“Perhaps it’s good for one to suffer. Can an artist do anything if he’s happy? Would he ever want to do anything? What is art, after all, but a protest against the horrible inclemency of life?”
Artists are often characterized as moody, dark, misunderstood. We are a suffering sort, regardless of the form our art takes – whether it be digital, acrylic, collage, words, wood, and so on. Our ability to create something phenomenal comes from the way we view and respond to the world. Sometimes, this interpretation may even involve a tango or two (or more) with a mental health struggle. For some of us, it may involve a lifelong diagnosis.
A friend of mine posted a link recently to an article about highly sensitive people. I found myself nodding in response to most of the traits listed. It hit home. Highly sensitive people notice details in everything – noise, texture, scent, emotion, and are easily over-stimulated. This can lead to labels like “shy” or “snobby” or “anti-social”, when all we are doing is protecting our very sensitive souls.
This got me thinking about mothers and fathers who struggle with a mental health diagnosis after the birth of a new child. There is a heightened sense of awareness which comes with this experience. I know that I tried to overcompensate for the lack of emotion I felt (and failed miserably in the process). Fake it till you make it, right?
Art is the interpretation of the world around us, putting it to paper or whatever your chosen form, to present to the world for their interpretation, right?
Isn’t parenting the same thing? It’s your interpretation of the world around you, presented to a tiny human, in the hopes they will grow up and interpret the lessons (art) you’ve created for them over the years properly. Parenting is a museum bigger than the Smithsonian with an even more complicated floor plan replete with trapdoors, false walls, and trick couches ready to fling you under the bus at any moment.
It’s okay to fall through the trap door.
The key to finding your way out is to find the silver lining once you fall through that trap door and turn it into art, whatever that means to you. For some of us, that might mean cooking. Or it might mean knitting. Or painting. Or writing.
There’s a reason art therapy is a popular form of therapy. It’s a way to release emotion and express ourselves in a healthy way which re-frames the pain we may feel through the creation of something beautiful. I attribute my creativity to all the pain I have experienced throughout my life. Now, not all of my creations are inspired by pain -some of them are inspired by love- but they are all inspired by intense emotion.
Oddly enough, when I am in the throes of deep emotion, I find myself unable to create. It is only when I am coming out of it, much like the sunshine after a storm shining on a newly soaked field of flowers, I am able to create and it typically happens in a rush. For me, the ability to create again is a sign of wellness. My art is not a form of protest, exactly, but rather, a celebration of the richness which exists just below the surface of the world in which we live.
I remember seeing a quote once (and I am not sure where I saw it) which said that without “art” the Earth would just be “Eh”. So very true – art fuels everything around us, even down to the labels on products we buy at the store. Yes, there are other forces at work but when you peel all the other forces away, it is art. Without it, we would live in a very “eh” world.
My primary form of creating is words. I also love graphic art and find it very soothing. Painting is another form I will often use to let things go. Lately, I’ve been sketching with pencil on printer paper. Pretty darn basic but it’s been quite wonderful to watch things take shape, particularly as I challenge myself to do more and more difficult sketches.
What about you? Do you create art to process your emotions? What form does it take for you? Anything you have created that you’re particularly proud of? Share with us!