Feature Excerpt

The Horror of the Tortured Artist

This is an excerpt of a feature from Unwinnable Monthly #120. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

In any craft – be it acting, painting, drawing, writing, directing – finding an effective and fulfilling process for creating art is always a concern. Finding inspiration and then creating something from that is a cathartic and reflective process that compares to no other. However, in all forms of creativity, there is always a concern about how you go about finding inspiration and what happens when that creative well runs dry. The fear of losing that spark of inspiration and that rush of imagination is a serious issue because without it we cannot create. Unfortunately, many artists throughout art history have pushed themselves to the brink to find their creative process.

One such story is the about the early 19th-century Spanish artist Francisco Goya and his collection of work known as the Black Paintings. Goya was an incredibly successful artist and is considered one of the most important Spanish artists of his era, leading a life painting lavish tapestry paintings and grand portraits of royalty and nobility.

However, as he became older, Goya suffered from a number of physical and mental health illnesses with a particularly brutal one leaving him deaf. Towards the end of his life, Goya purchased a farmhouse on the outskirts of Madrid where he retreated from the public eye and decided to work in private.

Alone at the age of 75, Goya painted fourteen works that depict images of violence, torment and death directly onto the plastered walls of his home. These paintings, discovered after his death, were not meant for exhibition and where never meant to be seen by the public. One of his most striking paintings, Saturn Devouring His Son, an image that depicts the titan Kronos eating the headless, bloody corpse of a human body, covers the wall of the dining room where he ate. There was one painting in each room, meaning that Goya would be constantly under the watchful eye of his disturbing paintings, the distorted faces of their subjects constantly staring at him.

It’s haunting stories like this that have shaped the idea of what is now known as the troubled artist. Art history is filled with stories of tortured artists. Van Gogh to Francis Bacon to Edvard Much – all artists who are famous for creating works of art from their internal suffering. The idea that an artist must go through mental and emotional torment to create meaningful works of art is a dangerous misconception. It’s a very real issue that many have struggled with today.

Blooper Team have tapped into this fear and created two haunting portraits of isolated artists who have been swallowed by this belief. Both Layers of Fear games use visual and psychological horror to capture something quite chilling in the process of creating art and the horror of what happens when artists become desperate searching for that delicate flame of inspiration.


Rachel Watts is a freelance videogame journalist from Cardiff who is now based in Bristol. Wandering from the world of cinema into the realm of videogames, she is mostly interested in ‘stop and smell the flowers’ kind of games and enjoys tending to her virtual plants.

You’ve been reading an excerpt from Unwinnable Monthly Issue 120.

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