Drugs & Artistry: Why Is Painting Sometimes Linked to Drug Use?

PJ Haarsma
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March 30, 2022

Drugs and alcohol tend to influence your mind to develop ideas and thoughts you wouldn’t have if you were sober. Some people suggest that these substances unlock a suppressed level of consciousness that helps them with their painting, but this is yet to be scientifically proven.

History’s most outstanding artists created original artwork under the influence, and although they are celebrated for their work, they paid a considerable price. Most renowned artists struggled with substance use disorder, mental disorder, or both. Some also struggled with drug-induced mental illness and other health complications.

Many artists, both the successful ones and those who haven’t yet received their big break, suffer the effects of abusing alcohol or drugs. We enjoy their paintings and artwork, yet remain blissfully unaware of how the artists are addicted to drugs. 

This article looks at the relationship between drugs and artistry. First, we will look at world-famous artists and their drug use. Read on.

 

Famous Artists and The Drugs They Abused

Below are some world-famous artists that struggled with addiction.

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Vincent van Gogh 

The painter, Vincent van Gogh is known for his noticeable yellow hues and somber movement in paintings. These are often linked to his unhealthy relationship with illegal drugs.

Most people are aware that he struggled with both mental and physical illness. The world remembers him as a tragic artist, and his story continues to inspire modern art, including films and classic songs.

Van Gogh’s drug of choice was absinthe, a spirit with high alcohol content in the 19th century. He reportedly also abused digitalis, a drug that treated epilepsy at the time.

Although most people attribute his success to substance abuse, Vincent van Gogh admitted that his creativity peaked when he was sober.

 

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol is another famous artist who abused drugs. Warhol was recognized for his colorful paintings, most notably his depictions of celebrities in the twentieth century.

Warhol’s drug of choice was obetrol, an amphetamine diet pill common at the time. Since obetrol is a stimulant, Warhol reportedly abused it daily to finish his projects faster.

 

Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade is famous for his depictions of landscapes and cottages. His wall art is displayed in living rooms worldwide.

Kinkade used his artwork as an outlet for emotions. But unfortunately, he had several personal problems, including financial issues and a pending divorce, leading to drug abuse.

Kinkade’s drugs of choice were Valium and alcohol. He suffered from a substance use disorder which eventually caused his death in 2012

 

Mark Rothko

Most post-war artists used illegal drugs to numb their pain and enhance creativity, and Mark Rothko happened to be one of them. Rothko struggled with various issues, including depression and a troubled marriage. As a result, his artwork depicts intense emotions since it was his form of self-expression.

Mark Rothko turned to anti-depressants and alcohol to numb his emotions. Although he had several masterpieces, he succumbed to depression. On 25th February 1970, the famous artist was found dead in his house. He had cut his wrists and overdosed on drugs.

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Why Do Artists Abuse Drugs?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most artists abuse drugs to improve their awareness and imagination. A well-known myth is that artists use drugs to channel their creativity and make better art, but this isn’t true because alcohol and drugs are not essential to the creative process.

Most people believe that art stems from hardship and pain. To prove the point, many of those experiencing hardship and pain abuse drugs to cope. Often, problems and pain cause mental health issues. Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and other mental health issues are risk factors for drug abuse.

Unfortunately, artists with these underlying mental issues are more likely to use illegal drugs.

Some artists also use drugs because they are surrounded by people who themselves abuse drugs. What starts as a form of curiosity and an attempt to gain inspiration relax quickly becomes an addiction. In no time, the artist becomes 100% dependent on the drugs.

An example of an artist that tried drugs out of curiosity was Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential artists in the 20th century. The Spanish painter, famous for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a controversial oil painting of five nude female prostitutes in a brothel on Carrer d’Avinyó, experimented with opium between 1904 and 1908. He, however, renounced the drug in 1908 after his housemate committed suicide.

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The Road to Recovery: How to Stay Creative

Renowned horror author, Stephen King, opened up about his battle with addiction. He noted that his biggest fear about getting sober was losing his creativity.

Stephen King said that after getting sober, he found it challenging to write, but with time, he figured out how to channel his creativity into writing outstanding books.

Most recovered artists have revealed that their creativity increased during sobriety. The main reason for this is that you are more clear-headed when sober. As a result, your judgment is not clouded, your cognitive functions are better, and you don’t waste time abusing drugs.

Here are a few things you can do to stay creative during recovery:

  • Journal your ideas- like most people, you are likely to forget your creative ideas if you don’t write them down. Keeping a journal where you note down your ideas will make it easier to execute them later on. It will also help you keep track of projects you want to embark on as well as your inspiration.
  • Keep practicing- not every painting you come up with will be a masterpiece, but you mustn’t give up. Keep practicing until you get to where you want to be. The more you practice, the higher your chances of being successful.
  • Prioritize your creativity- no matter how busy your schedule is, make time for your creativity. Don’t use your busy schedule as an excuse. Prioritizing your creativity ensures you stay on track.

Start Your Recovery Journey Today

Deciding to get addiction treatment is often the most challenging step. However, you should know there is no shame in asking for help. Struggling With addiction has all the resources you need on addiction. Contact us if you have any questions, or search our Rehab Directory to access reputable treatment facilities near you.

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