somehow relate to each other in a bizarrely mysterious, but seemingly significant way. Little points to the profoundly make-believe.” (Anderson, 1998)

start quote...dreams are in a lot of ways, a bit of a gamble.end quote-- Jefferson Little

Little works in a realistic way and the term trompe l’oeil can be applied to much of his imagery. His paintings are often whimsical, fanciful and humorous on the surface with a darker more frightening underlying message.  NarrativeRelating to the telling of a story, or the telling of events, etc.  is important in his work and he often employs text and word-plays in many of his paintings and titles. He incorporates layers of meaning and ideas, as well as layers of paints and other  mediaAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  in his finished works.

Dream Machine is a  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (  of a slot-machine but it is more than a slot-machine. It is a magical kind of Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) – where your dreams really can come true at the pull of a lever. Unfortunately, it’s all an illusion. In our fast-paced world, we have many machines that are supposed to make our lives "better". And here, Little references the elusive lucky elements of gambling and conjures up a fanciful machine to change our fate and improve our lives. In reality, machines like these can have devastating effects upon our lives and create circumstances much different from what our childhood imaginations might dream.

additional resources On Being an Artist in Saskatchewan
Duration: 1:55 min
Size: 3132kb
On Dream Machine
Duration: 1:43 min
Size: 2894kb
On Humour in Art
Duration: 1:56 min
Size: 3198kb
Things to Think About
  • Can you think of any machines that really do bring luck? Are some people lucky? Can you think of things people (for example, athletes) do to improve their luck?
  • Many of the cultural activities in our communities are funded by people trying to achieve the elusive jackpot.  Find out more about the lottery system and the sums of money earned through gaming. In Saskatchewan, a portion of proceeds from lotteries are provided to sports, culture and arts activities.  Why would society fund arts activities?  Here are some websites to get you started:
  • Look at symbols drawn within Little’s machine. What do you think they reference?
Studio Activity
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Trompe l’oeil

  • Trompe l’oeil is a kind of illusion.  Find out more about trompe l'oeil painting.  You can start with the following websites:
  • Paint an object and strive to achieve a realistic image with the capability of fooling your eyes into believing it is real.

The heart

The  symbolVisual image that represents something else.  of the heart  shapeAn element of art, it is an enclosed space defined and determined by other art elements such as line, colour, value, and texture. In painting and drawing, shapes may take on the appearance of a solid three-dimensional object even though they are limited to two dimensions — length and width. This two-dimensional character of shape distinguishes it from form, which has depth as well as length and width. Examples of shapes include: circle, oval, and oblong; polygons such as triangle, square, rectangle, rhombus, trapezium, trapezoid, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon, decagon, undecagon, dodecagon, etc.; and such other kinds of shapes as amorphous, biomorphous, and concretion. (  reappears in many of Little's works.


  • Find a selection of toys.
  • Study the objects and look for interesting shapes and parts.
  • Zoom in on a specific part and make a drawing. Make a number of drawings of different toys.
  • Scan the drawings into the computer and manipulate them to create new and amazing toys, objects or creatures.



Anderson, Jack.  ‘A Little Look into Childhood Wonders.’  Regina Leader Post, March, 1998.

Author unknown.  'The Happy Heartbreakers.'  Canadian Art, Dec. 1999.

Fones, Robert. Title unknown.  C magazine, Sept.-Nov. 1998.

Little, Jefferson.  2003.  Artist Statement.  Retrieved from the Internet on March 27. 2009 from

Oakes, Julie.  2006.  'Jefferson Little Commentary.'  Exhibition commentary for The Drawers.  Headbones Gallery, Toronto, Ontario. 

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning