It comes as no surprise to anyone of course that artists could be tortured souls, but a couple of times recently I’ve been inspired by stories of artists, comedians, and poets’ struggles with anxiety and depression. I don’t know whether it’s the thought that self-doubt won’t necessarily stop you from doing something great in life, or the thought that through sadness or worries we might even see the world in a new way which can inspire others, but it does mean that despite having ups and downs and anxious moments in life, we do not have to be ruled by them.
What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue. – Henri Matisse
I have always been drawn to Matisse’s expressive and exuberantly coloured works of art – both the canvases covered with abstract shapes and the decorative, splashy portraits – but only recently did I learn in a feature created due to the upcoming Matisse exhibition that he was also an anxiety sufferer. It’s inspiring to learn that someone plagued with self-doubt or anxiety could use so much colour and create so much beauty.
If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do. ― Stephen Fry
When you read Stephen Fry’s autobiographical writing, his extremely low sense of self-worth comes across surprisingly strongly, for someone quite prolific on our television and radio channels. He has long had bipolar disorder to contend with, and his struggles with depression and self-worth have driven him to make some interesting documentaries to raise awareness about it.
Landlady: What’s this ‘orrible thing?
Hancock: That… is a self-portrait!
Landlady: Who of?!
Hancock: Laurel & Hardy! Who of, buffoons…
Tony Hancock is one of my family’s heroes – I grew up with Hancock’s Half Hour and The Rebel was my introduction to modern art appreciation. A complete tortured genius he had a sad end to his life, linked with chronic drinking problems. Being a comedian doesn’t make you immune to sadness, strangely enough, but he still brings happiness to those that watch and listen to his works! (Those who listen to too much Radio 4 probably).
Finally, I leave you with some YouTube footage I was sent recently by a friend – Charles Bukowski’s approach to bad days.