Why are my artworks so dark and morbid?

Published by Nela Dunato on at 12:09 in Inspiration, Thoughts, Art, Personal

This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get. But even when it isn't asked out loud, I can feel what the person thinks upon seeing my art for the first time. People I've known for a while get creeped out when they see there are things about me they did not know. It's always a bit uncomfortable for both parties, so I try not to be present when people look at my art if I can help it.

Once my mother asked me the same thing. "But you didn't have a bad childhood, did you?" she continued. The unspoken accusation lingered above us: "People will think you did, they'll think we're bad parents." And people around you thinking you're a bad parent is almost as bad as actually being a bad parent...

Sharp Tongue by Nela Dunato
"Sharp Tongue", acrylics on canvas, 2009 (cropped).
This painting hanging on my old bedroom wall was what inspired the conversation

So, why do I do it, really? A very simple and short truth is that... I am a hypersensitive individual.

I've been like that since I can remember — crying for the silliest reasons, hurting almost physically because of something insensitive or cruel someone said, and feeling very, very lonely for most of my childhood because it was difficult for me to connect to my peers.

At that time, my mom's only advice was "It's been like that for me as well. It will get easier when you grow up." And she was right, it did get easier. I didn't cry anymore, and I didn't allow the hurtful things to get to me. I grew a thicker skin, and put on my shiny armor made of cynicism and intellectual superiority.

But you know... the crybaby never really went away. That aspect of me could not change — and it wasn't meant to be changed. Hypersensitivity was my gift, not a flaw.

I get elated and euphoric for the smallest things. I get captivated by details, and I can find amazement in so many mundane moments. I get moved by so many things it's crazy. Sometimes all it takes is a sunbeam and a comforting breeze on my walk to work to bring a tear of joy to my eye. As one of my best friends would say: "Life is magical!"
But in this world it is dangerous to be so open.

Everyone is broken, and broken people hurt others, because it makes them feel more alive. I know how it feels, I've been cruel to others as well. I thought it was OK because "they deserved it". But I was no better than those that have hurt me.

Anyway...

People have different coping mechanisms. My mom's is to bottle up all the anxiety and hurt, and get physically ill when it becomes too much to bear.

I try not to get sick from stress and negative emotions, so I draw and paint. I don't hide the fact that my art is my therapy. My spiritual work, if you will. I don't hide the fact that I'm broken, just like everyone else is.

Compared to a lot of people, I really didn't have a "bad" childhood, but still it was far from easy. A few years ago I was reading some of my old diaries for the last time before shredding them to pieces. I've lived through my 12 year old self again, and let me tell you, it was horrible. No one was aware of this at the time, but that was the most depressed period of my life. (Though I did have quite a share of depressive episodes as an adult, as well.)

You look at 12 year olds and think "What do they have to be depressed about? They're having the easiest time they will ever have. They have no idea about real problems yet." And to this I say — it's bullshit.

Kids know very well what real problems are.
Real problem is when you feel so lonely, like there isn't a single person in the world who understands you and knows how you feel.
Real problem is when you don't have anyone to share your secrets with, for fear that you will be laughed at.
Real problem is when you feel like the world would be a better place without you, and that everyone would be happier if you weren't even born.

It's damn real when you feel like the love that is given to you is conditional, and that only a certain type of behavior is rewarded and accepted in the Real World, but sadly you don't fit in that type well. So you want to disappear from the face of the Earth, but not really kill yourself because that would hurt your family, and you don't want to make other people hurt.
You're left in a limbo of neither being dead, nor truly alive. At the time you're not aware yet that the majority of people spend their entire lives in that same limbo.

Reading that diary made me relive all that, and cry my poor soul out over again. Writing about it now still makes my eyes water a little. I don't know how long it will take me to heal all that hurt that is still lingering under layers and layers of emotional crap that came later in life.

Don't dismiss the hurt of other people. And don't dismiss your own, either.

I know I've had a better childhood than many people who lost their parents too early, or had serious health problems, or were born disabled, etc. I'm not trying to equate my own suffering to theirs. But we have to allow ourselves to admit that we are broken, and decide that we don't want to be held hostage by those feelings of inadequacy anymore — we have to decide that we want to heal.

I say out loud what a lot of people can't, or don't want to out of shame. My art shows the hurt and frustration that most people cover up with denial or medication.

Don't tell me you're "normal", I don't believe in "normal". Life leaves a mark on us, and no one had a perfect life. Our society doesn't support perfect childhood, perfect education, perfect growth. Even for individuals with a healthy and progressive outlook on life from a very early age (ie. any kid whose parents raised him to be polite, loving and honest), it's far from easy — our views are constantly challenged, and we're constantly reminded that we don't belong.

I decided to channel my pain, frustration, fear and anxiety into my art. I decided to peer into the darkness that is my subconscious mind, pull those monsters out by their tail and slam them onto the canvas for the world to see.

I'm not afraid of being seen. I want you to see me, and in my work the reflection of your own soul pleading for help, for acceptance, for healing. I want you to face those monsters too, and realize they're not so scary — to notice that there's actually something strangely beautiful about them.

Invite them for a cup of tea and ask them, what's the deal? What do they want from you? What do they need in order to heal, to stop being the monsters that torture you?

People who understand my art never ask me that question. Instead, they say they know the feeling, they relate to the image, and they can guess where it came from without me spelling it out. Their support is what encourages me to keep going, and keeps me aware that I'm doing the right thing after all.

My question to you is, what do you do with your own pain? Are you brave enough to peer into the darkness?

EDIT: After getting a lot of comments and questions, I decided to write a followup post Who are you really creating your art for? so go ahead and read it if you're interested.

Nela
Nela Dunato

About Nela Dunato

I run a boutique design consultancy that helps creative businesses evolve into premium brands and connect with their dream clients, by crafting extraordinary visual experiences.

On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...


Your comments

  • Alen

    Alen
    2012-12-14 at 12:48

    Peer? Darkness is my second best friend. The first is Death. :-) All I can see is bullshits and bullshits and hurting others and hurting myself and bullshits and bullshits and so on. Although, I must admit there is some beauty in between and beauty is touching. Beauty hits sweet spot in my heart. Like it does goodness or care.

    But what I want to tell is that it isn't dangerous to be open in this world - it's hurting and that's good. Because it's much better to be hurt than stoned with medication or estranged from our feelings. Our lives are what we feel. And the more we feel, the more we are alive. (Bullshits and hurting included! :-))

  • Vickie

    Vickie
    2012-12-14 at 13:27

    Hi Nela,

    I'm sending you a big hug. You are very brave and courageous, and I so appreciate sharing this blog with me.

    You are loved.

    Vickie

  • djuro

    djuro
    2012-12-14 at 13:36

    This is beautiful, Nela! Life is both, good and bad, and to have found how to face the bad and pour it into something good is what makes it good, ultimately for everyone around you.

  • Nela

    Nela
    2012-12-14 at 14:19

    Thank you for you comments, everyone! :)

    Alen, you are a real poet I see :) Now I would not agree that hurting is "good", that it's optimal - I'm sure there has to be a better way, a better world. But when the choice is either ackgnowledging the hurt, or burying it deep, I agree with you.

    Vickie, thank you! Hug you back :) I am thankful to be surrounded by people who love, accept and understand me. Sadly, it wasn't always so, there is much clearing to be done with the past.

    Thanks, Djuro! I agree completely.
    And this doesn't have to be limited to artists, even such a thing as doodling or writing a journal or a letter, in a most open and honest way is a great way to turn the bad into good.

  • Clare

    Clare
    2012-12-14 at 14:42

    Hi Nela,
    What a beautiful post. I think sometimes people wonder why i'm attracted to deeper and darker experiences too, so I can relate to this post. I'm also hypersensitive and like to transmute my messy feelings into my artwork too. Thanks so much for articulating what I feel inside. It's nice to know there are people brave to admit life's not "perfect" all the time.
    Love Clare

  • Julia

    Julia
    2012-12-14 at 17:42

    I think it's perfectly natural for people to engage with their deeper and darker experiences. It's these moments that bring meaning in our lives. It doesn't mean we are cynics either - in fact, the people who acknowledge the our "broken" human nature are the ones that are happier in the end. The biggest issue with many societies is that they build this artificial fear of the "unpleasant". We are raised to fear death and suffering when ironically of course, we are raised to die and suffer in the most elegant way possible (we are the arguably the only creatures who their lives with complex meaning).

    Anyways, I should stop rambling haha. Great post, it got me thinking a lot of things :D

  • Nela

    Nela
    2012-12-14 at 18:29

    Hi Clare,
    Thank you very much! I'm glad you can relate to this. I know there must be a lot more people out there who are like that and who feel similar as we do.

  • Nela

    Nela
    2012-12-14 at 18:37

    Julia, feel free to ramble on.. :D I love hearing people's opinion on this.
    I agree that it's natural, well at least it's natural to me - I don't want to speak for everyone, although I'm of the opinion everyone could benefit from it. But our culture is not very supportive of it, as you mentioned. Yes, we just try to hide the "unpleasant" under the rug, lest anyone else notices we're not perfect.
    And this DSM nonsense is not helping, either. Just a few minutes after I published this post, I ran into this: http://bit.ly/wired-dsm
    It's absurd.

  • gina rafkind

    gina rafkind
    2012-12-15 at 00:10

    Wow, this is really powerful Nela.....how you channel what you feel into the canvas is empowering........

  • Arwen

    Arwen
    2012-12-15 at 00:21

    Powerful. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Petrea

    Petrea
    2012-12-15 at 00:32

    Nela, if only all of us could use art as expresively as you have. While it may trigger some (like your mom) for others it will speak their truth too and they will feel heard. For me your art speaks to the pain and suffering that is out in the world that needs to be acknowlged. I think that it is wonderful that you are able to channel your "sensitivity" in such a profound way.

  • Nela

    Nela
    2012-12-15 at 11:30

    Thank you, ladies! I'm thrilled by your beautiful feedback, thank you so much for your support :)

    Petrea, I see you are an art therapist, and this area has interested me for a while now!
    Thank you for your kind words. I would love to channel the more beautiful aspects of life, but at the moment it's not yet possible for me.
    If someone feels understood when viewing my work, that's all I could ask for.

  • Marija

    Marija
    2012-12-15 at 14:48

    I had already told you that I was somewhat surprised that you were a crybaby. It's because based on your online presence, I've always perceived you as a professional brimming with confidence who simply happens to like the dark[er] stuff. From my perspective, your artwork is not even THAT dark or morbid! And when it comes to blood, I guess my work is torture porn compared to yours! :D

    "But you didn't have a bad childhood, did you?" rings a bell, loud and clear. I have also been asked if I were abused and molested as a child, and told how seriously fucked up I am. But these were reactions to my poetry and writings, and were asked and said many years before I edited my first image on computer. :) I've always been into dark and brooding stuff. Always. Not horror. Just darkness. And I've soaked and fed on dark tunes, texts and images because I found them soothing. The darkness has always provided me with clarity and focus. However, I don't think I'm hypersensitive, at least not in the way you describe. I'm more of a hypersceptic/hyperanalyist. And I've also been quite fastidious, which I believe is the main reason for not fitting in and having few friends. For me the driving force has never been angst, but rather - anger. So I see most of my creative endeavours as an anger management tool/method. Instead of curling up and crying like most hurt/offended kids would do, my first thought was always "You're a stupid motherfucker and I want to bash your head into a pulp!" But I've never done such a thing. Instead, I would subtly write [and mock] about it. My works are heavy with symbolism and more or less restrained. If they were made in a more literal manner, there would be a lot more chaos, blood and swear words. I don't even want to think about reactions to that. I have many wips that are less subtle, but I keep refraining from finishing anything and releasing to public. For me, it's like I want to use a rocket launcher but keep opting for a silencer instead. :D

    So, although I've liked your art and found beauty in it, I may have misunderstood it, taken it for granted. After reading your post and looking at it again, it seems more personal than before. Most of us want to expel their demons. I, on the contrary, wish to nurture mine. I will close this lengthy response with two of my favourite quotes/credos: "hell is other people" and "remember, we are eternal, all this pain is an illusion". :)

  • Nela

    Nela
    2012-12-15 at 15:18

    Heh well, let me clarify :)
    Your perception of me was not entirely inaccurate - I do and can hold on very well, but there are things that are my touchy spots. And boy, do some people target them easily...

    It's never just one emotion. It's not just sadness, or just disappointment.. yes, there's the "I'd like to poke your eyes out with my fingernails" kind of rage too, and a whole lot of layers of other things we probably don't even have simple names for.

    I did have a phase in my life (teens to early 20s - incidentally, when my infatuation with dark art was blooming) when I blocked my "sadness" type of emotions completely, because it felt more manageable. The issue was, this made it difficult for me to feel and express love of other people, so in order to get in touch with my more positive feelings, I had to start opening myself up for feeling the bad things I was suppressing. I realized keeping "cool" works both ways - it keeps you aloof and out of touch with both the good and bad.
    So I made a choice to go back to that childhood me and patch things up. Take that sadness as a signal that something is healing, or has to be healed.

    Before realizing this, I was living out my "trauma" only through my art, instead of acknowledging it openly. It took me quite some time to realize what I was doing. And the symbols were sometimes not put on my image intentionally - I saw them for what they were only after I've finished the work.

    So really, it's not that you have misunderstood my art. I have as well, for a long time. But later when I've seen it for what it is and what it can do for me, my whole perspective changed, and now I can explain it to others as well.
    5 years ago I wouldn't have been able to put this into words in such manner. 5 years is like a lifetime sometimes.

    Hehe those quotes made me smile :)

  • Marija

    Marija
    2012-12-15 at 16:52

    Thank you for the reply and clarification!
    I love reading your posts because you always bring up interesting topics and ask the right questions [plus there's always an element of surprise, too, hehe]. I'm glad you're able to put it all into words! :) I'm aware there are many layers to our feelings and experiences, and that it takes time to work through them. I also find new meanings in my old work, some hidden bit that had not been revealed to me until now. I like to think we are our own works in progress, re-building and re-inventing ourselves all the time, some[times] for better, some[times] for worse.

  • Tanja @ Crystal Clarity

    Tanja @ Crystal Clarity
    2012-12-17 at 09:02

    *nods* - I totally get this, Nela. I used to write some pretty dark fiction for exactly the same reasons.

    I think it's incredibly important that we're honest with ourselves about what's real for us. I believe we can reach a point where we have more choice about our reality - but until we get there, pretending the darkness isn't there doesn't serve anyone.

    Blessings


    TANJA

  • Nela

    Nela
    2012-12-18 at 19:30

    Marija, so glad you like the posts so far :) and I love that someone else experiences similar epiphanies with their own work!
    I agree, we are, or at least should be, always evolving. And if we don't do it on our own terms, life forces us to do it (as I was reminded again recently).

    Tanja, great to see there's more of us who understand this issue :)
    Definitely, I believe in our own power to change our environment by changing ourselves first. However we have to identify that there is something that should be changed in the first place, and our own creative work can reveal a great deal about things we don't like to think about.

  • Ashley @ AG Photography

    Ashley @ AG Photography
    2012-12-20 at 21:46

    I think that art is a great way to express emotion. I personally find your work stunning, and wouldn't automatically think that you had a troubled childhood. Very nice work.

  • Nela

    Nela
    2012-12-24 at 20:54

    Thank you, Ashley! :) I'm glad you enjoyed my work.

  • kait

    kait
    2013-02-07 at 05:16

    As I was reading this, I kept thinking... I'M THE SAME WAY. My art wasn't usually as metaphorical as yours, though. I would draw comics about my day and how people had made me feel. My sensitivity, while growing up at least, was carefully guarded behind skilfully controlled facial expressions, and I think the exaggeration of comics allowed me to release was really going on inside.

    So I can relate to your journey of trying to figure out how to deal with all those intense emotions, the numbing, the hiding.

    Anyway God, this post is really powerful Nela. I'll probably come back to read it again a few times.

  • Ivana

    Ivana
    2013-02-13 at 12:26

    Your post reminded me on my own childhood and I cried yesterday when I read it. During all my young years till late teens I was so lonely, afraid of others, constant trying to be invisible and trying not to take attention of anybody. Now things has changed, but I still have real struggles.

    I appreciate so much your sharing with others and willingness to be open and honest. I think this is great post.

    Just few days ago I watch this video on ted http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame.html and it has similar topic to your post. It is a talk about vulnerability and, for me, it is a really new point of view. It discuss what does it mean to be vulnerable, to be open and why it is good for us. It also discuss shame and how we live in age where perfection is expected in every single step of our lives.

    Thanx for your sharing!

  • Nela

    Nela
    2013-02-18 at 09:57

    Ivana, thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate being honest about your experience as well. I'm not happy that my post made you cry, but I know how healing it is for me to go back there and acknowledge the pain I went through and release it - so I presume it was something you needed, and in that way I am glad my story helped.

    The majority of struggles we face today stem from our childhood. I'm doing heavy clearing work now to free myself of as much garbage as I can.
    Just yesterday I was working on a memory when my primary school teacher embarrassed me in from of the whole class by saying my good grades don't mean anything, I will never amount to anything, I'll never succeed in life. That happened when I was 10 and I knew she was a cruel person and that I shouldn't believe her, but the memory keeps popping up and yesterday when I remembered it again, I said ok I'm going to work on this now.

    I've watched that video, it's great! And I watched it again now because I forgot a lot of what she said :) I'd recommend everyone watch it.

  • Beth

    Beth
    2013-02-18 at 21:36

    I identify with so much of this that I'm now wondering if I'm s hypersensitive person, too... I appreciate your vulnerability. Thank you.

  • Nela

    Nela
    2013-02-20 at 14:32

    Hi, Beth!
    If you are, I wouldn't worry about it. Hypersensitivity - or simply, emotional sensitivity - is often seen as a sign of weakness (men especially suffer from this judgement), but I think we should claim it for what it is. Emotions are our compass to finding true happiness, and being in touch with our own emotions all the time means we have a more precise compass than other people. Overall, it's a good thing!
    Also, it makes healing soooo much easier! :)

  • james

    james
    2013-03-25 at 12:59

    Hi , Beth
    Thanks so much for sharing yourv storie ,i have just started painting ,and every one says my work is very dark ,thats why i came on here ,and yes i under stand my dark side now thanks to you ,and i am going to express my self in all my work ,thank god i found art ,
    ps i live in ireland

  • Nela

    Nela
    2013-03-29 at 15:12

    Hi James,
    I assumed your message was directed at me :)
    I'm so glad my article was helpful to you! Keep up with your art, keep expressing yourself and use your art to understand yourself better.

    I thought about this issue for a long time since people always wanted to know why I paint the stuff I paint, and dark artists have a bit of a stigma. People tend to assume the worst - childhood abuse or serious mental health issues - but since none of that was true for me, I knew there had to be another answer.

    If anyone wants to take this further, here is a process you can try:
    When you're done with a painting (it doesn't have to be right away - when you feel ready), look at it for a while and see what feelings and images it brings up in you. If something comes up, just breathe deeply and accept it all, and say "thank you" (to yourself) for being directed to what needs to be healed. Forgive yourself and others involved. Let all the suppressed sadness, anger or guilt out.

    Mentally say to yourself it's OK to feel the way you feel. Just don't judge yourself. Our feelings became suppressed because we judged ourselves in the past. So, for a change, give yourself the permission to feel anything and everything, and be assured you have full right to feel that way. If you allow yourself that in controlled conditions, you're less likely to snap when you're around people.

  • Ivana

    Ivana
    2013-04-27 at 16:23

    Your story definitely helped, a lot. And yes, to be able to understand the pain and then release it - this makes you stronger and more conscious.

    Love your art and design!

    Ps. sorry for late respond.

  • Stan Alderson

    Stan Alderson
    2013-04-29 at 06:19

    Hi Nela,
    I don't know how to react to your hypersensitivity, really. But I must say that you are a talented individual. I just hope you'd try painting lively colors. ^_^

  • Nela

    Nela
    2013-04-29 at 09:28

    Ivana, thank you! :)
    Yes, I have confirmed in my experience that it works that way.
    Now I know some techniques to effectively process emotional trauma of all kinds very quickly, and these techniques work on the same principles.

    Hi Stan,
    thank you so much for your kind words :)
    Well colors I paint in depend on the subject.. when I practice landscapes and still life I do use them, but it's not something I would use in personal art.. it just doesn't fit my subjects.

  • nevio

    nevio
    2013-08-29 at 14:06

    Svaka čast Nela! Odlično si to napisala.
    Reakcija tvojih prijatelja je pomalo očekivana jer ipak te oni koliko-toliko poznaju pa možda ne mogu spojiti Tebe s "takvim" slikama.
    Demoni su jaki jedino ako im to dopustimo.
    Ako čovjek osjeća znači da je "otvoren"prema drugima,a u ovakvom svijetu,punom negativne energije, možeš najčešće ispaštati.
    Ne znam da li je takva morbidna umjetnost terapija ili posljedica nečega čemu smo se previše prepustili.
    Mislim da na svijetu postoji uvijek jednaka količina dobra i zla . Svatko mora nešto podnositi. Ako je previše onda to podjeli s nekim tko te razumije.
    Ne priznajem bol i tamu, to je samo kušnja koja se mora prijeći.Ne valja im se prepuštati. To nije hrabrost nego znatiželja .
    Čovjek ne može živjeti bez ljubavi.
    Uvijek postoji netko tko će te voljeti...ili barem razumjeti.

  • Nela

    Nela
    2013-09-01 at 22:16

    Hvala Nevio!

    Pa zapravo, ima prijatelja i prijatelja. Oni koji me jako dobro znaju nisu iznenađeni i moje im se slike jako sviđaju! A oni koji znaju samo "vanjski sloj", onu društvenu masku koja nikad ne razgovara o problemima, vjerojatno jednostavno ne očekuju tako nešto od mene.

    Shvaćam što želiš reći, ali ja se trudim ne gledati dualistički na stvari. Za mene su "dobro" i "zlo" relativni pojmovi. Isto tako ni "bol" i "tama" nisu apsolutnosti, već jednostavno nazivi za stanja kroz koja pojedinac prolazi u normalnom procesu sudaranja sa životom - ni više ni manje od toga.

    Isto tako mislim da je bitno razlikovati nošenje sa negativnostima u trenutku dok se one događaju, od osvještavanja potisnutih negativnosti koje su se već "udomaćile" i rade na podsvjesnom nivou. Ove prve se mogu "nadvladati" i prevazići tamo i tada. No za ove druge je kasno da se nadvladaju silom, ne pali ovdje "misli pozitivno" (znam, probala sam). Za mene je jedina opcija konfrontacija sa potisnutim dok se stvar ne osvijesti i nestane.

    Ovo sam shvatila sama sa svojim iskustvom, a nakon što sam učila o nekim tehnikama iscjeljenja vidjela sam da su i drugi istraživači koji su to proučavali došli do istog zaključka.

    Ne moramo se oko toga složiti, naravno :)

    Da postoje elegantnije metode koje ne zahtijevaju trošenje boje - svakako da postoje! Sad znam i sama primjenjivati neke od njih. Ali volim se vizualno izražavati i namjeravam to nastaviti raditi.

    Nažalost, djevojčica od 12 godina iz mojih dnevnika nije znala da će je uvijek netko voljeti i razumjeti. Dio mene se još uvijek s time bori. To nije nešto što jedan dan ne znaš, pa drugi dan znaš i onda je odjednom sve super... može se nekad desiti da ti se u trenutku sve promijeni, no meni se to nije dogodilo. Dajem si vremena.

  • uh

    uh
    2014-12-21 at 10:06

    Well wish I could relate,my artwork isn't death like but it isn't happy. I am not depressed either but when I paint from my imagination I come up with weird paintings that are far from happy. Anyway,to the guy up top talking about death is his best friend,why are you still alive?

    Ciao

  • Nela

    Nela
    2015-01-07 at 19:52

    Uh, that's an interesting term to use - "death like" :)
    I don't perceive them that way and wouldn't even make the connection with death.
    (Besides, I think there are things in the world far worse than death.)

    I wouldn't say one needs to feel depressed in order to paint less than happy things. Art can mean so many different things depending on who's creating it, that's what's so beautiful about it.

  • Isleifur

    Isleifur
    2015-03-05 at 20:34

    Can I purchase your art work? Greetings from Iceland. Contact me at isleifurmj@gmail.com

  • Amber

    Amber
    2015-09-05 at 09:50

    Thanks so much for this, I share the same pain as you and I want to be an art teacher. I worry most of the time that I can't be an art teacher with such a dark and morbid portfolio lol . Most of the time they say professional artists have to pick one look and stay with it to succeed, is that not true for you ;D and how should I overcome that?

    -student - my websites under construction I'm just getting started.

  • Nela

    Nela
    2015-09-06 at 20:00

    Hi Amber, thanks for your comment!

    Teaching is a rather touchy subject. I don't remember which post it was on, but one of my friends who is a preschool teacher jumped in the comments and told her story of choosing to write under a pen name because the school principal saw her as a "liability".

    Depending on where you plan to teach, your portfolio may not even be a factor in getting a position - you're judged based on your ability to teach, not your ability to paint.

    But if you are obligated to submit a portfolio, then yes, having this type of art may work against you simply because the people who are in charge of hiring will often have prejudices about people like us... That's not fair, but it's realistic to expect.

    But if you're looking into things like the expressive arts and art therapy, then your portfolio will actually be an asset because that's a completely different and more open-minded environment.

    I'm definitely not the person who sticks with one look :) I have a whole range of moods in my work, and I'm only learning to make it all coherent, to be honest.

    Is this something that should be "overcome"? I'm not sure.
    How much time do you have before you complete your studies? A lot can change in a couple of years, and you might find yourself opening up to different forms of expression, some of which may be more easily "digestible" for your future employer :)

  • Adam

    Adam
    2016-01-12 at 21:25

    You put into words why dark art is so interesting. I've always described it as "strangely fascinating" without deeper explanation. I particularly like sharp tongue.

  • Nela

    Nela
    2016-01-18 at 10:19

    Thank you, Adam!
    I used to feel the same way about dark art as well. No explanation needed, I just enjoyed it for what it is.
    People's questions forced me to think about it more deeply, and form an explanation that even people who don't normally appreciate dark art will understand.
    I'm really glad to hear it resonates with you.

  • Gabe Alberro

    Gabe Alberro
    2016-04-25 at 23:15

    hey Nela,
    Just read your article. I feel similarly to you in that I was always hypersensitive; I over reacted to most experiences and tended to feel so deeply that everything and anything could easily be the recipe for a big cry in a world so harsh and unforgiving.
    My art, music, and attempts at film and writing reflect that and also as in your case are therapy for me and though I've sold plenty of paintings (over time) I dream of a day where my work sells more consistently but tend to have trouble finding a regular audience as the stuff is dark. I've heard people want pleasant images or images of splash art like I see on the walls of nicer homes. Anyway, if you have time please look up my paintings (Gabe Alberro paintings) and let me know what you think good or bad and advice you can give on a direction which leads to regular sales would be much obliged. Thank you for your honesty, your article, and your humility. ALBERRO

  • Nela

    Nela
    2016-04-28 at 23:42

    Hi Gabe, welcome!
    I'm always happy to meet other artists who use art as a way of expressing their emotions.
    I believe that us "hypersensitive" people are designed to be artists. Sensitivity is a difficult burden, but it makes us who we are.

    Certain types of paintings may be more popular in the general public, but there are plenty of artists like Chet Zar, Michael Hussar, Mark Ryden (and let's not forget the late Frida Kahlo) who've made it to a cult status even though their art is dark. So, I wouldn't even bother comparing to landscapes, still lives and paint splatters if I were you. You don't need the general public, you need to get in front of people who already appreciate the kind of art you do.
    You've developed your own style, and since people are buying your art, this means there's a demand for it. You just need to get it in front of more people.

    I recommend checking out the website artbizblog.com which has a ton of useful posts about promoting your art and getting more sales.

    I'd just add thst you should probably get your art into even more art shows and galleries that cater to lovers of dark/surreal art. And think about making a website with your own domain name, that way you can send people you meet there to check out your art, instead of telling them to google you! ;)

  • Geo

    Geo
    2016-10-03 at 14:15

    Thank you so much for sharing this post. After months of researching, hearing an artist's opinion on the matter is very valuable.

  • Nela

    Nela
    2016-10-07 at 11:43

    Thank you, Geo :) I'm happy to hear that.

  • Karla

    Karla
    2016-12-13 at 15:36

    Hej Nela,

    Pročitala sam tvoj članak i moram reči da sam se dosta poistovjetila s ovime što pišeš. Još uvijek imam problema s prihvaćanjem te moje strane i pokazivanjem drugim ljudima. Moji su dosta konzerve i ne želim ih povrijediti s mojim djelima, pa većinu stvari koje pišem objavljujem pod pseudonimom. Trenutno razmišljam da odem razgovarati s nekim jer ima dosta stvari koje bi trebala razriješiti iz prošlosti jer sam skužila da su sva moja djela zrcalo mojeg iskustva, a iako moja prošlost nije jako grozna, dovoljno je bila traumatična da ostavi traga u mojim pričama.

    Hvala na iskrenosti!

  • Nela

    Nela
    2016-12-15 at 20:07

    Hvala ti na komentaru Karla, jako mi je drago upoznati još nekog sa sličnim iskustvom :) malo se manje "čudno" osjećam.

    Svi ljudi imaju traume – neki jače, neki blaže. Nama kreativcima kojima se one pojavljuju u radovima prošlost ne dozvoljava da je ignoriramo. Ja mislim da je to zdravije nego vječito potiskivanje.
    Super je što si osvijestila da želiš neke priče završiti i svakako preporučam terapiju svakome tko si to može priuštiti. Također i knjige Alice Miller koje otkrivaju jako puno o posljedicama nezdravog odgoja koji je nažalost uobičajen.

    Imam nekoliko prijateljica koje se bave psihoterapijom, ako si u Zagrebu ili Rijeci, pošalji mi mail i proslijedit ću ti kontakte :)

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