my work

5 Common Traits of an Artist

This is something that I have been considering since age 11.

What does it take to be an artist? –

(not: What does it take to be a successful artist? or perhaps what is a successful artist!?) – Oh boy I can easily tie myself in knots with this one.

Artists come in many creative guises but I believe we all share certain traits. here are my top 5 traits:

Artists don’t have a choice: I firmly believe that something, some other energy source outside of me, drives my creativity. I often feel that being an artist is a burden that I would prefer not to carry. Please don’t get me wrong, I love creating and when circumstances align I am happiest when busy in my studio; but there are many days of self doubt, lack of inspiration and lethargy. If I am not creating I feel a heavy weight upon my shoulders. Being creative is crucial for my well being and good health – I am obliged to continue come what may.

Artists are pigheaded: Life is an amazing thing but life can be a slog especially when, in most modern day societies, money is king. Being an artist requires a singlemindedness of purpose and a refusal to buckle under the weight of social expectation and financial commitment. Of course your art may be the very thing that allows you a comfortable lifestyle, but then again it may not! Through financially good times and bad I resolutely refuse to give up on my art practice, I don’t actually have a choice – (although, to be honest, I have subsidized it heavily by other means throughout the years!).

Artists are big kids: We are all mind, body and spirit and yet most people value the physical ‘I’ above the spiritual ‘I’. Our body is just the vehicle we travel this realm we call earth in, but who we truly are is the energy that we call mind/spirit. An artists energy remains childlike throughout the ensuing years enabling them to play with an intelligent eye and sniff out the happy accident which leads to exciting new opportunities and work.

Artists embrace failure: Through creative play and failures new techniques and ideas flow and whilst some artists find their groove and are happy to remain there for ever and a day I strongly believe that for true creative freedom space has to be made to experiment, fail, reassess, learn and move on. However, this act can lead to the alienation of an audience and isolation as work constantly evolves – which is where being  pigheaded becomes jolly useful!

Artists are arrogant: No one likes an arrogant person who strutts and preens and refuses to listen but a small smattering of arrogance, or rather a large dose of self belief, is vital for any artist to ride the waves of criticism and acceptance which comes with the territory of being an artist. Over the years I have heard many folks whispering derogatory comments about my work, not realising that I am within earshot – without exception I have readily chosen to ignore them in the knowledge that my true audience appreciate my efforts and that my work can never be everything to all men.

So there you go, my 5 traits of an artist – what d’ya reckon?

Meanwhile I stumbled upon this video earlier today and thought it worth sharing in the context of this entry: