What do you draw when you are sad? Most people don’t realize that artists who produce art while they are depressed can make some of the best works of their life. But it’s hard to create something good on purpose when your mind is focused on negativity, sadness or depression. I will share my story with producing art when not only sad and depressed but also very happy.
How I use drawing as a tool for managing emotions, finding solutions and living a more balanced life overall. My goal is to help you find your own balance in life through creativity and self-expression regardless of what emotional state you may be in at any given moment with depression drawing ideas that are designed to gradually lift you and shift you to a happier state while not impacting your creativity.
I know that drawing is a great way to escape from depression and sadness. However, sometimes it can be hard to find inspiration for new drawings when you are sad or depressed.
Drawing helps me get through my dark days but the ideas just aren’t coming. The only thing worse than not drawing when you’re sad is having nothing to draw when you’re happy!
One thing I recommend you do not do when depressed is draw anything that can reinforce suicide or self harm. This is counter-productive. What you want to do is channel these feelings into something to create and not destroy.
My personal battle with sadness and creativity
I have documented my own personal story dealing with depression and sadness plenty of times but the day that I realized I had a problem was on the night of my 30th birthday.
I was alone at home, a planned party had failed to eventuate. I had just broken up with a girl, I lost my job and was working in a restaurant that I had invested in and I hated every single moment. I was also suffering from a chronic condition called Meniere’s Disease where I was slowly losing my hearing in my left ear and suffering bouts of rotational vertigo 3 to 5 times a day.
I had the most horrible thoughts pass through my mind but for some reason, I pulled out some papers I had lying around, grabbed drawing and painting materials and sat on the floor drawing versions of myself over and over. Each self portrait was a deconstruction of my former self until I was happy that I had captured the raw emotion of what I was feeling.
I tore up all the works except for one. This one below.
I have to say I drew inspiration from Francis Bacon’s Pope paintings and I think by going through the process I really learned to understand what it meant to be a suffering artist.
In all reality, I had everything. I was loved and had money and still had an income and a roof over my head. It was just that something was not working in my head at the time.
I will go further into the topic later in this article but for now I know you want depression drawing ideas, so here you go.
Depression Drawing Ideas
Here are a few depression drawing ideas to help get you started. These can help you work through your emotions and find a solution.
- Draw what’s going on in your life. This can be a great way to work through your thoughts and feelings.
- Draw your favorite things. This can help lift your mood and make you feel happy.
- Draw things that make you angry or frustrated and take control over them. Draw yourself overcoming them.
- Draw people or animals that you love. This is a great way to feel loved and connected.
- Draw things that make you happy. This can be a great way to remember the good times and keep your positive memories alive.
- Draw what you’re afraid of. This can help you face your fears head on and overcome them.
- Draw your dreams or goals. This can help give you inspiration and motivation to achieve them. We all need dreams and goals. Even when our current dreams may be crumbling in front of our eyes they may actually be the opportunity to rise from the ashes and become new and a more powerful force.
- Draw self portraits. This can be a great way to express how you feel about yourself and see yourself in a new light. This is what I did and I am grateful for doing it. I saw myself in a light that nobody could ever show me. The portrait was so powerful that I have had many offers to buy it but I will not sell it as it is a reminder of that dark year that eventually blossomed into sunshine.
- Draw your depression. This may seem like a dark idea but it can actually be very cathartic and healing. You don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to. Just drawing it and putting it all out there can be incredibly freeing. You can even destroy these drawings as a way of acknowledging them, taking control and putting them away.
What if you are too depressed to make art?
This is where art therapy can be really useful. There are many projects out there that are designed to help with depression and they are perfect for when you don’t feel like making your own art. One example is the 30 day happiness project which has a whole range of activities for different moods (including depression).
There is no right or wrong way to do this. If all you want to do is sit and stare at a blank piece of paper then that’s okay. Or if you want to try something new and creative, go for it! The most important thing is that you are doing something that makes you happy (or at least helps you cope).
Lastly, don’t push it. Take baby steps. It can be a small doodle or scribbles. It can be picking up a piece of charcoal and drawing a single object a day that takes 1 min to create. You don’t even need to be creative, you can just copy something you like. Just start the ball rolling to get you into the mood.
Is drawing good for depression?
In my opinion, YES! Drawing can be very therapeutic and help manage depression in a number of ways:
– It helps to focus the mind on something positive and productive
– It can be a form of self-expression, which is very helpful for those who bottle up their feelings
– It can be calming and soothing
– It can provide a sense of achievement and boost self-esteem
– It can be used as a tool for problem solving or brainstorming
Drawing is a great way to connect with your innermost thoughts and feelings. It can also be a way to communicate with others, especially if you are reluctant to talk about your depression openly. So go ahead and start drawing! I promise you it will make you feel better.
Can drawing help with anxiety?
Drawing has been used as a form of therapy for psychiatric patients and some doctors actually encourage their depression and anxiety patients to try it. But even if your depression is not severe, drawing will still help you release some stress and improve your mood.
If you feel you need to draw your depression in order to help express it or let others understand then draw depression drawings.
What do depression drawings look like?
Depression drawings can be anything that makes sense to the depression sufferer. Some common themes are feelings of isolation, emptiness, darkness, futility or self-hatred. Drawings can include but are not limited to:
- drowning in an ocean of depression
- a cave person surrounded by monsters
- a dark figure with horns representing depression’s impact on daily life
- how you see yourself depressed at a party surrounded by friends who don’t understand what depression feels like.
Express your feelings through drawing
One of the great benefits of depression drawings is that they allow you to express feelings and experiences that may be difficult to put into words. This can be a very powerful way of externalizing and managing your depression.
When I’m feeling really down, I often find it helpful to draw out some of the negative thoughts and emotions swirling around in my head. This can help me to gain some clarity and understanding about what I’m feeling.
In addition, depression drawings can provide a release or outlet for emotion which can be helpful in reducing stress and tension.
Use depression drawings as a tool for problem solving and not adding to it.
Keep an art journal or sketchbook
Keep an art journal or sketchbook to document your depression drawing ideas and your moods. Doing this can help you to understand patterns in your depression, which can be helpful information when working with a therapist or other mental health professional.
At the very least it will provide evidence that you are actively doing something about depression rather than just suffering silently.
It can also be used as a reference point for the future when the black dog comes back to visit as depression and sadness can be cyclical.
When this happens, look back at your journal to see what you did before to overcome your feelings. Sometimes all you need to do is just ride out a situation and wait until it passes. A journal can be a reminder that you have already overcome this before and can do so again.
Why are Artists sad?
There are many reasons why artists might be more prone to depression and sadness. One reason is that creativity and depression can go hand in hand. It’s been said that depression can be a side-effect of being a highly creative person.
In my experience, depression and creativity are two sides of the same coin. To be depressed is to be in an altered state of consciousness where you see the world in a different way than other people do.
Your thoughts may race or you may feel like everything is slow and sluggish. Colors may seem brighter or duller, and sounds may be louder or softer. You may have feelings of self-doubt, hopelessness, and worthlessness, or feelings of grandiosity and omnipotence.
During my teen years through to my early 20’s I believe I created thousands of works of art on a daily basis. I lived and breathed and even dreamed art. I embodied every artist I knew and I was actually quite annoying now that I think about it.
I was what we would now call manic depressive and my manic stage lasted about 15 years and then it slammed into a wall at age 30, on my birthday.
I stopped seeing bright colors and I lost any original idea after that. I tried to fake it until I got it back again but the same intensity and feelings of my younger years never came back.
Was I depressed? Is that the reason why I could no longer draw or paint?
Quite the contrary. My life was going great, I met the woman of my dreams, I found a job that I loved in a company that loved me back. I got married and had two amazing kids and one is a fantastic artist in the making herself.
I also stopped getting my daily attacks of rotational vertigo, I had surgery to help recover some of my hearing and my doctor gave me hope that I would not become totally deaf.
Depression made me creative and an artist, being happy made me stop. How ironic for me.
These days I like to draw and paint flowers, still lifes in pastels, I like to copy religious paintings from the Renaissance and do ‘nice’ art. I guess it embodies who I am today.
Last year I tried to tell stories of my life through art and managed to tell some of the horrible stories of not only my own experiences but of those around me.
I hated every moment even though many people looked at my artwork and loved them.
Sad paintings are no longer me and I have moved on.
Is Creativity linked to mental illness?
Probably. But it doesn’t have to be.
I am not saying that everyone who is creative is automatically mentally ill but I do think that for some, creativity can be a way to manage and deal with mental illness in a healthy way.
For me, it was a way to survive my depression from suffering from Meniere’s Disease.
When I was depressed, all I wanted to do was sleep or cry all day. The last thing I wanted to do was get up and paint or draw. In fact, the thought of doing anything made me feel worse because it felt like a waste of time and I wanted to just give up.
But there was that one moment when I turned 30, when I forced myself to get up and create something, even if it was a horrible self portrait and that made all the difference.
If you are outside of the USA or Australia, please Google for “Mental Health Support near me” or click the link as I have set up a search just for you.
You do not have to suffer alone.
Help Resources for Depression
- 9 Things to paint on explored. What are painting substrates in art?
- What is Alla Prima painting? All your questions explained (easy)
- What is Scumbling? Dry brush painting technique easily explained
- What is Stippling art? Get inspired and Get Started (with examples)
- How to Seal Pencil Drawings the Correct and Easy Way