Image from Gratisography.

Most of my free time is spent mourning for the lost eras of the 1960s and 1970s, and whenever a musician or artist passes away, I take a lot more time than necessary to get over it. Some people have asked me why I still continue to draw the Aladdin Sane lightning bolt on my face at every given opportunity, or why I still have at least 200 pictures of David Bowie saved on my phone. Even my grandmother (who should technically be the one mourning) asked, “Don’t you think that’s a little dated?” when I informed her that I would be painting the red and blue lightning bolt on my graduation dress. Really, it’s difficult to let go of anything that reminds you of a world that you constantly wish you had experienced and lived in. Here are five things to do (and not to do) when you’re dealing with the death of someone who inspires you.

1. Keep on thinking about them.

It may seem counter-intuitive to keep thinking about something that makes you sad. But I think the best thing to do is to ensure that the construction of knowledge about the artist in question does not cease at the end of their earthly existence. Keep on engaging with their work and trying to understand their purpose. If you think the artist aimed for his or her art to go a certain direction had they still been alive, then try your best to lead their existing art towards that direction. Forgetting about them and letting their accomplishments remain stagnant won’t do much to keep their memory and vision alive.

2. Make art inspired by them.

Incorporate whatever it is that you appreciate about the artist into your own creative process. If you’re a photographer, try recreating your favorite photographs of them or self-producing a fashion editorial inspired by them. If you’re a painter, create something that shows how uniquely you might see them or interpret their work. Whatever it is that you do, create something that carries pieces of both yourself and the artist you’re inspired by.

3. Make their presence known.

Do whatever you can to explicitly show how much the artist means to you. Go ahead and paint that red and blue lighting bolt on your face. Do it once, or five times if necessary. Nobody’s stopping you from wearing bell sleeves and thigh-high silver boots, and dressing like the artists who inspire you and make you who you are. Step out of the house in something that, again, will make you feel like you’re carrying pieces of both yourself and the artist.

4. Don’t skip school.

As tempting as it sounds to skip school and have a day dedicated to listening to your favorite records or watching movies and documentaries related to the artist, just don’t do it. Let everything that you love and appreciate about the artist inspire you to quit slacking off and achieve as much as they did on earth while you’re still in school.

5. Don’t take your sadness out on others.

Sometimes people will ask why you’re still not over the death of someone you’ve never even met. Don’t lash out. Nobody has to get involved in how long it takes you to come to terms with how quickly your world is slipping away! When people ask you if the lightning bolt on your face is supposed to represent the superhero Flash, just breathe and calmly let them know that it’s Bowie.

Your motivation to live and make art shouldn’t have to disappear along with the earthly existence of the musicians and artists who inspire you. Do what you can to keep their memory alive, and use everything that you learned from them to say what you need to say and ultimately become a better version of yourself.

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