Depression and the Artistic Mind
A Personal Observation
Understand from the beginning that I am writing this from a personal point of view. Having been an artist of one sort or another for most of my life, I understand when the demon in my personal life is raising its ugly head again. Adding to that is the amount of similarity I see in colleagues and artists in history.
Art is a very subjective subject and a risky career choice. Many people who do not understand the amount of actual work and research involved in creating an artwork think that you are born with the ability and just sit in front of a canvas or whatever and easily churn out paintings, drawings etc.
On the contrary, many of the greatest artists both in history and today spent over ten years apprenticing and studying before they branched out on their own practice. The artist which I am doing workshops with at present studied for over ten years. Plus many great artists consider their life as a learning experience which never ends. This means you never stop, you are never at the end of your education, you are always looking at your work and assessing your progress. This can be great for continual improvement and growth in your artistic style and for finding new methods and subjects. It can be debilitating if you are on that grand search for “perfection” or an arbitrary level of success in whatever way you may see it.
Because we are called on to be in touch with our emotions and dip into on our experiences and memories, be empathetic and concerned about the world around us, story tellers, historians, humanitarians, psychologists and whatever else, just to produce our work would be enough, but I am convinced that those that are in the arts of any kind, do have a personality or temperament type that makes us more susceptible to self-criticism, self-doubt, insecurity and the stress, depression and anxiety that follow.
For me personally, when I get over tired, over worked or overwhelmed I feel my demon returning. The day before can be a “good one” but it doesn’t take too much to see the slippery slope in front of me, and it takes a lot to avoid going down it.
A confrontation with an unreasonable person, a couple of nights without sleeping well, a spouse with sudden job insecurity, a painting not quite going well, a cutting or cruel criticism of our work can all add up to a period of stress and depression. The outward signs can be looking “tired”, sudden headaches or migraines, facial twitches, shaking hands, change in appetite, loss of confidence or even temper outbursts. None of which other people may tolerate or understand.
If you are a friend, relative, spouse or colleague of someone suffering this way, give them the space to work through their problem and let them know you are there if they need you. Sometimes we don’t need to be crowded or smothered with attention, just accepted and recognised. It will pick up and I know I will feel better after some sleep and a rest. It just takes time and some support from those around us and the understanding that with our art comes our baggage – literally and figuratively.