as individual as you are

Members: LOG IN

Lynne Hurd Bryant Art Blog

Dark night of the artistic soul

by lynnehurdbryant , February 17, 2010—12:00 AM

Topics: emerging

A fellow artist on Facebook inspired this blog. He had a dark night of the soul recently. He gathered all of his work together and decided to burn the lot of them. He didn't actually complete this task, but he was exasperated by his artistic career. I assured him that he is not alone, we have all been there. I am there nearly weekly.

The dark night of the soul is inevitable, at some point, in our artistic lives. It is born of frustration, the inability to do the sort of work we want to do and not being the artists we want to be. Primarily, I believe, it is profound self-doubt. Self-doubt is not a bad thing.

I am a converted Catholic of nearly three decades. There is one particular idea that was presented to me during instruction and it is this: If you never doubt God, your faith will never grow. I turn this around: If you never doubt yourself, you will never grow. This is something I have thought about repeatedly as I have tried to paint again over the past several months.

We have to understand the dynamics of self-doubt and the origin of these feelings. The only way to combat them is belief in one's embrace the artist within, not the one who is without in another body doing work we envy. This is a lot easier said than done.

I paint florals because they are my best work, not necessarily where my heart is. Is continuing to paint florals embracing the artist I am, or prostituting my talents? As I have been painting florals since 1977, there is now self-doubt as to whether I am capable of anything else. Will my envy of the landscapes and portraits of others take me back to a point when I refuse to paint? Is there a dark night of my artistic soul in the future, when a pile of flower paintings will be tossed into the fire? Will I burn my dreams and ambitions?




  Mihelle ( homepage )

07/28/2013 * 03:27:44

I am an Artist who too is very critical of my work at times but I enjoy a good time out just my pencil and I. I have Bi Polar and just to be able to be in sound mind, even if I am being critical at times or listening to feed back I'd rather of not heard, I thank god I can see the sun rise and appreciate that god gave me a special talent no matter what lies in front of me I know I can always enjoy the beauty of creating art good or indifferent I'm enjoying myself.


  Gary Lange ( homepage )

09/06/2010 * 04:32:56

It seems I have had a few hundred dark nights of the soul as a sculptor,,, one particularly dark night came in march, when I found out a good friend and cabinet maker, hung himself from his studio... It's hard for me to go back to my own sculpture, it is my own cruxifiction...
but I must love my enemies, and find them where they live inside me, kiss them goodnight, and find a cure for them... love to all, gary


  Oshilaja Hemsley ( homepage )

05/04/2010 * 11:36:36

I'm with Mary on this one. If you don't like your work put it aside for another day's fresh perspective. Sometimes it evolves into a different painting, and sometimes not, but surely the job of any artist is to keep expressing?
Our job is like any other requiring discipline and practice. And where do we get this idea that selling what the buyer wants means becoming a prostitute? See how we limit ourselves so by what we believe?! The sooner artists stop perpetuating the myth that we are "special" beings, the sooner the world at large will stop perpuating the myth that artists don't need to eat!


  custom term papers ( homepage )

04/03/2010 * 12:03:45

Such a nice article and great resource for artistic souls over there


  Mary Lawler ( homepage )

02/27/2010 * 13:11:47

Is it self-doubt, or the inability to let go? I see both sides, artists have a very emotional attachment to their work, sometimes to an unhealthy level. The expression "prostituting your art" should be struck from our language. When you make art for commission are you a prostitute? When you make something for someone at their request, something you might not have thought to do yourself, are you a prostitute? If you make money from your art are you a prostitute?

I hate that expression because it is born out of the purists' belief that you make art art for arts sake, and you have to suffer or starve to death doing it. There is no joy in making art when you believe the world to be filled with moronic dolts that don't understand you.

For 25 years as a Graphic Designer I made changes to my design at the behest of my client, often ones I didn't agree with, but let's be real, it was a brochure, a postcard, it wasn't going to hang in the Louvre. There were a few occasions where I did refuse to make the changes because it was just plain wrong and I didn't want it to carry my name. But you don't get paid for jobs like that, they find someone else to produce their ugly idea.

We need to strike a balance. I have thrown out plenty of work, it didn't represent me anymore. Our work is a often a measure of where we are emotionally, but I try very hard to let something go when it's done. (I don't always succeed) If it's good, it goes out to the public, if it isn't, it goes in the "to be tossed pile". Plenty of our work isn't successful or up to our standards so why keep it around? To be a constant reminder that it didn't work and you are a failure? You're not. You are an artist. Take pictures of the good stuff and let it go.

Lynn, you have a talent for watercolor florals, so paint them, but you don't have to paint them exclusively, try other things, not for sale, but for yourself. If after awhile you get really good at something new then put it out to the public.

Jody, I believe that the ritual of burning should be reserved for cleansing, not for destruction.

That's what I would do if I were queen.


  Jody Coughlin ( homepage )

02/26/2010 * 21:37:22

I've been there. Over and over and I have burned artwork too.Usually when I am hurt or angry or frustrated. I took my anger out on my work which really meant I took it out on myself-the most sensitive side of myself. I look back and realize what a rash thing it was to do.

I would never encourage anyone to burn their work, so why was I so hard on myself? I don't know, but I do know that I wish I had those works back... But they are gone forever. If you are feeling frustrated, just step back from it for a while. Don't act on emotion. Emotions change with the winds... Just be kind to yourself and good things will emerge. Your work is precious whether you feel it or not.

What Do You Think? Leave a comment!

Code Check

Verification — Please type in the code you see in the image above. This helps us defeat automated programs that try to post "comment spam" (unwanted advertisements).