Must an Artist Struggle?

Today's Mindfunda is written by Brenda Ferrimani. Brenda began her artistic work in the 1980’s. She was President of the Berthoud Arts and Humanities Alliance, an organization dedicated to promote local artists and to provide art in public places. In 2000 she was invited to be the attending artist to the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. In 2007 her painting “Fall Into Fear” was awarded a Nancy Richter Briezki Dream Art Award, at the IASD’s conference at Sonoma University, CA. As a successful artist who tapped deep into the creative sources of creation Brenda asks us all today: "Is struggle a good thing?"

Today’s Blogger on Midfunda is succesful artist Brenda Ferrimani.

Brenda Ferrimani

She has an intruiging question to ask: Is struggle a good thing? All of us strive to happiness. We teach ourselves to cope with the difficulties of life by acceptence, compromise and coping. But what if you dive into your sruggles and let them lead you to creativity? Brenda explaines:

“Artists struggle for integrity”, “Artists struggle for success”, “Artists struggle to be original”, “Artist struggle to transcend pain” – All quotes I found when I googled “Artists struggle.” – Yes! ARTISTS DO STRUGGLE! My life and work as a Dream Artist is a testament to this painful but glorious truth. Sometimes when people ask me how my life is I often remark, “It’s the Agony and the Ecstasy!” (You may remember the famous movie staring Charleton Heston, as Michelangelo, with the same title.) As your guest blogger, I would like to initiate a discussion around the question, “Is struggle a good thing?”

I believe inner demons, and outer antagonists are sometimes just what we need to overcome complacency, and to transcend self imposed limits toward new heights and new realities.
The subject has been in front of my mind recently, inspired by watching the independent film “Whiplash,” at the behest of my musician son, which opened an intense discussion at my house. This film is about a young musician who encounters brutal opposition from one of his admired professors in music school. The film was hard to watch, at times, because I resonated so much with the pain of the young artist, so eager to please his abusive mentor, and and so wanting to be perfect (click here to see the film).


The movie is very dream like, especially the surprise ending, where the young hero finds himself in a nightmare, on stage in front of hundreds of critics, and his music sheets can not be found. The band had been cued up to play music he was not prepared to play. Just when he’s about to give up in total humiliation, he seems to become lucid. He reverses the dreaded outcome by turning and facing his abuser. He has a breakthrough on stage, a triumphant moment of courage and innovation, giving a brilliant performance (click here to see the film) at last!

While the movie made me abhor ego filled, demon driven people of authority, who always think they are being tough on you to help you succeed, it also made me reflect on my own past with a new feeling of gratefulness. Perhaps my strict, and often cruel father, the religious cult I was part of, the endless conditioning to suppress my creativity, all ignited in me a life-changing, life-affirming push toward self expression! Naturally my dream life has reflected my struggles and the artwork I have created thus far, seems to chronicle this.

My first dream painting, “Expansion” (painted in 1997- my first dream painting), marks a period in my life where I felt a great “inner struggle” to be free to express my visions. It is a composite of many nightmares about flying and being pulled down.

Brenda Ferrimani
Followed by the painting “Beauty’s Challenge” (2001). At this time my psyche was giving me a “kick in the pants” to stop living inside myself, being too safe and comfortable. I had a series of dreams about women inside beautiful houses who were being forced out. 
Beauty’s Challenge Brenda Ferrimani
“Soul Tree” expresses a soul contract for growth, with all the pushing that requires, and life lessons leading to the fullest expression of what was contained in the seed at birth:
Soul Tree
Brenda Ferrimani
In my self portrait, “Dark Night” the struggle of the artist is visible. You can see how the outer antagonists of my life have become inner voices to torment me:
Dark Night
Brenda Ferrimani
“I am Salmon” retells a dream where in Spirit renames me and says to me directly, “You are Salmon because you try so hard and through your struggles new creation is born”.
This new name connects me to all other struggling artists who have to fight their way upstream to give birth to their creations:
I Am Salmon
Brenda Ferrimani
And here is “Whale Speaks” where the huge explorer of the depths delivers a speech on camera, for Earth’s inhabitants, and says he’s “been pushing against Christianity” in order to bring his message. The painting reflects a painful journey, a struggle to understand and share something relevant to being human on one planet, that could heal the destruction caused by religious supremacy, and conflict:
Whale Speaks
Brenda Ferrimani
As an artist I have been aided by purely instinctual forces inside me, that are keen on survival. I know deeply the struggle that birthing anything authentic, soulful, and revolutionary brings. But that’s the beauty of it!  I leave you with these lyrics, I love from, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”… “But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight — Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.” (Bruce Cockburn)”

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My name is Susanne van Doorn, I am a Dutch psychologist, blogger and author. I have been working with psychology, dreams and mythology ever since I finished my study in psychology at Tilburg University. I made this independant site to share insights, and recent scientific articles about the brain, dreams, and mythology for use in your personal life.

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    5 thoughts on “Must an Artist Struggle?”

    1. Pingback: 3 Ways of Being Creative Like van Gogh | The Scheherazade Chronicles

    2. Brenda made an interesting connection between astrology and dreaming in a recent facebook posting: Astrology have been useful tools in unlocking many personal mysteries. I think one’s birth chart is like a snap shot of the soul, and quite often themes within a birth chart are echoed in our dreams. (Comments and observations along this line are welcomed – especially from my astrologer and dream friends! 😉 )

      1. Thank you Susanne for connecting this blog to the continuing thread on my Face Book page. Guess I have a lot to say about “struggle”. LOL! – And the struggle does continue but with less pain now, and more wisdom.

    3. Great article–thank you, Brenda! I've found that struggle becomes a creative experience (as opposed to a paralyzing, draining, or destructive experience) when there is some part of me witnessing the struggle with compassion. If I become too identified as "the struggler" then the struggle becomes an end in itself and exhausts my resources. But if I'm gently aware that there are larger processes at work, and this struggle-cycle is just one turn of the wheel, then I can engage in it wholeheartedly without getting lost in it–and it generates creative energy. It's all a matter of perspective…

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