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The Artist’s Desire for Bliss

An Artsy Ghoul Blog

*Bliss (2019) spoilers ahead*

Traditional fine art forms have always been used symbolically in the horror genre to emphasize a story’s themes. As an artist myself, I appreciate when films use paintings, illustrations, murals, and artwork of all forms as a backdrop for what is happening within the narrative. The 2019 film Bliss (streaming exclusively on Shudder) has been on my radar for the past year, and I finally got around to watching it. The film follows Dezzy, a talented Los Angeles artist, who suffers from an extreme case of artist block and desperately turns to drugs in order to spark her creativity. Consequently, Dezzy also develops an intense craving for human blood. The film explores the horrors of trying to be successful as an artist, which really struck a chord with me and forced me to take a moment to reflect on my own experiences as an artist this past year.

Now, a quick look at my blog page and you’ll see that this is my first post since November of last year. I have very much struggled to find inspiration to write, which is something I originally wanted to do a lot more of in 2021. Less obvious though, I’ve also struggled with creating artwork, often lacking the motivation to pick up my pen and start drawing. Most artists experience these creative blocks, and it is often simplified as being a normal part of the artistic process. Bliss cleverly shines a light on how horrific it is that an artist’s work is often celebrated with a complete disregard for what the artist went through to create it. So many artists of all mediums sacrifice their mental health and happiness just to grind out work that will satisfy their clients, audience, or supporters.

In the film, Dezzy spirals out of control, becoming lost in the bliss of the “diablo” drug which is slowly turning her into a bloodthirsty creature. However, the more monstrous she becomes, the more progress she is able to make on her commissioned painting. The real horror of Dezzy’s story is that her agent and clients only take notice of the astounding work she is doing on her piece, without a single care in the world for her declining mental state. Dezzy's experience in the film reminded me of all the times I tear myself down, the negative voices in my head making me doubt my talents and my ability to create something great. There comes a point at which an artist should consider taking some time off and try to bring positivity back into their creative space. However, what many artists feel that they don’t have is time, and this places harsh pressure on us to continue creating even though we are not in the right headspace to do so. Making artwork should be a cathartic experience, a way to express ourselves and our emotions. If we are creating art with the sole purpose of staying relevant, meeting a deadline, or making money, the artwork loses its meaning. Art should always be more than just “content” produced and published to satisfy an audience.

At the end of the film, Dezzy finally finishes her painting, body exploding in front of it as she has entirely annihilated herself for the sake of completing her masterpiece. The painting is revealed to be Dezzy herself in the form of a hellish deity, halo above her head. Below her, human arms reach up her body in worship as flames spread across the background. The painting can be interpreted as many things, but to me it is symbolic of the way society contributes to the internal struggles that many artists face. All of the dark layers beneath the surface get ignored as people continue to place the artist on a pedestal for creating and sharing their hard work. The painting itself is disturbingly beautiful, but it is ultimately a representation of the destruction of Dezzy. This bloody ending to Dezzy’s story is straight nightmare fuel for any artist and is quite heartbreaking to watch.

Being a creator is so mentally and emotionally draining at times, and I think that is something we need to consider more often. No matter how big or successful an artist is, we should all take a moment to practice patience and compassion. Let’s stop begging our independent creators for new content, even the ones who we assume have all the time and resources in the world. It is already hard enough to be a creator in a society so obsessed with grind culture, the least we can do is stop being so demanding and expecting artists to be perfect. Artists are not like big corporations who have teams of people helping them stay productive. They are doing all of the work on their own, and it is vital that the work remains driven by passion.

I admit that I myself had moments this past year where I would force myself to create something that I was not necessarily thrilled or excited to make. It is not a great feeling, and it made me question whether or not I’m even cut out for the world of art. Taking breaks always helps me become inspired again, but the guilt that comes with taking a break is always so overwhelming. I realize now that no artist should ever feel guilty for making their well-being a priority. No amount of views, likes, praise, or monetary compensation are worth a decline in one's health.

To my fellow artists and creators, please don't be afraid to take a break when you really need to. Remember that you are important, and that you deserve time to rest and grow. Whether you need a lengthy break or even just a couple of days off, don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t deserve it. Explore, research, learn, try a new hobby, or even let your mind go blank for a while. You’ll return to your craft even stronger every time, and the art that you create will make you prouder than ever before. Being proud of the creations you put out into the world, well, that is true bliss.

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