When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Art!

What the Water Gave Me by Frida Kahlo. Source: Wikipedia

You know the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. According to Wikipedia, the phrase is a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune.

For the artist, tragedy, hardships and adversity are great opportunities to make art that matters to the heart. In turn, such works resonate in a powerful way with the rest of humanity. It is by no coincidence that some of the most known works in the history of art are like lemonade to the soul as they are the result of life’s struggles.

I also speak from my own experience. A few year back, I suffered from a strange inner balance malfunction which caused me many months of anguish, distress and vertigo attacks.  During that time, I made the following work to express my personal hardship.

Vertigo by Sergio Gomez. Acrylic on Paper/Canvas 54" x 84" 2007, Private collection, Chicago
Vertigo by Sergio Gomez. Acrylic on Paper/Canvas
54″ x 84″
2007, Private collection, Chicago

And such is the blessing of art to us, not only it becomes a channel by which we understand our own pain but it functions as an iconic symbol of our own humanity, complexity and fragility.  So if you are going through hardships right now, be strong and make art.  That is one of the best things you can do. Triumph over adversity is much sweeter when you have a visual marker of what you left behind.

Here are some art related quotes to think about…

The artist’s struggle to transcend his pain can become the seed for many others’ hope, transforming a personal journey into a vision for us all. (Diane Cole)

The artist has to struggle all his life to disentangle his vision from all the things his intellect has put into it, and never quite succeeds at the best. (John Collier)

Painters often seem to be involved in a great struggle with those things they have the greatest difficulty mastering… It is as though the artist is always working a little bit beyond his area of competence, stubbornly doing what is to some degree impossible. (Alan Feltus)

Art is often born from inner struggle. Artists are plagued by impulses they must express. Contentment does not seek action but struggle always seeks release, and for the creative it can take the form of art. (Eric Gibbons)

All great works of art are trophies of victorious struggle. (Julius Meier-Graefe)

All art is a struggle to be, in a particular sort of way, virtuous. (Iris Murdoch)

My whole life has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against Reaction and the death of art. (Pablo Picasso)

I think… it is somehow very useful, and maybe even essential, for a fine artist to have to somehow make his peace on the canvas with all the things he cannot do. That is what attracts us to serious paintings, I think: that shortfall, which we might call ‘personality,’ or maybe even ‘pain.’ (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)

The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch. Source: Wikipedia



  1. This was such a great post. I just saw Salma Hayek’s “Frida” again, so as soon as I saw the top edge of the painting, I knew it was hers. And that was an excellent image to include since her work was all about dealing with her personal struggles and physical and emotional pain.

  2. VERY good point. The art made under duress is often the best. I’m currently showing at WomanMade with the Humans Being II exhibit…. art about the lemons. The work is a grid, writing on sheetrock… yep, the wall is a boring place to be.

    Loretta Bebeau, M.A. Date: Fri, 31 May 2013 14:17:49 +0000 To: labebeau@msn.com

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