Do You Have To Be Crazy To Be Creative?
It may be true for many artists that craziness expressed in creativity. It is also easy to assume that to accomplish fame and wealth, one has to be crazy for being creative. Is this really true?

PhotoAlëna Olasyuk

TextAlëna Olasyuk

Alëna Olasyuk
1988 born in Russia, Ukrainian citizen
now lives and works in Beijing

2014 graduated from Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, major in fashion media, Beijing, China.
2007 graduated from professional college, major in fine art, Khmelnitsky, Ukraine

▸Solo Exhibition
2021, Chiseling the light with ink, Venue, Taipei
2020, In Between, Galerie Grand Siècle, Taipei
2016 Межа/грань/border, Khmelnitsky Region Art Museum, Ukraine
2016 Ink Mark, JuEr space, Beijing, China
2015 Complex Simplicit , Auto studio, Beijing, China
2015 The Calling , DARA gallery. Beijing, China
2014 Monochrome World, Kogo art gallery, Hangzhou, China
2014 Three Steps ,BIFT park,Beijing, China

Sky Art Foundation, Kiev, Ukraine
11 Gallery, Beijing, China
Cheng Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China
Works held in private collections around China, Taiwan, Ukraine, France, UK, Italy, USA, Russia , Taiwan etc.

Artists Are All Crazy?
Do you have to be crazy to be creative?

Artists have a bad reputation for being labeled as "crazy." Some people even asked me (with a hint of excitement and wish for a fun evening) if I'm crazy as well (I have to disappoint them). 

Such assumption is a common thing that also comes from studying the great artists of the past with examples of weird Andy Warhol who was eating candies and wearing weird wigs all the time, Van Gogh who cut his ear and lived in poverty with an enormous amount of sexual diseases that he picked up from prostitutes (ok, he painted them as well) and many more. Almost every successful (past and present) artist's story is supported by weird and spontaneous behaviors additionally supported by alcoholism, narcissism, depression, suicide, and so on. 

Meanwhile looking at these examples it is easy to assume that to accomplish fame and wealth, one has to be crazy for being creative. Is it true though? 

(Truth 2, Chinese ink,  Nib pen, Paper, 35x35 cm, 2020)

It may be true for many, where that craziness expressed in creativity, and the weight of psychological disorder pushed that creativity to the top level. One psychologist told me that some of her clients were even afraid that after they are less dramatic, less depressed they will lose their creative source. I guess that what my first therapist meant when she told me that after healing some of my trauma I may stop doing art. But I would like to argue that is not the only thing that stimulates creativity. 

Trauma vs. Creativity

The first law of thermodynamics, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. Emotions are energy, and when we suppress them for a while, the addition of more stress and frustration through life into these emotions finally find ways to transform through actions. People who basically have the tendency to arts may express it there, if a person tender to math it may go there. Those frustrated feelings which are received as trauma can't disappear, therefore they need to be transformed into actions, and heavier the traumatic experience the level of energy gets stronger.

It can be well illustrated if you saw a video where things are smashed under heavy pressure. It awkwardly satisfying to watch how exerting pressure on fruits or objects diverges their parts in an abstract explosion. That's how I imagine the trauma works on creativity. When you have something unbearably emotional that is impossible to handle or endure, but it still needs to explode somewhere.

Reflecting on my personal life (and taking all my creative friends into consideration, I'm sorry guys) I may say that that emotional trauma helps to create. Looking at my past and how I started to do art I can say that art was a place for escape and a way to express some feelings. Later in my teenage times, I remember that feeling of desperation from being rejected by a person that I liked so much, or not being accepted by my classmates, therefore, I had painted late at night in my room, wrote stories and poetry (yep, I did it too). 

(Purple,  Chinese ink,  Nib pen, Paper, 74x105 cm, 2018 )

Finally, while growing up, I'm questioning the need for that desperation for the sake of creation. Not that it's not worthy to heal all artists and therefore kill the creativity and masterpieces in the world. I believe that we don't need that depressed alcoholic image of an artist to be creative. This image comes not because the only way being an artist is to be mentally unstable, but because to be mentally unhealthy was the only stimulation to stay in arts, and we simply don’t have another sample from the history of how it would work in a healthy and developed society. 

Explaining. The art market is an unstable and difficult field to survive in. Despite that our society is pretty open and developed, we have more opportunities to live from creative work as we have social media and a constantly growing appreciation of art but is still not an easy field to be in. 10-20-50-so on years ago was much harder, people barely could survive being artists, and such characters as Dali and Warhol are rather lucky ones who were born in times where the economy has started to boost and they could make a living with what they did. But if you would read about artists of the past you would see that when they were at the beginning of their career they were poor and there was more hope than confidence about a bright future (except artists who were from rich families). Frankly talking, a mentally stable person would never choose to be an artist. Being an artist chances were 0,0000001% that that person can afford his life and especially the life of his family. A mentally stable person, taking into consideration the pressure of society, family, and economic needs -that every man would have to satisfy daily needs would not risk him and his family's lives to pursue art dreams. 

(Pattern 1, Chinese ink,  Nib pen, Paper, 74x74 cm, 2018)

We know that a mentally healthy person is a person who is responsible and adaptive to changes. Such a person can take the risk but also can take care of himself. But being an artists unfortunately wasn’t the case. 

The problem is that we ignore the market when we think that artists should be crazy. Because they are definitely should be crazy to want to stay in arts, and that's what had happened. But does it mean if the market would have better developed, and can have a more stable income for an artist then artists still should be crazy to create masterpieces? I doubt. 

Mental Health Stimulates Creativity

I believe any disorder can bring something interesting to whatever people do in any field. And we can see some stories from people with Down syndrome or bipolar disorder who succeeded in different industries. But so did mentally healthy people. Especially nowadays we have an enormous amount of creative people who express themselves through all kinds of arts and we see them on social media. It doesn't mean we became crazier (did we?) but it means we have a more developed market and opportunities in creative fields. 

With the passage of time and changes in circumstances, the meaning of words and professions can change. Before to be an entrepreneur meant that the person couldn't find a job that represented being stupid and unemployed. With our word evolution, we see how that has changed and became a normal and wishful occupation to have. Now being an entrepreneur means you are smart, risk-taking, independent, visionary, and creative. 

I'm pretty sure that the idea of crazy artists will disappear with the evolution of the market and society, maybe it will mean that being an artist is being a mentally healthy person (or I'm dreaming too high…). Furthermore, I study psychology, and experiencing personal mental healing I can see how mental health can be a stimulus for a more creative process. When a mentally healthy person has no need to escape (to work, to create, or any addiction) for the sake of survival but rather can explore the creative field with comfort and confidence, that gives more diversity of exploration and more flexibility which is rather great for creativity and a search for novelty. 

(Pattern 4, Chinese ink, Nib pen, Paper, 29x29 cm, 2020)

To have a creative society, unfortunately, it's not enough to make people more mentally healthy, as we see that it also depends on society and its values. 

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