The Art Biz ep. 169: Leaning Into Art to Battle Depression with David Sandum

“Art was my way to manage my depression and anxiety, and heaven knows, I had tried to return to a more normal life several times only to end up in the hospital. I painted to live. It was as simple as that. It was also clear that I was an artist—that I couldn’t run away from the pictures that kept popping into my head, demanding to be born.

It was a kind of madness, really. Just look at Munch and Van Gogh. To think that they’d set out on this path to make money was preposterous, even humorous.”

Those are the words of artist David Sandum in his book, I’ll Run Till the Sun Goes Down: A Memoir About Depression & Discovering Art.

In this episode of The Art Biz I talk with David, who was driven to take up art personally and then professionally after being hospitalized with depression in 2001.

His journey through depression led him to the works of Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch—finding solace and a deep connection with their expression of raw emotions.

David Sandum oil painting
©David Sandum, From the Ferry. Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm (28.7 x 36.2 inches).

We discuss how art continues to be a lifeline in his struggle with depression, the tension between making art for yourself and surviving in a commercial market, and, related, why he chose to focus on a series of Auschwitz paintings over seemingly more market-friendly paintings of beaches.

We also talk about how he organized a community of artists on what was then Twitter to begin an annual international exhibition and fundraiser that has been going on since 2010. The Twitter Art Exhibit has evolved into the Postcard Art Exhibit, which accurately reflects its contents.

Heads up that you’ll hear David abbreviate it repeatedly—and understandably—as PAE.

Mentioned

David Sandum speaking
David speaking at the opening of TAE22 in York, England, dressed as a Viking returning to York.

Quotes

“If we accept that depression is an illness, it actually prevents you from feeling good. So we'd almost go against the character of depression to look for happy, smiling pictures.”

“For me, it's been very important to always be truthful, and that's not always easy.”

“If an artist considers his audience constantly, you sort of get in trouble.”

“Discovering art and starting to draw and paint wasn't just something I did in some therapeutic way. It was like an obsession.”

“The desire to create art was so strong that I wasn't thinking of a career.”

“You can’t be a full-time artist and not think commercially in some way.”

“I love the fact that we interpret art differently. I'm not as keen anymore to explain to people what it means or what I felt. I'm more interested in what they feel and how they interpret.”

Related Episodes

These episodes feature artists who have, like David and his Postcard Art Exhibit, organized numerous artists for a major exhibition or project that spans multiple years. 

About My Guest

Born and raised in Sweden, David Sandum was educated in the U.S. in the 1990s. After returning to Scandinavia with his young family and working in IT sales, he began to struggle with severe depression. During this difficult time he began to draw and paint, inspired by Edvard Munch’s philosophy that we should all write or paint our life story.

Since then, David pursued a career in art. He has participated in group exhibitions and solo gallery shows, completed public art commissions in Norway and Denmark, and undertaken study trips to New York City, Prague, and Amsterdam. He was accepted to work at the prestigious printmaking studio Estudi de Gravat Ignasi Aguirre Ruiz in Barcelona under master printer Ignacio.

David wrote a memoir about his challenges with mental illness: I’ll Run Till the Sun Goes Down: A Memoir about Depression and Discovering Art.

David lives with his wife and youngest son in Moss, Norway. 

Follow him on Instagram @david_sandum

David Sandum

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