Do You Need to Get Depressed to Be a Successful Artist?

If you were made to pick out an artist in a crowd, would it be the sullen, gaunt-faced youngster sporting a haircut that reminds us that punk is not dead, or the beaming, bright-eyed passer-by with a bounce in his step and a perky greeting for everyone he passes? Society conventions seem to show that artists brood and that is what they do in order to produce more art. This is an easy assumption to make since some of the greatest works of all time have been done by some of the most clinically depressed people, artists like Vincent Van Gogh.

Van Gogh’s tough life

Since the Romantic era, it was generally believed that great works were borne of melancholy. There is a certain charm in admiring art resulting from drama and extreme levels of distress as opposed to knowing that it was whipped out by a good-natured fellow who thought the world was all rainbows and sunshine. If this is so, then it would just be easy.

One could say that life dealt Vincent Van Gogh the wrong cards. Unrequited love, banishment from the priesthood, a severed ear, and admission in the mental asylum are all very bad luck worth more than one lifetime. When he found art as his true calling, he may have been too close to the edge already. For years, he produced over 800 of some of the best works the world has seen till his final bout of depression kicked in, and he later killed himself. Would “A Starry Night” be as heralded as it is today if things had been different?

Depressed people and creativity

Scholars such as Johann Shenk say that depressed people view the world in a more accurate way, at least more realistically than everyone else who tends to put on rose-colored lenses. Some people do say that the mentally ill do seem more creative than the stable-minded. Since they no longer think within the boundaries of reason and logic, they are able to think of more than ten ways to do one thing. They are also not limited by rules and norms that ordinary people try so hard to live by.

For the extremely depressed, creativity may set in while clarity of thought is lost. But whichever people choose to believe in, art can come from the most extreme of emotions, whether it is in lofty peaks or the boroughs where inspiration is born.

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