Fighting the Artist’s Depression

Updated on June 26, 2020
PAINTDRIPS profile image

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

Peach Roses in watercolor on my art table.
Peach Roses in watercolor on my art table. | Source

An Artist’s Dilemma

Artists typically have a hard time separating themselves from their art. I am my art. My art is me. You criticize my art and you are criticizing me personally. I know I shouldn’t think that way but I’m very close to my work and although I try to stay separate, it isn’t easy. Someone asked once which was my favorite painting of the dozen or so she was looking at. I couldn’t tell her, because I love them all. They are like my children. You can’t pick a favorite child. Some are easier to manage than others but you love them all. Maybe this is why it is so difficult to put a price on art. How do you sell your children? How can you put a price on them? They are priceless to you as their creator. You only hope when they leave your home they go somewhere nice where they are treated like the priceless treasure you know them to be.

Once I was so loath to part with a painting that someone wanted to buy that I painted two of them: one for the buyer and one to keep for myself. Eventually, I parted with my copy too, but it was hard to let it go.

My copy of the Buck that I eventually parted with too.
My copy of the Buck that I eventually parted with too. | Source

Depression and the Artist

This is part of why artists get the reputation of been moody and petulant. They typically are unreliable and procrastinators. It all goes back to the love/hate relationship we all have with the art we create. Sometimes it flows out of us and other times it is a long-drawn-out struggle to birth them. I love the process and I hate it too. I resent time spent away from them so much that I don’t want to stop to eat or even attend to personal hygiene. At the same time, when I do pull myself away and return later, I am glad of the diversion because it means I return with “fresh” eyes. I can more clearly see when I may be going wrong and fix it.

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.

— Franklin D. Roosevelt
Watercolor Dahlia on wrinkled paper
Watercolor Dahlia on wrinkled paper | Source

Self-Publish Books

I have been writing and illustrating books seriously for the past 8 years; some craft books, some art history books, coloring books, and children's stories. I wouldn't say I'm great but I am happy with who I am and happy to be doing what I love. Isn't that what life is all about? You can see many of my books on Amazon and on Lulu.

Encourage Reading

I know I have a lot to offer the art community. I may not be the next Dr. Seuss or Maurice Sendak, but I do know that I want to share my talent with the world. I want to encourage children to read and fall in love with literature the way my teachers and my mother made me fall in love with it. I want to use art to entice children to read. I think it can happen.

Let a good book take you on an adventure.
Let a good book take you on an adventure. | Source

Storytelling

As an artist, I am essentially a storyteller. As a storyteller, my goal is to speculate upon and the issues at hand around us, both the good and the bad and the moral ambiguities that go along with them, and invite the audience to explore them with me in the controlled environment of creative storytelling. I've found from experience that as an artist we usually cannot change the culture by conscientiously trying to do it. All we can do is to offer a starting point encouraging people to think, not an ending point telling people what to think. So long as we do our work honestly and with a sincere passion for the work, it can and often will, positively influence those who choose to partake in it. My intention as a storyteller is to discover things through the story to portray, not to tell people things they may or may not already know. I want them to participate in the illustration by searching for their own truth with the breadcrumbs of imagery I have left for them to find.

Carrie in the Woods
Carrie in the Woods | Source

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.

— Michelangelo

Photo Composites

I have created some photo composites and photo manipulation to create what is called Fine Art Photography. These are a load of fun for me. I take a photo and then change the background, add elements like flower wreaths and butterflies, add filters that give an old grungy look or a canvas look to the overall composite and then finish it with a vignette (darkening the corners and borders).

My Carrie in the Woods photo I took ages ago looking up at her from an almost prone position. I had to find just the right perspective photo of the woods to match the looking-up position. Later I wanted her to have flowers on her head, so I spent a lot of time cut out and pasting dozens of flowers around her head and adjusting the color to match. This is the part that took the longest.

Catch a good book.  Who knows where it will take you.
Catch a good book. Who knows where it will take you. | Source

More On Art

It seems the more of anything we have in our lives, the more we take it for granted (in general), and thus we want more and more. It's like addiction, a narcotic. We love music so we want more: the radio must be on in the car, in our homes, at work, plugged into our ears when we run and exercise, etc. Is this bad? Not on the surface but it makes me wonder when the addiction will end. You can’t always have more.

So I make more illustrations for more books, for more magazines, for fun for me. Yet, the general public doesn’t pay for it like it were a necessity. Even high-end magazines who used to pay illustrators top dollar have started being very cheap with their illustration budget and if you don’t negotiate with them, reminding them of your experience and the time needed for their work, you simply cannot make a living wage. There is nothing wrong with negotiation, per se, but to constantly have to demand your due gets exhausting. Unlike other professions where you negotiate your wage once and then work for a company, freelance illustration means that I am constantly looking for more work and almost weekly negotiation with another company.

The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.

— Ecclesiastes 1:8
Tea Roses in Watercolor
Tea Roses in Watercolor | Source

Final Thoughts

Like most sensitive creatives, I fight depression and discouragement daily. But when I get up each morning and see all the art surrounding me (finished art, art in process, and commissioned art), I think what a fortunate person I am to be able to do this every day. It’s all in the attitude you decide to take. What do you think?

Comments

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      26 hours ago from Fresno CA

      sowspeaks,

      I am so happy you like my photo composites. It makes me smile. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      27 hours ago from Fresno CA

      Anupam Mitu,

      I am very honored. Thank you for such a compliment. I will go read it right away. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Sowrabha Mahesh profile image

      sowspeaks 

      2 days ago from Bengaluru

      Hi Denise, I enjoyed the story and the ride you took us on. This was like a movie with your drawings, illustrations and your commentary. I am having a problem choosing between your watercolours and photo composites. For now, I think I will go with the photo composites as they are taking me to fantasy land. What delight you bring to a lot of hearts with your art with a heart!

    • Anupam Mitu profile image

      Anupam Mitu 

      6 days ago from MUMBAI

      Denise, the articles of yours have inspired me a lot. With this inspiration I've renovated my first article "Be yourself, Love yourself, Enjoy yourself". I have mentioned your name at top to show my gratitude for you. Hope you will love reading that. Thank you dear. God bless.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 days ago from Fresno CA

      Dora Weithers,

      Oh, I believe like you do that the spark to create is from above and God has a hand in everything I do. He is my best inspiration and encourager. Thanks for your kind words and for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      8 days ago from The Caribbean

      I love all the reproduction of your art that you have shown on this site. Your work is unique. I understand the meaning of them being a part of you. I wish I knew the right words to say to encourage you in the face of your struggles. I can say though, that your mission is divine and I pray that God will favor you with strength to endure. No telling what form your reward will take!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      9 days ago from Fresno CA

      Devika Primić,

      Your words make me very happy. I try to create what people will like. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      9 days ago from Fresno CA

      Liz Westwood,

      I'm so pleased you liked my art. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      9 days ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Denise what you share is beautiful a part of you as well is in your artwork. It is in the derails and so well compiled.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      9 days ago from UK

      This article gives a fascinating insight into the life and mind of an artist. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your excellent works of art.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      9 days ago from Fresno CA

      Ann Carr,

      I painted on the tea roses for about 4 hours spread out over 3 days. Nice of you to ask. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      9 days ago from Fresno CA

      Linda Crampton,

      Thank you for your good opinion of my work. I appreciate it so much. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      10 days ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Fortunate indeed, Denise. But sometimes there are crosses we must carry. So we carry them proudly and continue on our way. You shared a lot here. Thank you.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      10 days ago from SW England

      Thank you, Denise, that's such a lovely compliment. I could reach out and touch those tea roses at the end. Your work should command high prices. As a matter of interest, how long did it take you to create the tea roses?

      Ann

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      10 days ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Your art is lovely, Denise. I admire your skill. I'm sorry that you have to repeatedly negotiate with people purchasing your work. Artists deserve more respect. I love the Michelangelo quote that you've shared.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      11 days ago from Fresno CA

      Eric Dierker,

      I think you regularly let your light shine. You create with your words and stories as well as with your children. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      11 days ago from Fresno CA

      Anupam Mitu,

      How very clever of you to see ME in my work. I don't talk about that a lot but I know I put myself and my heart into my work. I really love your encouragement and can't wait to see your paintings. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      11 days ago from Fresno CA

      DreamerMeg,

      So true. One artist friend was saying that licensing is the way artists will make it in the future. If I sell a painting, I get paid once and it's back to the drawingboard or easel. But if I license my image, it can be sold numerous times by printing it onto cards, book covers, dishes, canvases, stickers, totes, Tshirts, etc. I think books are like that. I still have all the art from the book and you can have copies of it too. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      11 days ago from Fresno CA

      Bill Holland,

      Thank you. I like to think I do with images what you do with words... maybe not as skillfully but exercising it every day and getting closer. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      11 days ago from Fresno CA

      Lorna Lamon,

      It makes my heart soar to be able to share it in a place like this. So much of my work in just sitting in closets or leaning against a wall (you can only hang so much on the wall). What would it be worth if only I got to see and enjoy it? To be able to share it here and see others enjoy it too fills me with great satisfaction. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      11 days ago from Fresno CA

      Ann Carr,

      Thank you Ann. I appreciate that you found some things to agree with here. You are an awesome artist as well. I love your writing style. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      11 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      This is real good. It is good for me to read. I think I need to do some introspection on your notions.

      A concept of letting our light shine has me wondering.

    • Anupam Mitu profile image

      Anupam Mitu 

      11 days ago from MUMBAI

      Dear Denise,

      I came to your last line after making my opinion and look I was right in my perception.

      Any art is the reflection of its creator. It really means a lot for the one who creates it. Like a parent loves his/her children, an artist loves his/her art. So its obvious, you are so much attached to your art and they are really fascinating. I have seen your photography skills in your last post and here is your painting expressing the vibrant character of yours.

      A simple signature too tells a lot about a character to a good observer. And as I am too a lover, a devoted artist, I can read your character in the painting of yours. in the painting of the deer, I can see how pure , innocent, devoted and passionate and lovely individual you are. But along with this I also found a sort of gloominess in this painting which might be the result of the wounds you received from your loved ones. (And I was correct in this when I read your last point) Don't get upset because of anyone else's comment. No one else can judge us in the way we can do that for ourselves. So please have the remote control of your emotions with you only and keep smiling.

      I don't know much about painting but I do love to make folk paintings of India. I have learnt Madhubani painting and Warli painting and made a few in the past that I will share in some of the post later.

      Take care dear

      Lots pf love and blessings

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      11 days ago from Northern Ireland

      Definitely, your altitude is determined by your attitude. It must be hard parting with paintings. But at least with books, you can share them AND keep them - have your cake and eat it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I love that you described yourself as a storyteller. I'm not sure a lot of artists understand that. Any artist, writer, sculptor, etc, is essentially telling a story with their creation. I love that you recognize that fact.

      And yes, our work is our creation, our baby, and it is very hard to give our baby up, or to expose it so that others may judge it.

      Blessings always

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      12 days ago

      I love your artwork Denise and I feel so much of you is in each painting. Children love to look at pictures which feeds their imagination and encourages them to read.

      Having to negotiate on a regular basis must be extremely trying and I am surprised that the value of art has dropped so much.

      The artwork you have showcased here is stunning, in particular the flowers. You are blessed to have such a gift and I'm glad you are doing what you love. Take care.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      12 days ago from SW England

      Your artwork is beautiful, crisp and clear but also soft and romantic.

      I couldn't agree more about art encouraging children to read. My granddaughter wrote a story for a competition and added her own illustrations too - it was charming (but I would say that wouldn't I?)!

      The way you feel about your art is the way I feel about my writing. It is me. I feel hurt if it's criticised, but of course I will take constructive criticism gladly. It certainly is all in the attitude.

      Negotiating all the time must be truly exhausting. You certainly deserve to be well rewarded for all your efforts. Love the boy sailing a book on an adventure!

      Ann

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