“Pain fuels passion”
“The most beautiful rewards come from the most challenging times”
“Adversity breeds creativity”
Blah blah blah
We’ve all heard something along those lines while we’re at our lowest. Especially as artists. We think of people like Van Gogh who felt so much and ached so deeply but created beauty still. The concept is misunderstood. It is not always the pain that sparks that urge to create. More often it’s the reluctance to give into that pain. I personally thrive in my art when I'm content and safe. For some of us, adversity is what keeps us complacent and unable to create, but it’s the persistence to see the world through a hopeful lens even when it goes to shit, that moves us. Over the last few months I experienced several traumatic events back to back like rapid fire. Some of the hardest truths and deepest wounds I’ve felt in years. And for weeks I was so low that I couldn’t sleep or eat properly, let alone channel my emotions into my art.
About 5 months ago, I felt incredibly insecure. For many reasons (from both internal and external sources) I felt like a shell of myself, as if something was wrong and I was no longer beautiful where it mattered. To combat that, I started a self portrait. In the face of the abyss, I sought light and that is what motivated me. The portrait was meant to remind me of my beauty, and how it radiates from within. How my elegance is connected to the metaphysical, not just the meat on my bones and my skin on my fat. I was low emotionally but I still had my home and some sense of order in my life. But shortly after I started that portrait, I experienced a deep betrayal and shaking of my reality. I had to leave my partner, change my residence, and then put down a family pet of 17 years. Those events took me beyond just feeling low. I was out of the blue and into the black. Thankfully, I was privileged enough to maintain my income during that time. Though it was so hard to continue working and living as though nothing had changed, I knew it was necessary. I couldn’t let myself stay in the instability. But so many of us don’t have that privilege, and the drive was painful to muster. When I still had the safety of a home and an idea of my path, the intent to create was a conversation within myself to help pull my light back to the surface. But when that light was completely diminished and I was merely surviving, there was no room for that conversation. The passion was on the back burner. I was fighting for hope.
A couple months went by, and I found a new home to call my own. I didn’t have a bed, central AC, a washer or dryer or even a bedroom but I had a new place where I knew I was safe, and could eventually be stable again. If it weren’t for my emotional support system It may have taken twice as long for me to pull myself up. But one of those long lonely nights I had some friends come by for an evening of painting and venting. We stayed up past 2am and didn’t even notice. Being in the presence of each other's love is what sparked the motivation within me to create again. Hope had to return to my life before creativity could. I decided that I owed it to myself to finish that portrait. I felt that the completion of that painting would mark the end of the cycle I’d been in, and the beginning of a new one.
In conclusion, it wasn’t adversity or challenge that conjured my drive. It was persistence and optimism. It wasn’t the dark that inspired it, but necessity. In my experience, it is not the obstacles and the grief that breed great art. It’s the will to survive and the refusal to give in to powerlessness that truly gifts our best creative moments; the desperation to live and feel beyond the suffering.