The idea of the tortured artist is not a new one.
Artists have long since been portrayed as the struggling, angst-ridden genius waiting for the rest of society to recognize their greatness.
Although not all artists are anxious, creative types are more prone to having anxiety due to their sensitivity and the nature of their vocation. An artist’s originality, empathy, and participation in a competitive industry can all lead to increased anxiety.
Here are five ways artists are more prone to anxiety.
An artist’s lifestyle can place them outside of social norms. Although a highly sought-after trait in the art industry, originality can be harder for the mainstream to accept.
Through no fault of their own, artists may be harder to get to know than the average person. This could lead to isolation and loneliness.
The part-time artist, Celine Terranova, tells us that being an artist means working alone and that artists often don’t know any other artists.
She feels it’s imperative that artists have time and space to create, however, they should make the distinction between solitude and loneliness. Solitude is a necessary state to achieving one’s goals while loneliness is a result of one’s situation and can lead to mental health issues like anxiety.
To prevent isolation and loneliness, Celine recommends investing time into the relationships you already have. Making it a priority to communicate and get together with those in your life is a wise investment for your mental health.
She also suggests using your art as common ground to meet other artists. Despite your medium, you can easily reach out to other artists online and work toward an actual meet-up. Your art will be the ice-breaker and something that you will have in common.
2. Financial Challenges
If someone creates art as a full-time vocation, they may have anxiety over financial challenges. Compared to most industries, a very small percentage of artists earn a full-time income with their art.
This may be because it is difficult to place value on a piece of art. There aren’t the usual industry standards or product comparisons to base pricing on.
People who purchase art are rarely knowledgeable of how much time a project requires. Artists typically sell their product once it’s complete for a lump sum. If an artist spends a large number of hours on the piece, they may be diminishing their return with every extra hour they spend working.
3. Outside Pressure
Artists, especially those that are commercially successful are under intense scrutiny and pressure. For those that reach celebrity status, both themselves and their work become public domain.
Celebrity creators are under the microscope while everyone waits for them to produce the “next best thing” and suffer from perfectionism and anxiety-producing creative blocks.
There has been no shortage of celebrity suicides and mental breakdowns over the years and substance abuse run rampant in the industry.
Popular musicians are under enormous pressure to consistently present a perfectly curated image to the public and are offered recording deals that siphon off large percentages of their revenue to their labels and management team.
This trend, however, seems to be changing a bit. In recent years, Chance the Rapper has demonstrated that music artists don’t necessarily need a label or a record deal to make it big. Chance streams all of his music for free and only makes money from touring.
4. Capacity for Empathy
Artists may be more prone to emotions in general, or at the very least, they are better able to express them.
To move another person emotionally with your art, it makes sense that you must also be aware of and moved by emotions. Artists have the ability to share and understand the emotions of others.
An increased sense of empathy for others means taking in both positive and negative emotions. If you can easily pick up on another person’s happiness, chances are you will also pick up on their anger or sadness. Being empathetic can cause anxiety.
Of course, the ability to be empathetic isn’t just reserved for artists. There are many professions that require emotional connection, vocations such as teacher, healthcare provider, and counselor also require empathy for others.
5. Art as Escape
Art is one way of escaping trauma or other mental health issues. Anxious people seek out art as a coping mechanism.
So, perhaps the anxious are more prone to become artists!
We all know the famous examples of the “tortured artist”. Vincent van Gough, Earnest Hemmingway and Edvard Munch are just a few prominent examples.
Edvard Munch (1863-1944), is the creator of the famous painting “The Scream”. The painting is said to represent human anxiety in modern times.
Munch suffered from severe anxiety his whole life and eventually learned to recognize the crucial role it played in the creation of his art.
He learned to embrace his anxiety and saw it as motivation for his art. This famous quote came from Munch’s diary;
My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art.Edvard Munch
Art is used as therapy for mental distress because it calms the nervous system. Artistic activities are meditative, calming, and usually quiet. These qualities help soothe signs of anxiety, stress, and depression.
A calm nervous system creates a calm mind, which is then better at dealing with difficult emotions and experiences.
Art can increase self-awareness and self-worth through the development of new skills. It is also an excellent tool to distract anxious people from overwhelming and ruminating thoughts and feelings.
Expressing yourself through art is an activity that is available to most people, without too many barriers (financial or physical). No special setup is necessary to create.
Whether an artist experiences excessive anxiety as a result of their craft or people with high anxiety seek art as therapy, there is no denying the strong relationship between anxiety and the creation of art.