You Don’t Have to Be a Tortured Artist to Succeed


Illustration by Michelle Kondrich ©2015


Ben the Illustrator recently conducted an incredible Illustrator’s Survey. 1,261 illustrators answered questions about their business, their clients, their goals and work-life balance.

The survey is eye-opening in many ways but I want to talk about one, in particular: mental health. Of the 1,261 illustrators surveyed, 79% said that they had “anxiety or confidence issues that affect their careers.” It’s hard to ignore it when a vast majority of people working in illustration feel that they suffer from some sort of mental health issue.

“We’re sensitive people us illustrators! We’re creative, we can be deep or emotional. In order to create for work, we put ourselves into a potentially unstable job situation and that can become personal.” – Ben the Illustrator

It’s hard to say whether people who get into illustration (or creative fields in general) are simply more inclined to be anxious or depressed or if the job itself (the isolation, the instability, the lack of separation between them and their work) leads them to these problems. I’d say it’s likely a bit of both.

Whatever the cause, I felt it was an important topic to cover here.

I have dealt with depression (mine and that of others’) in one way or another for over a decade. And everyone experiences it in their own way.

While the depression or anxiety of some rolls in like an infrequent, unpredictable tidal wave, others have to slog through waist-deep water on a daily basis. And we all know that the idea of the tortured artist is rarely a successful reality. I am lucky that my depression has never stopped me from completing client work but it can most definitely rob me of the motivation to create personal work or do any drawing just for fun.

I wanted to write about this now because my family and I have just moved to a new state where we know almost no one. I’m thrilled to be back to freelance but the isolation forces me to work harder to keep the depression at bay. I wanted to write about this because we all need to talk about it and keep talking about it and support each other through it, however we can.

So please, if you are dealing with depression, anxiety or any other mental illness, tell someone and get the help you need. It’s not always easy to find proper help or to afford it, but there are likely to be some resources in your area. Or, at the very least, there are online therapy sites like TalkSpace (not an endorsement, I’ve never used it) where you can correspond with a therapist.

You don’t need to hide and you don’t need to pretend that everything is fine if it isn’t. Fellow illustrators will support you and are likely going through something themselves. We can be our own support group.

Illustration is a tough business that requires thick-skin. We put so much of ourselves into the work we do everyday all the while being rejected or competing with people we view as better or younger or cooler. The battle and the hustle are constant and we all need to be sure we have the support we need to thrive.



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Categories: business


Michelle Kondrich is a commercial artist and animator specializing in editorial illustration. She is also skilled at creating animated GIFs, storyboards, and whiteboard animation/video scribes. Her work gives a narrative feel to even the most conceptual ideas and she is passionate about solving problems in often surprising ways. Michelle is the creator and host of Creative Playdate, a podcast for people pursuing creative careers while raising children. You can find her portfolio and the podcast at

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4 Comments on “You Don’t Have to Be a Tortured Artist to Succeed”

  1. April 17, 2018 at 11:44 am #

    Beautiful illustrative art. Thank you for sharing. The Bird is fabulous! K. D. Dowdall :)

  2. April 17, 2018 at 4:12 pm #

    Fantastic that you have tackled this subject. Certainly is a reality for many creatives.

  3. April 21, 2018 at 12:22 am #

    great article! The more we talk about this the more normal and better understood.

  4. May 8, 2018 at 12:33 am #

    Thanks for writing about this pertinant topic. I have mental health problems including anxiety and depression that are increased by frequent contact with people. It is this that has led me to illustration, which i hope to persue as a career. I find i can manage my condition better when working alone, however the instability of the income makes me wonder if it is the right choice. Xx


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