We all know the old artistic stereotype: driven, melancholy, obsessed, and maybe driven a bit mad by the need to express their internal artistic vision. The artist working feverishly in their bare garret studio, the creative juices flowing like a storm at sea, with waves of paint crashing onto the tortured canvases. It is a very romantic and unfair notion about artists, albeit useful for the purposes of marketing art. Yes, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Toulouse Lautrec, Caravaggio, and other artists had some personality issues, but they are atypical of artists and the creative process. At least I would like to think that my sanity has not been compromised by my artistic inclinations.
There is definitely a personality type that some creative talented people exhibit. They tend to be loners – not because they are anti-social, but because they feel different than other people. Who doesn’t? But these artistic types are so focused on their chosen art form (music, writing, painting, etc.) that they tend to block out many other interests, friends or other activities that are seen as distracting from their art. In a sense they are driven or have a compulsion to explore and express their art constantly. These are usually the people who will excel in their chosen art form, and become professional writers, dancers, musicians, painters, etc. But, as in all humans, there is a whole spectrum of intensity when it comes to being creative – from a passing interest or hobby to a passionately dedicated professional.
Naturally, one would think that by 2010 the old stereotypes from previous centuries would have faded into their well-deserved obscurity. Yet, when you tell your parents you want to be an artist, they might still shake their head pitifully, thinking that your life will be nothing but struggle and poverty. My mom did what she could to dissuade me from a “fate worse than death”, and pushed me towards finding a “real” career.
Yes, you might expect that intelligent, sophisticated people nowadays do not have a distorted view of artists. Well, the other day at work I passed two executives talking in the hall. One lady was saying that her daughter’s friends were all artists, so of course they were all “flighty and out there”. The other executive just smiled knowingly. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut and just walk away. That evening I ranted to my husband about how I felt insulted, and how this unfair stereotype has plagued artists for centuries. Then I stomped back to my bare garret studio to torture some canvases.