The lucky ones have an eternally flowing spring that bubbles with non-stop creativity and inspiration.
‘The inner artist’ has the habit of unleashing creative energy only when it finds us in action, behind the easel, paintbrush in hand and those who wait passively for inspiration often wait in vain.
clichéd but true words.
The Doldrums where an artist can unexpectedly find himself in is a very real and frightening place. Why do we encounter this obstacle in the way of being creative? Most artists and writers are familiar with ‘Artists Block’. Some say that it can be a valuable experience and that it is an essential element of the creating process. It seems to be unavoidable and occasionally a seemingly certain malady, but it is incredibly frustrating. How do you recover? And what causes creative- mind-freeze?
There are the fortunate artists who enjoy fame and fortune in their lifetimes. At auction, their art fetches dizzy prices and hang in prestigious galleries or belong to private art collectors. These artists have made it in the Art World, accolades to them.
Some have earned their rightful place in history; we are fortunate to have the works of some of the greatest names in the history of art preserved, for us and for future generations to enjoy. Art is important, I am encouraged to see steady growth in art appreciation and awareness.
There has never been a shortage of talented, and accomplished artists, but only some sparkle like diamonds among the rhinestone.
The Secret of their Genius
I am curious. Do some artists see the world in a way that others cannot? It is true that most of us are inclined to look without truly seeing all that there is before us.We process only about half of what we see.
It appears that some artists have an extraordinary and an acutely fine-tuned sense of visual perception. Absorbing more visually and analysing what we see is something we can all improve on. It is easy, and all it takes is practice. Look at your hand right now, you see it all the time but look at it as if for the first time. Study it for a moment; it is such an interesting object to draw.
A strong sense of identity is evident in the work of some of the greatest artists. Self-confidence is unmistakable in their art. One thing they have in common is a genuine belief in themselves. If you do not believe in your art, no-one else will.
There is undoubtedly something magic that some artists have that make us gasp in wonder and admiration.
Conformity Kills Creativity
Thinking ‘outside of the box,’ ‘throwing convention to the wind’ and breaking the rules do play a role. But there is the safety in the crowd, and it takes bravado to break with societal norms. To be unconventional is not for everyone, most of us tend to stick to the rules and paint within the numbers and then wonder why we fade into anonymity and obscurity.
They Suffered for their Art
Some say that ‘creativity is born of mental illness.’ And that neuroticism and creativity are two sides of the same coin.’ Harsh even cruel words but lines do get blurry where genius meets mental fragility.
Feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, worthlessness or disillusionment are familiar to most of us. Brave, creative artists, allow these into their work. Reaching deep into these areas and using it in a creative way can be valuable and enriching, as long as the artist can safely return to a comfortable and confident feeling of ‘self.’
Virginia Woolf, Frida Kahlo, and Vincent Van Gogh were creative geniuses and dared to go where others hadn’t. All had troubled minds, pain and suffering are evident and unmasked in their art. As artists, they managed to break the shackles of conformity and dared to be different.
Virginia Woolf’s’ novels were highly experimental and delved into her underlying sexual confusion and her unresolved psychological and emotional issues. She suffered numerous nervous breakdowns, and we now know that she suffered from manic-depression and had bipolar disorder. Virginia, who tragically committed suicide by drowning herself left her mark in literary history as one of the first female ‘Modern’ writers. She daringly touched on radical, social issues and published under her real name, at a time when female writers were only starting to gain recognition
Frida Kahlo is a gem that shines as a rare female surrealist painter. Her self-portraits vibrate with the bright colour of her Mexican background. She loved to paint herself adorned with flowers and jewellery; her self-portraits are bold and revealing. Her paintings tell all and hold nothing secret, but there are no smiles. Frida suffered tragedies and excruciating physical pain in her life. The bitterness and despair in her piercing eyes are there for all to see.
Her art is raw and honest, and words of explanation are unnecessary. Her bisexuality, her failed attempts at motherhood, and her recurring anxiety attacks must have contributed to her alleged morphine addiction. Frida died of a pulmonary embolism, but suicide due to an overdose was never ruled out.
We do not think of Hitler concerning art, but Adolf Hitler was a talented artist and painter. No need to dwell here, but there seems to be a fertile intersection where creativity, genius and insanity meet.
Vincent Van Gogh needs no introduction. We are all familiar with his paintings; of the Dutch landscape; sunflowers and ordinary and impoverished people tilling the land and eating potatoes. He loved interior scenes and often painted his bedroom or the view that he had from his window, simple everyday things. He painted feverishly in vivid colour and often juxtaposed complementary colours.
The ‘Empty Chair’, loaded with unspoken messages was a favourite subject. Vincent painted everything and anything – the ordinary and often the ugly, the beautiful and serene, the bizarre and repulsive. From his famous and beautiful painting ’Starry Night’ to the disturbing self-portrait with his head bandaged after he had cut off his ear and sent it to a young woman. He spent time in mental institutions and possibly suffered from manic-depression.
These artists experienced tragedy, and some suffered from mental disorders, is that what lies behind their ingenuity?
Cognitive Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman Pd.D comments
“Too much psychosis and one is at a high risk of going mad. But everyone engages in psychosis-related thought any time they use their imagination. This type of thought activates particular regions of the brain and is especially prominent when daydreaming and night dreaming.”
Don’t Worry Be Happy (And Sad)
I am not suggesting that is necessary to have a mental illness to become a successful artist. But being less reserved and allowing yourself to express your feelings and emotions in your art could do magic. Frustration and conquering the doldrums of creative thought is part of the process, accept it. Stop pulling out your hair and over-thinking. Pursue what you enjoy doing most in your art, your pleasure will show, and your art will be good.
Ditch the Prozac and be more in tune with your ‘Inner Artist.’
Of course, only after you’ve had a chat with your doctor and not if you are suffering from a genuine illness. You might also become a creating genius if you allow yourself to feel pain and to experience a jig-saw of emotions now and again. Life is not supposed to be easy all the time and to feel happy you have to understand sadness too. Don’t forget to put it all down on canvas.
Be ready, at the easel, brush in hand, let the floodgates open and paint. Don’t forget to tell your ‘Inner-critic’ to take a holiday, and to allow yourself the freedom to experiment and to have a bit of fun.
A little struggle goes a long way toward creating something worthwhile.