Second Realm

Eric P. Rhodes, Artist

Visualizing Emotions: An Artistic Inquiry into Emotional Vocabulary

Improving Emotional Literacy Through Art

In my current exploration, I’m blending long-established practices of journaling and mindfulness with my digital art practice to dive into the intricacies of human emotions. Motivated by my academic studies on emotional intelligence with Professor Anne-Michelle Marsden and Rutgers University1 and inspired by the list of emotions in Brené Brown’s “Atlas of the Heart,”2 I am associating emotions with colors,3 flowers,4 sentiment,5 and more. This journey is dedicated to enhancing my emotional awareness by creating a visual structure that aligns with my artistic perspective, facilitating a better understanding and expression of complex emotions.

As a digital artist, this exploration extends my two-decade journey into self-reflection and mindfulness, employing art as a means of deeper understanding and connection. Integrating art with my studies into emotional intelligence offers a fresh perspective on visualizing and navigating emotions, fosteringa richer emotional vocabulary and cultivating emotional literacy within myself.

The process is marked by both discovery and contemplation, as I’m in the midst of determining the ultimate direction of this exploration. It may evolve into generative art that blends a variety of emotional states, or into individual explorations of the 87 distinct emotions (most likely), all aimed at broadening my emotional vocabulary in tandem with my artistic and personal development.

This endeavor is more than just about creating art; it’s about transforming my approach to understanding and internalizing complex human emotions. By intertwining my digital art practice with deeper insights into emotional awareness, I aspire to produce works that reflect my personal journey and contribute to a broader dialogue on emotions, art, and self-discovery.

Through this exploration, I aim to enhance my own emotional intelligence and create a space for others to connect with their emotions in a profound and artistic manner, thereby enhancing communication and empathy in both personal and professional realms.

Emotional Vocabulary Palettes

Places We Go When It’s Beyond Us

Interest, Wonder, Confusion, Surprise, Awe and Curiosity

Places We Go When Life Is Good

Tranquility, Relief, Calm, Happiness, Foreboding Joy, Contentment, Gratitude and Joy

Places We Go When The Heart Is Open

Trust, Flooding, Betrayal, Lovelessness, Defensiveness, Heartbreak, Hurt, Love and Self-trust

Places We Go When Things Are Uncertain Or Too Much

Fear, Dread, Overwhelm, Stress, Avoidance, Worry, Excitement and Anxiety

Places We Go When Things Aren’t What They Seem

Cognitive Dissonance, Paradox, Nostalgia, Irony, Sarcasm, Bittersweetness and Amusement

Places We Go When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Discouragement, Expectations, Disappointment, Boredom, Regret, Resignation and Frustration

Places We Go When To Self-asses

Pride, Hubris and Humility

Places We Go When We Fall Short

Perfectionism, Guilt, Humiliation, Shame, Embarrassment and Self-compassion

Places We Go When We Compare

Comparison, Envy, Jealousy, Schadenfreude, Reverence, Freudenfreude, Resentment, Vulnerability and Admiration

Places We Go When We Feel Wronged

Hate, Disgust, Contempt, Dehumanization, Self-righteousness and Anger

Places We Go When We Search For Connection

Connection, Belonging, Invisibility, Disconnection, Loneliness, Insecurity and Fitting In

Places We Go When We’re Hurting

Grief, Sadness, Hopelessness, Anguish and Despair

Places We Go When With Others

Boundaries, Empathy, Pity, Comparative Suffering, Compassion and Sympathy


  1. I’m currently expanding my knowledge of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in the “Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace” course with Professor Anne-Michelle Marsden at Rutgers University. We explore EI theories, assessments, and practical applications for fostering positive work environments and individual success. Enhancing leadership skills and emotional-social competence models for diverse workplaces. Valuable learning on self-discipline, empathy, adaptiveness, and leadership. ↩︎
  2. Brené Brown’s “Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience” is a comprehensive exploration of human emotions, identifying and describing 87 distinct emotions across 13 categories including interest, wonder, confusion, surprise, awe, and curiosity in the “Places We Go When It’s Beyond Us” category. ↩︎
  3. Color psychology is the study of how colors influence human behavior and emotions. It posits that different colors can evoke specific psychological responses and have varying effects on mood, feeling, and behavior. For example, blue is often associated with calmness and serenity, while red might evoke feelings of passion or urgency. This field intersects with art, design, marketing, and branding, as understanding color psychology can significantly impact visual communication and user experience. While individual reactions can vary based on personal and cultural backgrounds, color psychology provides a framework for understanding and leveraging the emotional and psychological impacts of color in various contexts. ↩︎
  4. Floriography, also known as the language of flowers, is a form of cryptological communication that uses the arrangement and type of flowers to convey specific messages and emotions. This practice, which saw its peak in the Victorian era, served as a discreet mode of expression in a time when direct expression of feelings was often frowned upon. Each flower and its color were associated with distinct meanings, allowing individuals to communicate complex sentiments without words. While rooted in historical traditions, the meanings attributed to flowers have evolved and varied across different cultures and periods, making floriography a fascinating study of symbolic communication. This botanical language continues to influence modern expressions of sentiment, from celebratory bouquets to commemorative wreaths, showcasing the enduring human desire to convey emotions through the natural world. ↩︎
  5. Sentiment analysis, also known as opinion mining, is a field within natural language processing (NLP) and data analysis that focuses on identifying and categorizing opinions expressed in a piece of text, especially in order to determine whether the writer’s attitude towards a particular topic, product, or service is positive, negative, or neutral. This computational technique is used to understand the sentiments behind words, enabling businesses and researchers to gauge public opinion, conduct market research, and monitor brand and product reputation in real-time. Sentiment analysis can be applied to different types of content, such as social media posts, reviews, news articles, and customer feedback, providing valuable insights into consumer behavior and societal trends. ↩︎

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