Feed Your Demons: Suffering Makes Great Art


The best art comes from suffering. 

Charles Bukowski was a raging Alcoholic and Hunter S. Thompson had a drug collection. Goethe was a hopeless womanizer and Kerouac had a thing for Benzedrine. William S. Burroughs had a Heroine habit and so did Jean Michel Basquiat and Kurt Cobain. There have been countless odes written to the loss of love and just as many rock ballads sung to the “One that got away.” For some reason deep emotional wounds generate a creative edge which allows someone to tap into their artistic reservoir. If your an artist it makes sense to turn your lemons into lemonade. There are many ways one can take advantage of these critical emotional states and mine them for all they are worth:

The feeling of  getting jilted by a romantic lover can be one of the most heart wrenching experiences ever. The energy that heartbreak releases comes from this lingering desire for the other person; you just can’t have them. It is very potent energy because it is an expression of love. In love we become physically addicted to the other person and when the person is gone it leaves an emptiness that needs to be filled. In that time it is essential that those moments spent yearning for the other person be put into artistic pursuits. One can feel oneself almost fueled by these intense emotions.banksy-heart-balloon-mural-design

I think being jilted is one of life’s most painful experiences

-Frank Sinatra

Death in the Family:
Much like the loss of heartbreak a death leaves a void that needs to be filled. The psychologist Elizabeth Kubler Ross said that we never really get over the death of a loved one but that we tailor our personalities to fit around the loss. Mourning is a lingering sadness that never goes away but becomes a part of you. Use these intense emotions to fuel your art. The Artist Arshile Gorky survived the Armenian Genocide and saw his loved ones killed before his eyes. After he suffered such a horrifying ordeal his abstract art was fueled by those tormenting memories. The paintings were genius but his suffering was so great he had to eventually take his life to escape his inner demons.


Most artists start out and end penniless. Jackson Pollock was living off of a Government program which supported artists when he first started out. The musical genius Mozart had nothing at the end of his life and was buried in a paupers grave yet his music had became more ominous towards the end of his life and seemed to explode with a certain genius that would live on. The need for money propels any artist to push oneself toward the goal of attaining more of it.  Money is the fuel of survival in todays society, one simply cannot live without out.  Once you realize your art can fetch a little bit of money your obsession for money soon becomes an obsession for the art. The genius is the first to come and then the money.

Addiction creates this strong desire for something outside yourself. Without that thing you crave there is this insatiable emotional energy that propels you towards it. It’s not so much the moments when one is under the influence but the times when one is coming off of the substance that creates the most emotional energy. Find a vice and use that energy to propel your art into something spectacular.


I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.

-Hunter S. Thompson

note: A couple of things on vices-make sure your addiction is manageable. You can’t create art if you are strung out all the time.

Disease or Sickness:
Proust finished the end of his epic “In Search of Lost Time” as he was on his deathbed. Kafka didn’t even finish his novel “The Castle” and instead it was left unfinished. Frida Kahlo was in a horrible vehicular accident which left her constantly in pain. Viewing any of her paintings you share her pain in the same way. She frequently painted picture of herself  enduring horrible physical wounds.  You can tell right away that she was struggling with terrible inner demons. Usually when we suffer ills of the body we direct that energy inward and it turns into victimization or feeling sorry for oneself. Instead take that energy and put it into something artistic. Write about your experiences or (like Frida Kahlo) paint a picture of your torment.



I don’t mean to be so morbid.  Every artist needs to realize how to use their powerful emotional states.   As an artist you are also an alchemist taking worthless metal and turning it into gold.  Go and do that right now. Use your powerful raw emotional energy to make gold.

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