Drawing Through Depression

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting lately. Honestly, I just haven’t been in the mood to draw. It’s not simply a lack of motivation, which everyone experiences from time to time. When dealing with depression, doing just about anything is challenging. And for me, art tops the list—when just getting out of bed seems impossible, it is unlikely that I am going to pick up a pencil and get creative. Although, for some reason, this doesn’t seem to extend to music; I’m actually likely to get out my guitar and write a song.

Some people use visual art as a way to work through or express what they’re feeling, and I think that’s a great outlet. But when I’m depressed, I just don’t want to draw. I barely want to do anything, let alone something that will likely make me feel worse if it doesn’t turn out the way I hoped it would. So when I say “drawing through” depression, I really mean overcoming the depression to allow myself to draw, rather than using drawing to get through the depression. Hopefully I can get through it soon…

If I’m being honest, I often use art as a distraction. I look at something, I try to recreate it, and I enjoy doing that, but mostly it just passes the time and, hopefully, distances me from the negative thoughts that the depression plants in my head.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet learned to use art to convey my feelings. This is one of the things that I fear holds me back from creating more “meaningful” art. The best I can do at this point is a sentimental drawing of a person who looks sad.

So, how do you depict an emotion? Or instill it in your work? I don’t have these answers yet, but it’s certainly something to think about.

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Girl in the Rain, pencil, circa 2004

10 Comments

    1. Coincidentally, that is my diagnosis as well! But, as is common, it was initially diagnosed as Major Depression because that was my main symptom. I’m glad that you connected with the post, and that you like the drawing, which is an older one but felt fitting for this post. Hopefully I will be sharing new work soon…

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  1. Each artist will have their own way of relating moods and emotions to their art practice. But for you, it sounds like, your bad times keep you from working at all. Which is bad for your mental health!!!

    Here’s what I do. I sometimes come up with nonthreatening, dinky little projects like copying something from one medium to another, or just doing a light sketch of something as a plan for doing something.

    Then I take this activity to one of a couple of weekly open art-making groups I drop into regularly. It gives me an excuse to be there, and often with company around me, I get something done with it. Most of all, I break through the wall of no-work-at-all. Which I have great concern about, because for me that state is very, very bad.

    You are probably different. Maybe my brewing a double-strength cup of black tea and letting its effects energize me as I relax–might be more your thing? Or what? Whatever you do, take the inability to work at all seriously by attacking it with all your PERSONAL & SOCIAL resources. That’s my perspective on this dilemma. And you have my best wishes in your difficulty!

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    1. Thank you for your suggestions! This has been a lifelong struggle for me and I go through many ups and downs…but I am using everything at my disposal to feel better (which, you’re probably right, art should still be a part of). I appreciate your perspective and well wishes.

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      1. Dear Anna, Glad to get your reply. Please note that the kind of art I suggested to help me fight depression is not at all ambitious. I may not have been clear enough that what helps me is trivial stuff I am almost afraid to call art. Sometimes artist types get depressed just because their only idea of real art is very ambitious about emotion or symbolism, etc. It is sometimes overwhelming to live up to our ideals, so we do nothing. I hope that explanation of what I really mean to say is helpful. Be well!

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      2. What I liked in your suggestion was the idea of sketching out something slight–which could be its own work or could provide a basis for something later when I was feeling more ambitious. Because (usually) I know that I will eventually feel better and be able to work in the way I want to.

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  2. I’ve been in a similar place before. Art pretty much always makes me feel a bit better but convincing myself to do the art is a lot harder. It’s tough. I hope you feel better soon, Anna. Keep on keeping on. 🙂
    As far as instilling emotion into my pieces– well, I don’t really draw anything you’d think of as emotional when you look at it. And I don’t really feel like expressing darker emotions when I’m feeling down. I’d much rather draw something that I find familiar and comforting. I don’t need to dwell on how I feel or express that on paper; I do that enough in my head. If anything, I need something that will pull me away from that. Ironically, I’m far more likely to express those feelings when I’m not feeling sad or depressed (judging from my poetry), but I’m not really an expert on expressing feelings through drawing lol
    I want to get better at it as well

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