Art is made for many reasons: to celebrate beauty, to convey a specific message, to tell a story, to express ideas and feelings without words, or even to simply earn a living. There are many different reasons people have made art for centuries. There is an innate drive to create and manipulate the objects around us.
Among the oceans of artwork existing in the world, some artwork is created specifically to express stories of personal struggle. Sometimes, the very process of doing something creative helps maintain a sense of self and connection to reality. We can learn from these artists to aid our own journey of healing. Some of these famous artists include the following:
Frida Kahlo suffered physical pain and health difficulties during most of her life due to a bus accident she survived as a teenager. She is an inspiring artist to learn from, as she primarily used herself as her subject. Her images are about her reality, immobility, and physical and psychological pain. The use of bright colors and cultural symbolism are characteristic of her work.
You will see Edvard Munch’s work often containing intense psychological themes. His most famous image, The Scream, is a great example. Munch used art to express his inner turmoil and frequently used real events from his life. He suffered from anxiety and depression and was hospitalized for several months around age 45. Munch’s symbolic, expressive style and the powerful content of his work continues to inspire artists and art lovers.
Vincent Van Gogh struggled with mental illness and anxiety for most of his life, and there is speculation that he ended it himself. Van Gogh painted landscapes, nature, still lifes, portraits of others and himself, and the cityscapes he lived in. He was attracted to beauty, vivid colors, and bold brush strokes, and his most well known works are images that convey feelings and moods. His paintings helped launch the expressionist movement.
Using art as an escape from his chaotic lifestyle, Jean Michel-Basquiat was first a graffiti artist and expanded to painting after receiving praise for his work. Basquiat grew up in Brooklyn and his mother struggled with her own mental health. His unstructured family life led him to leave home early, and eventually he began to struggle with substance use and depression. His work is a powerful voice of social commentary, containing political themes about race and class.
Any time you feel creatively “stuck,” take a look at the masters. There are many out there to learn from! This week, pick one whose style inspires you and recreate it in your own way. It may be an image, style, or color scheme that inspires you.