Art When Angry…or Sad or Fearful :(
I usually make a point of making my art with beautiful colors, lots of light, and plenty of happy scenes. Art that has a painful or shocking quality to it doesn’t really make my day. I have always felt that if I’m going to take the time to create something, why not make it something good? Something that not only makes me feel good but makes others feel that way too. There’s enough of the bad stuff in the world already.
Remember what Bob Ross once said, “I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it. Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news.”
But once, a long time ago, I was having some problems with depression. I had an art therapy session and we had all kinds of interesting tasks. Some were things like drawing the people in your life as food, including yourself. (I remember drawing myself as a bowl of popcorn – mainly because that’s my favorite snack.) But we had another exercise where we had to draw different emotions.
At the time, because I wasn’t exactly in the most cheerful of moods, I found myself totally focused on the bad ones. I drew anger as sharp jagged mountain peaks in blood red colors. Sadness was a blue gray ocean with a lone bird flying in the sky. Fear was black cave amidst a snowstorm. I don’t have those pictures anymore but they looked something like the following:
That was one of the only times I ever made angry or depressed feeling art. But I found it oddly soothing. After I solved my depression problem, which I discovered was due to surrounding myself with toxic people, I no longer needed to make cathartic art. I abandoned it and returned to making happier work. (And in case you’re wondering, I also got rid of all the negative people in my life and picked out ones that were much better for me emotionally.)
When my husband was ill, I found myself occasionally sketching pictures that suited my current mood. Most of the time, I simply transformed any negative emotions into beautiful things. I made this series of flowers during that time. I wanted to keep smiling and I wanted everyone else to do the same.
But once, I pulled out a sketchbook and made a drawing of a drooping flower in a vase, set by a window. The window was spotted with rain. I titled the drawing “Hope”. And again, I found it oddly soothing. Like I captured exactly what I was really feeling after trying to remain strong or brave to everyone else. I erased it soon after out of guilt. My mind knows that’s nothing to feel guilty about – I mean, you feel how you feel right? But I wanted everyone to see me as SuperMom/SuperCaregiver. Not Droopy Flower by Rainy Window Person. I also wanted to make sure I was not surrounding myself with images of negativity, as I spoke about in my article about how Art Changes Life.
But ignoring one’s true feelings is not always the best thing to do. In fact, it often can be harmful. I am very prone to doing that to myself. I know, at times, my emotions would build up to a point where my pen could run out of ink and that would seem like the worst thing on the face of the earth – simply because it was the last straw. Or I might snap at someone for no reason at all because I hadn’t properly addressed my own anger about something that might be completely unrelated.
I still like my art to be happy. I like to create wishes and dreams, joys and hopes. But I now reserve a journal for when I’m unhappy, confused, perplexed, fearful or occasionally raging mad. Writing is a better tool for me to discover the complexities of the soul. I do all my purging there. Especially, if I don’t know what to do about something and I just want to be alone to figure it out.
So, while this article is a reminder to myself, and maybe to you too, that it’s okay to be sad sometimes, it’s also important to find a balance (like anything in life!). You don’t want to surround yourself with negativity. But you don’t want to totally ignore your own feelings. Feelings are supposed to be there to help us not harm us!
How do you use art to express your feelings?