Art envy and suicidal thoughts…dealing with jealousy as an artist.

Article Dedication

In honor of

Horst & Harold Edgerton


Imagine That! copyright 2012 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr


From an art forum………….

Bullet-Cat wrote:

I want to ask for the community about my inner problem: art envy.

Every time I see other’s art, a normal people can see “hmm, nice”, but when I see art, I feel panic – my heart accelerate, I feel weak and F*** depressed. I want to kill myself because of it, because ” I will never reach that skill” or “I’ll never get those pageviews” or “I will never get those art gifts from ‘divine’ artists like someone gets”. It’s making me to lose my health, and even taking pills and doing therapy, it doesn’t stop… it doesn’t stop…

I can’t even try tutorials or see other’s art for try to evolve without feeling a pain on my chest, or a depressive period that can extend for days…

Please, help ;(



“Somebody should tell you: your shots are very boring nothing is happening there just very normal snapshots and you are trying to make them look interesting by shooting with a wide angle and HDR…they are all trash.”

a comment from an anonymous online critic.

Lots of hatred spewed online nowadays from jealous people, but that is not anything new with humans. Envy and jealousy is as old as mankind. Shakespeare wrote about it as the green eyed monster in the 1600’s. Anyone experiencing so much pain that it causes them to contemplate killing themselves needs professional help…quick. Spells of depression are normal for many people, but it crosses the line when thoughts of killing oneself are entertained to fix the problem. Even if you are lucky enough to not suffer from jealousy, you may be the recipient of ill will from envious people.

Jealousy is especially prevalent in the art field. Artists are always looking…looking at life and looking at art. Art comes from within us. Art is an extension of ourselves and defines who we are.  We as artists may have to deal with other jealous artists that are trying to tear us down. We also may have our own jealously battle to deal with, when we envy other artists’ abilities and success.

The first step in the right direction is to admit you have a problem. Without admitting to yourself there is a problem you can’t define what needs to be done to fix or at least cut down on some of the pain the problem is causing.

We all have different abilities and are born with our own set of natural talents. The faster you accept that – the better it is for your mental health and inner peace.

Selection BMG 2013 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Some of us are born with genius in their field, others work for every inch and never get very far. Just how life is. The better we can gratefully accept what we have to work with – the better off our inner peace will be. Work hard, be the best you can and release the rest.  Or we can hate our life and be miserable up to the point of killing ourselves.  An artist is only as happy as their last masterpiece, so it is important for the artist to have a healthy base to support them for a lifetime of art production.

When I was first starting out in the early 70’s I wanted to be a fashion / studio photog. Eventually it sunk in I had no talent in that area – all my talent was in documentary / street photography. The day I accepted that concept I was able to release the old life and was able to make room for a new life…I never looked back.

I could have just as easily kept at the ‘studio’ direction if I forced self-will and ego over inner peace. Inner peace can tell us if we are right with life or not. But, you have to drop the ego, be open to change and listen to something other than blinding self-will.

On the other hand, sometimes it takes many years of work and sticktoitiveness to get ahead. For instance, I failed continually with my infrared flash photography for years until I developed a technique that worked for me. I could have just as easily failed at it after many years of work and thousands of $ invested – hard work means nothing in the art world.

We are the only ones that can decide how much of our inner peace we wish to destroy to pursue something. Don’t let others saddle you with expectations your peace quotient can’t afford to pay for…seek balance. A catchphrase from the O.J. Simpson trial helps me out with decisions“If it does not fit – you must acquit.” Putting peace first answers a lot of fit questions.

Transwoman & Friend 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. hr

Art is a visual medium. It is common for artists to learn by comparing our art and abilities to other artists. As such, when we feel we don’t measure up we can suffer from jealousy of other artists with more skills and success than they have.

“Why didn’t I think of that?”……”Why can’t I do it that good?”……”Why is their art so popular…it is crap?”

When I see a great shot, sure, I sometimes think “That is nice, I wish I had shot it.” Other times I may see a special project a photog was lucky to pick up and think how I wish I could have shot it. I look at it, try to learn something from it to improve my own work and move on.

The artists with a serious case of art envy may not be able to release it and move on. They may hold onto it for days stewing in their own juices about their lack of skill or opportunities bestowed on them. Sticky mind syndrome is their problem. It is like the person that gets a tune in their head and it keeps repeating for hours or days.

32Whoop-Whoop 13 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

We should work to accept that there will always be people above and below us in any field. Even if we are lucky and skilled enough to be high up in our own field, many times a different art genre requires different skills and we may not produce much worthwhile in that field. Eventually, even as the top in our field, we get old, lose skills and someone replaces us.

This is just how life is…impermanent. It is good to practice mindfulness, be in the present and enjoy life this minute. Don’t fall in the trap of waiting to live life, projecting into the future and regretting the past – live life now as well as you can…this very moment. When you practice mindfulness, your mind is concentrated on the moment and not stuck in the past or future.

21Whoop-Whoop 21 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Artists as well as musicians seem to have a higher suicide rate than other occupations. With all the competition out there, art is an especially hard field to advance to higher levels in. As such, we may put 110% of our effort in our art and can still go nowhere.

Some link ‘creativity’ to higher rates of suicide. I’m no expert, but I don’t think creativity has much to do with it. I think it is due to higher stress from the financial insecurity most artists experience in order to pursue their art…the starving artist syndrome. Suicide rates may be higher due to this art envy syndrome as well, I just don’t know. I can say the life of many artists is a tough one. Few ever make enough money from their art to live on even at poverty levels. Being poor, having one’s art ignored in a world polluted by images, it is easy for the artist to be depressed.

If you haven’t seen this series by Ken Burns, do so. You can get it from your library. Outstanding series showcasing the trials and tribulation artists go through to practice their art.

LAS Busker Daniel D. teoli Jr. thin border mr

We may see people of lesser skills move way ahead of us or become jealous of those with skills we envy…and it can eat us up. We are too invested in the outcome. In the art field it helps your inner peace quotient if you can work blind and produce art devoid of expectations. If we do art for love, without expectations of results, we can enjoy art more so than if we attach conditions and expectations to our art ~ expectations are pre-planned resentments.

I’ve had projects that I’ve worked on for a year, almost full time, paying $15,000 out of my pocket to fund the project. The project was a landmark one, with outstanding photography and I could not even place the finished project for free. That is how things can go for the artist, we just have to move on to the next project. If we don’t like it – we should not be an artist.

Art is the way many of us make sense of our world. A wordsmith sifts it all through their brain and writes a book or article, a musician composes a song, a poet pens a poem, an artist sketches a drawing or does a painting, a photog shoots a pix, a sculptor forms a statue. We each express what is in us through our art.

Hollywood Blvd Selfie- infrared flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Art is therapy for many of us. Art relaxes the brain while it concentrates it. This phenomena is similar to certain outdoor sports like rock-climbing, skiing, skating, mountain biking, etc.. We can stay concentrated even while being in a relaxed meditative state…working meditation. Art therapy is not supposed to end up killing us…stay concentrated, but still be relaxed.

Fourth of July 2013 CV Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

If art envy is killing you, you may have to move away from it for a period or even for good. Art is not worth dying over. But from the description Bullet-Cat wrote, they may be the kind of personality that transfers ‘be the best or die’ to any work or field they get into. We can always do a quick ‘acid test’ to see what direction we should head in by testing both extremes. Either more of a thing will make us feel better or it will make us feel worse.

Selection BMG 3 copyright 2013 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

There is a reason the 7 deadly sins are labeled deadly.

1. Greed – Wanting too much of something.
2. Gluttony – Similar to greed, but gluttony is the action of taking too much of something in.
3. Lust – The need to fulfill unspiritual desires (not just sexual desires, but this is usually what lust is associated with.)
4. Envy – Jealousy; wanting to have what someone has.
5. Sloth – Being too slow or lazy at doing something.
6. Wrath – Vindictive anger; angry revenge.
7. Pride – Being too self-satisfied

In excess they all can kill. Even things that are good for us, like water and air, can kill us in excess. While a little envy and jealousy can sometimes be a motivator to get our ass in gear, it should best be avoided by those that do not have the ability to deal with it in a healthy way.

Anger is an emotion connected to envy and jealousy. We may get angry when we envy other’s success or we get angry when we have to deal with blowback from people envious of us. Artists also get angry when they feel they are snubbed in the art world. Anger is based in our lack of control. Again. working blind helps. With or without positive comments, with or without attention we keep producing our art. In short we produce our art for us and not for others.

Anger was instilled in us by nature as a survival mechanism to get us out of unhealthy circumstances. If we are a ‘complacent blissninny’ and ‘at peace with it all,’ being indifferent to danger and unhealthy surroundings may end up killing us. Be that as it may, even so-called ‘justified anger,’ that may be the foundation for healthy change for us, is still not a peace generating emotion…it is inner peace destroying.

Selection from 'Bikers' Mardi Gras' artists' book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

There is no magic bullet to success. I don’t pretend to have the answers, these are all things that have to be dealt with from the inside out and not from the outside in.  Dealing with our emotions is an inside job. Most people nowadays are looking for inner fulfillment through outer circumstances. Since life is always in flux, basing our inner happiness on ephemeral things is not a secure long-term solution to happiness. Self-worth has to be built on something else that is intrinsic within us. Our self-worth remains with us even if we are stripped naked.

Living a happy life can be easier if we accept to live within our means, comfortably fit within our space and gratefully accept our current position and abilities in life. When we push too hard to get or be something we cannot comfortably  have, that is when trouble starts. If you want more out of life then work towards your goal of change, but still strive to be happy where your at.

Keep in mind that just as we all have different art capabilities, we all have different  breaking limits when it comes to dealing with an uncomfortable life we have created for ourselves. If working towards your goal is unattainable in a way that does not destroy your inner peace and make you so uncomfortable you wish you could die – you may want to rethink things.

One formula* for a happy life is to…

Have someone to love

Have someone to love us

Have something to do

Have something to look forward to

*(If your a politician or monarch, then you must add ‘having control over others’ to your happiness formula.)

While the happiness formula sounds simple enough, happiness seems so illusive nowadays in our complex world.

Multitasking seems to be the norm for most of us…

BMG Project Infrared Flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr mr - Copy

I suggest anyone having problems with depression get counseling and also do some writing on the subject. Writing uses a different part of the brain than talking. Writing can help get at the foundation of the problem.

If your a poor artist and have no med insurance check out:

A constantly busy mind cannot heal itself. Meditation can help relax the mind. Eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, stay off drugs, cut out alcohol, get some good sweaty exercise…every little bit of healthy living helps depression. One thing is for sure, you must restructure your life if you want a modicum of inner peace, if your current way of living is not cutting it.

“Never give up! Don’t listen to the haters. Don’t try to be an artist unless you can work and live in isolation, without any thanks….bleak, but needed until you get to the much lauded place.” ~ Scape Martinez

Further Reading:


De Wallen Graffiti 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.