There are so many reasons we have this idea of crazy and artist when we think about the arts. But have you ever taken some time to break down this myth and really understand it?
Hi, my name’s Carrie and today on Artist Strong we are going to really dig into this myth and try to better understand the source of this commonly held belief.
The first thing we should discuss is our interest as humans in story.
We like stories. We share stories. (Hello social media!) It’s how we connect with other people. What do you think is more interesting in terms of story to share with others: a troubled artist who cuts off his ear or a successful artist who has a long happy and fruitful life making art?
Peter Paul Rubens is an example of the latter. He is famously known for his Rubenesque women during the Baroque and he had a long successful art career that even included diplomacy. But we don’t talk about his story as much as we talk about Van Gogh who cut off his ear.
I have actually quite a few other examples of artists who have had successful lives and careers in the arts that are noted in our history but aren’t celebrated in story with the same level of drama because their lives were successful and calm and peaceful.
My first example for you is the Renaissance master Raphael.
We know him only by his first name today, he is so revered for his art! But during his life you’ll find that he wasn’t troubled and he didn’t have any signs of mental illness.
He was a bit of a partier and he died young perhaps because of some of that partying. He also had a rivalry with Michelangelo that actually helped them both raise the level and skill of their work. But there’s no indication in our history and understanding of the artist Raphael that he was a troubled artist.
Jan van Eyck is my second example of a successful, “well-balanced artist.”
There’s no history of mental health issues. He had a full time job. He was hired by the Duke of Burgundy during his lifetime. He’s a very famous northern Renaissance artist.
We know him today for his hyper real artwork, mostly with oil on panel, and he was successful during his lifetime. In fact, his work was printed. His art is some of the first that’s printed and then shared around the world.
He is one of the first artists that started putting his name on his work to help him promote and market his own success so that other people might seek him out for commissions. There’s no indication in his life story of any mental health issues.
The third artist I’d like to highlight today is Claude Monet.
Lots and lots of people today really appreciate his Impressionist work. He is considered now the forerunner of the Impressionist art movement and during his lifetime he did face some obstacles.
For example, he slowly went blind as he got older but he kept painting even as he was losing his sight. When he was younger and working in this style of Impressionism he faced harsh criticism for the style of his work. It was not welcomed when it first was exhibited. In fact, the word Impressionism was used in a critique that was meant to be harsh criticism of his style of art. Now we use that word today with a lot of affection and respect for the style of his work.
Even with these obstacles in his life there’s not the same kind of story or drama that we hear around someone like Van Gogh who cut off his ear in a moment of distress.
Again, going back to this issue of story, which stories are more “fun” to talk about? Wouldn’t that be part of the reason why we have this myth that artists are unstable or have mental health issues. And that it’s almost a requirement to be a successful artist?
Be Creatively Courageous: Tell me in the comments below, do you know the name of another “non-crazy” artist? I’d love to collate a list for everyone to have as a resource, as a reminder that this is a commonly held belief which is a myth.
Regardless of labels, there is NOTHING wrong with your desire to be creative. And being creative doesn’t make you crazy. Everyone has the desire to be creative. It’s a natural part of being human: mental health is just one piece of a larger story around creativity and the arts. But not the only one.
Thanks for watching guys and I’ll see you next week.