Ben Teeny explores how his creativity helped in a time of anxiety
Artist (Frustrated): This film is a joke.
Well, at least that’s what it ended up being. Not to say that jokes can’t have deeper meanings. There’s always truth in the funniest jokes.
One weekend I woke up with unexpected high anxiety, a feeling I had not encountered in over a year. My muscles were tight and my limbs felt shaky. My brain was foggy. I needed to slow my breathing. I couldn’t think of a clear reason for why I was feeling so anxious. I couldn’t work out what the trigger was. All I knew was that my anxiety was palpable. I was not feeling like myself.
I spent the morning pacing back and forth throughout my house. I forced myself to eat breakfast. I distracted myself by chatting to my family, as if everything with me was normal. However this was far from the truth.
I couldn’t express my agitated state to my family, which is unusual because I’m normally very good at telling them how I feel. So I sat down by myself and thought about what could be bothering me.
I drifted through my recent graduation. I went over my university times during the pandemic, which in itself could fill an entire encyclopaedia of stories and challenging experiences.
Recently I’d been feeling like nothing I was working on was reaching the potential that I wanted it to
I thought about how I’d spent previous years creating; writing, shooting short films, recording music, you name it, I was doing everything to express myself.
My YouTube channel, Teeny TV, is full of short comedy films and includes songs that I’ve written. Recently, however, I’d been feeling like nothing I was working on was reaching the potential that I wanted it to.
It dawned on me that I had not actually finished anything in a very long time. So I got up and decided to just make something, anything! I didn’t know what, but I knew I needed to express my constant frustration, that I was never happy with anything I was working on. Feelings that meant I couldn’t ever be finished with a project, feeling I couldn’t get things off the ground the way I used to before the pandemic. Projects and ideas used to seem so easy before the pandemic; why was it nowadays I was sitting here feeling stuck?
Lately I’ve been going to different art galleries; the Tate Modern, The National Gallery, just for fun. I found many pieces of artwork very inspiring, from the history behind each painting to individual brushstrokes that made up the images. Each artist must have spent so much time figuring out how to put their vision on the canvas. I was struck by the amazingly realistic lighting. I was intrigued by how the artists worked out how to balance colours. Technically and artistically, they were beautiful!
The painted flowers were large and vibrant and floated in my present thoughts. I had to include them in my work somehow.
On returning home from the Tate one day, I was greeted by my uncle who had brought around some paintings of sunflowers. He didn’t really offer much information about them but he was pleased I was interested in them.
The painted flowers were large and vibrant and floated in my present thoughts. I had to include them in my work somehow. So I got my easel and camera out and decided to shoot something off the cuff. I’m not totally sure how I came up with the idea but I knew it was driven by my frustration and I knew it would end with me throwing the painting away. By letting the silence sit with the audience the short film would leave an impact. Then I thought, who would watch this? Possibly no-one, but that’s okay.
The more I worked on the film, from shooting it to editing, the more it became something I wanted to complete. It became a way to express the idea of ‘The Frustrated Artist’ never being satisfied with their work.
By the time I had put it all together, I realised my hands weren’t shaking anymore. I didn’t know when they stopped or when my back didn’t feel so tense but I was feeling pretty good by now. Perhaps I need to keep creating to stay sane. Perhaps people can watch this short film and be confused by its existence; all I know is that I needed to make it at that time. And I’m happy I did. It made me laugh at least!
Even in trying times, a sense of humour allows everyone to keep a positive attitude: to laugh at themselves and their circumstances can offer a bigger and calmer perspective.