Artful Expression of Depression

"Some days she didn't know how to be happy. So she let herself be sad. "

“Some days she didn’t know how to be happy. So she let herself be sad. “

 Many people who have never dealt with depression personally have a misunderstanding that it is simply ongoing sadness. It’s part of what adds to the stigma of depression because they think “I can snap out of my sadness, why can’t s/he?” But, depression is so much different than feeling sad. It is like a cloak that covers your entire being and alters your world. It is hopelessness and helplessness to do anything to stop it. And so much more. And, yes, it’s hard to understand when you’ve never experienced it.

I have long used art in various forms to express my emotions and thoughts. Sometimes I just need to get them out of me. Sometimes I use the process of art to figure things out for myself, to define it, to get to know it and myself better. It is a huge part of what Art Therapy is about. And you don’t have to be an artist to have art be a form of therapy or personal growth for you. I’ve scribbled with crayons, drawn abstractly with color pencils, made word collages from magazine cut-outs and made mixed media art. The possibilities are endless. I have a board on my Pinterest page called Art Therapy/Play Therapy which has many art therapy activities. If you are interested you can visit it at


Recently I created the above mixed media art journal page. I had been teaching myself to draw faces so that I could include them in my art. This particular face spoke to me, but I wasn’t sure why at the time. I just started by drawing her on the page, then adding vintage papers around her, adding acrylic paint to the background and painting the face (something I still need a great deal of practice at!). I used some stencils and a white gelli roller pen. Then I sat back and spent some time with it. Something was a bit off. But what? I realized that the reason the face spoke to me was because she looks so sad and depressed. It reflected my own feelings of late…not a huge, severe depression….an underlying and a bit more than mild depression and true sadness. And it relates a lot to my dear husband and soul mate. He’s had a chronic and eventually terminal disease for nearly 20 years now.  We are told that 20 years is pretty much the outside of life expectancy. I know it’s not hard and fast and no one but God knows exactly when he will die. At first it didn’t impact his life, or ours. But over the past two years he has been so very ill. His body is gradually shutting down and it’s very uncomfortable and painful for him. That doesn’t even begin to describe what he’s going through, but I will leave it at that.

It affects me deeply. I feel his pain. It is truly heart-wrenching to watch him suffer so much. And the doctors won’t do anything to alleviate his pain, but that’s another issue. I cannot imagine life without him, but I am being forced to do so. At times I feel so incredibly sad.  But, I also feel the depression underlying that sadness. It’s got a lot to do with the hopelessness and helplessness I feel. So, I decided that what I had expressed in my art was both the sadness and the depression. And the best way to help others understand that was through the words I included. “Sometimes she just didn’t know how to feel happy. So she let herself be sad.” I think they show the difference between the two. Depression isn’t just feeling sad. It is feeling lost in darkness and not knowing how to feel any different. That is a huge part of it for me, anyway.

So, how does this help me? First it helped me to identify what was really going on with me….the sadness and the depression. This helps me to take care of myself better and watch for signs of deepening depression so I can take action if needed. It helped me to get out my feelings. and with the combination of getting them out and the goodness that creating in general does for my soul I’m in a much better place in my head and my heart than I was before.


I would love to hear your thoughts about any of the above, especially if and how you see a difference between sadness and depression. I would also happily answer your questions should you have any.

As always, Peace to your hearts


About artsychicksw

please visit my page at
This entry was posted in Art, Art Journals, Depression, Inspiration & Quotes, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mixed Media Art, Therapeutic Art and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Artful Expression of Depression

  1. Lovely page! I find sadness usually has a reason. Depression just is. It is accompanied by an emptiness and hopelessness that does not come with sadness.

  2. Sara, I love this. Love it. I love that you’re able to pour out your feelings through your art. This amazing piece reminds me so much of Frida Kahlo who, although she was confined to bed most of her life, took her circumstances and feelings and made the kind of intense, uncomfortable, beautiful images that you do. I say uncomfortable, because reality is not comfortable, and you have the gift and the want-to to put those discomforts into a form that can make other people uncomfortable, and that’s as it should be. Anybody can make a pretty picture of a kitten and everybody goes, awwww….but they don’t learn what it feels like to be depressed. But you can take people to places they haven’t been before and what’s more, they don’t want to be there….but if even for a fleeting moment they feel what it’s like to be in the black hole, that’s a good thing.

    • artsychicksw says:

      Laura, You’ve really touched me with your thoughts about my art, my friend. I absolutely love Frida Kahlo ❤ And for the very reasons you have mentioned and that I identify with her a great deal (though her physical pain and limitations were much worse than mine….we each have our own pain). That you would in any way relate my art to hers is a huge compliment to me. Not the style or the form but the expression of the self and emotions. You have made my day (and it's a yucky day because I'm sick with upper respiratory crap from my sinuses down to my chest and everywhere in between…not easy to put words together today)
      I love you, dear friend. Peace to your heart

  3. Sara – I think this is a lovely piece of art, it does seem to reflect the soul of sadness. I’m so amazed by your ability to put into words those feelings and emotions that are so hard to understand and express. Thank you. Sending lots of hugs your way. xo kim

    • artsychicksw says:

      Thank you, Kim. I think that ability is partly God-given, then I’ve been able to expand upon it throughout my life. I think that journaling and art journaling has helped me a great deal. It’s kind of like practicing the process of identifying feelings and thoughts and myself. Thank you for the hugs…here’s some back for you. Peace to your heart ❤

  4. boldkevin says:

    I love this post and the mixed media piece that you have created.

    Photos of things aren’t always good representations of the actual piece, of course. So please don’t be offended if what I say is just totally wrong.

    But to my eye (and probably my mind) there is a heaviness in her face. It is as if her face is hanging down even though her head is upright and her profile is frontal and direct.

    But again, please don’t be offended by that comment it is only what I see. And art often speaks as much about the person viewing it as it does about the person who created it or the subject itself.

    I also very much liked the statement and concept of ‘letting herself” be sad. That can be such a hard thing to do, can’t it? Especially in a world where the messages are all about, and so much pressure is placed upon to be happy or joyful. (Which in my experience, mind and understanding are two different things)

    Even as a Christian I have long since pondered (even struggled) over the “be joyful” statements and how we are taught that we should ‘always’ be joyful. I don’t get that and can’t buy into it, in the way that it appears to be taught. There are things which I am extremely joyful in or about. But not to the exclusion of the things which sadden me.

    When it comes to my art, which I really don’t do enough of, I have never really considered expressing myself through it. It is a very interesting thought and I appreciate your sharing it.

    Again I hope I haven’t offended in anyway by what I have said. Just my opinions and perspective after all. I really do love the piece you have created and the post.
    Kind regards and God bless you.


    • artsychicksw says:

      I very much appreciate your thoughtful response. A few thoughts about your comment about the heaviness of the face: 1. technically, I am a beginner at drawing and painting faces and I know I have a long ways to go. I don’t really try for reality, at least at this time. 2. Also, I think it’s the irises of the eyes being at the top of the eyeball that make the face take on that heavy look, like the face is falling down. Your thoughts? And, 3. Thinking about that therapeutically I would say that it’s a bit reflective of myself right now. I try to “put on a good face” as much as possible, especially for my ill husband, but I just can’t keep it up there all the time…it’s too heavy.
      I am a Christian as well, though not a religious person, more spiritual. I don’t take everything the Bible says as literal. I’ve come to believe that the “be joyful” directives really often has more to do with a gratitude. I may not be joyful in a very difficult time, but later I can see the purpose it served in my journey and/or personal growth and I am grateful for it, and yes, joyful, in a sense. God made us to feel all kinds of different emotions, not just the joy. I think we honor Him when we allow ourselves to feel them all honestly.
      Please know that I am in no way offended by your input. I welcome it, as a matter of fact. It gave me the opportunity for further examination of myself. Peace to your heart

  5. Genie Geer says:

    Very thoughtful artwork and blog. I can certainly relate.

    • artsychicksw says:

      Thank you, Genie. I visited your etsy shop and enjoyed seeing your unique works of art. Love all the color you use in non-traditional ways. Peace to your heart, Sara

  6. I couldn’t have defined “depression” better myself. Its frustrating when people don’t understand that it’s not just a thing you can switch on and off. I keep an art journal as well as a travel moleskine sketchbook to do some art therapy on the go. I love that you are able to paint/draw what cannot be spoken or explained. Art therapy truly does work. Keep at it! Your art is beautiful ❤️

    • artsychicksw says:

      Wow, thank you so much for your words. While creating is something that helps me and brings great joy to my soul, it’s made even more special when what I create touches other people’s lives in some way. I am keeping at it…I’ve created quite a number of things since my last post and just need to spend some time blogging about them. I’m heading to visit your blog right now. Peace to your heart

      • You’re very welcome 🙂 &thank you for having the courage to express what depression really is. Some people tend to hide it, and I understand why… But when people like you are brave enough to speak up about it, it encourages others to share their stories as well. Life isn’t all sunshines and rainbows, but some days … Life can be. Thank you for visiting my blog 🙂 I appreciate it. Peace to your heart as well ❤️

  7. sheldonk2014 says:

    I have doing exactly what you have been doing,I have many of my collages on my blog,I have now begun to share my poems,I love your work
    See you soon

    • sheldonk2014 says:

      Sometimes I am sharp as a tack other times I’m like a fuzz ball I try to keep up but there are some who fall through the cracks,you’ll have to excuse me my short comes my pants can’t meet my shoes hence no party here ooops

  8. artsychicksw says:

    Thank you, Sheldon. I’m going to have to revisit your blog to see your collages. It does us so much good to create and be expressive in this way, doesn’t it?

  9. sheldonk2014 says:

    Thank you for visiting I am glad you found something there you liked,you have to look hard to find my art work.

    • artsychicksw says:

      Yes, I am looking for it now and haven’t found any yet. But, I am so intrigued by your poems…they are so powerful! I’ve got to run for now, but will return later and search for the collages and read more poetry. Have a good evening.

  10. sheldonk2014 says:

    They are towards the beginning of my blog

  11. CC says:

    I really like how you explained this. Art is about feelings to me. At least that is what I rediscovered. All art is beautiful and thought provoking, but it is how it makes the artist feel that to me is the first and most important. I finally got the courage, me and CC to start again. After sooo many years. We are trying watercolors. In terms of visual art. Really freeing. But I loved your entire discussion of your piece and how you felt.
    Very sorry about your husband and what you both are facing.

    • artsychicksw says:

      Alex and CC, I appreciate your thoughts and comments so much. Art and feelings certainly aren’t separate-able. For me, my feelings can pour out of me into my art as well as evoking feelings when I look at it finished. Some art I create is purposefully inspiring and positive so that when I look at it I am given a boost. But, it’s also important to me that my art touches other people. May not feel the same as me, but when I am creating a piece about depression, or mental illness or chronic pain I hope that I am able to help at least one person who might be struggling with something similar, whether to help them understand themselves better, put words to what they are feeling, educates them or helps them to feel not so alone. I am so happy to know that you and CC have started again…it takes courage, yet the benefits can be so great! Thanks for your support. Sara

      • sheldonk2014 says:

        I can’t begin to say all the words I want to say to try to understand,I know how life can get twisted so that each turn get more then the next, you and your husband are in my prayers and I will send you lite and love
        I’m always just a click away

  12. artsychicksw says:

    Thank you so much, Sheldon. I appreciate you trying to understand as best you can and especially for your prayers. We’ve seen some wonderful times come from the power of prayer. Peace to your heart

  13. sheldonk2014 says:

    I believe in the power of prayer and lite,I’m always a click away
    As always Sheldon

  14. artsychicksw says:

    Thank you, Sheldon. I’m not always available, but when I’m online I’m happy to chat or just listen. S.

  15. sheldonk2014 says:

    Thank you so much for going the extra mile and finding my work it means so much to me the feed back and encouragement,I do have many many new ones it’s just that my set up to post them is really not good so I have not posted any new ones in quiet a long time, but I’m working on solving the problem,thanks again

  16. sheldonk2014 says:

    I have suffered for years,I have experience so much trauma that it has taken me till now to want to deal with it,I have finally found a therapist who is helping me to expose those layers that have been hidden,there is more of what you read you just have to take the time to look,they are real and had happen
    As always Sheldon

  17. artsychicksw says:

    I truly am so sorry that you have suffered so much in your life, something that no one deserves to go through. I have loved ones that have also experienced a great deal of trauma in their lives from childhood on up, so I understand a bit more personally what that does to your soul. I’ve had some extremely difficult times as an adult, but not really trauma, so my understanding is limited in that way. However, I have a great deal of empathy for you and others that have been through so much. I am so very happy for you that you have found a therapist who can help you expose and navigate those layers and make decisions about what to do with all that so you are able to continue growing and moving forward. Having a good therapist that you trust and can work with is so essential (says the therapist who has also been a client). You are so brave to delve into the layers, Sheldon, for some are never able to do that. Please do take care of yourself and know you have a supporter in me. Peace to your heart, Sara

  18. sheldonk2014 says:

    I have grown though the experience,some people never get to see what I have,my life is fuller for what I’ve seen,yes there is pain but my work as an artist as a poet has a richness that would be if not for what l have experience,I feel truly blessed because if I can help someone to see the choices in life before they choose,then I have helped someone,this is my hope this what I am doing this for,to share my experiences,feel not the sadness,just be aware of life
    As always Sheldon

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