Well, I've just finished the Aldous Huxley book, The Doors of Perception, and its sequel 'Heaven and Hell'. This is a fascinating book that delves into the workings of visual system, the relation of the subconscious to religious belief and points out the sheer lack of understanding that we have of the subconscious and the workings of the brain.
This book was written after Aldous Huxley took Mescaline in a medical programme which was conducting an analysis of the drug. He went on to write about the experience in these two books and wrote about his conclusions from this experiment.
Follow this link for an exert from the book
The main thing that he got from the drug was a massively increased vibrant vision of the world. He was amazed by the things he was surrounded by and seem the world in a new light. He was fascinated by flowers and the metallic legs of a chair that was in the room. He felt that many objects were imbued with an inner light and were all incandescent and more alive. He also mentions visions of uncut gems, vast landscapes and gold and silver light.
Through later research he believed that the brain in its normal state acts as a filter to allow us to function in our everyday lives. Through research he realised that the use of mescaline stops the flow of chemicals (namely sugar) to the brain that deadens our senses to allow the brain to work in an unrestricted way. He also mentions that fasting, restriction of air, strobing lamps and flagellation would also cause a similar reaction in the body (which explains a lot of social and religious phenomena).
This book also covers many other areas of interest but really I'm interested in the visual aspects mentioned. The beauty and visions that are experienced when the brain is starved of sugar has influenced culture and religion through the ages. This tapping into the subconscious seems to have driven art and culture more than would be expected. This has created our ideas of heaven and hell and has always been that unknown something that we see in good art.
I think that more and more, to produce something meaningful in art, you have to consider the subconscious. You have to find a link to the subconscious through what you make. Also you need to create something that is more than just a beautiful picture but something that has more meaning at a deeper level. Sometimes people speak about getting into 'the zone' when they are making some art. I think that this is when you stop thinking at a superficial level and are really working on instinct or working closer to the subconscious. This is also one of the main reasons why people make art.