The Artist Archetype
The artist archetype at the very core is connected, intimately, with the cosmic creative force of the universe. The artist wants nothing but to bring the abstract, intangible idea of beauty into form. This is no small task. It has driven many to madness. Many others have been emancipated by the opportunity to express splendor.
What is in the realm of the unseen and the intangible, becomes able to touch, taste, see, hear and feel with our five senses. Art is miraculous in this way. The artist, in bringing about the miracle, becomes one herself.
Characteristics of an Artist
The artist is an intuitive, sensing archetype that may appear unorganized. The order is present, just not to the senses. She is following some invisible design. The marvel of this design is often only visible once the work of art is complete. Glimmers of it burst through in moments leading up to the unveiling.
The artistic person may have trouble keeping both feet on the earth. This has benefits and consequences. The primary way ungrounded-ness appears is in a fierce, likely unconscious, detachment from time. Just like the child at play loses all track of the hour, so too does the artist. For her five minutes can seem like five hours or five hours can seem like five seconds. The artist archetype understands that creation is in no way tied to the clock. Art happens in the silence between the ticks of the second hand.
For someone without the artist archetype this apparent inability to read a clock or organize thoughts can be very frustrating. Deadlines are missed, projects change direction fifty times, and there is always something that could use a little tweaking. This challenges the artist to develop a healthy self-esteem, not allowing the criticisms of others to deflate her.
Grounded artists find ways to routinely anchor themselves in this world. For many artistic people, there has to be a conscious ritual such as walking, gardening, or even house cleaning. Breaks are essential for the artistic practice. To bring something into this world, a connection has to be maintained with the mundane plane of existence. Inspiration brews and new ideas come. The excellent artist finds inspiration in the world around her, merging heaven and earth.
Avoidance in the Artistic Person
I know many brilliant artists who say they aren’t artists. The benchmark for what it means to be artistically talented is ambiguous and the creative person is usually her own best critic. In the shadow, the artist archetype is plagued by self-doubt and self-deprecation. Never starting or finishing anything, the artistic person falls into depression. Not believing her art is worth anything is a malicious myth that eats her up.
A wonderful support group called A.R.T.S. Anonymous helps those with the artist archetype come out of the shadow and into the light of this powerful archetype. They meet by phone and encourage each other to do a minimum of five minutes of art a day.
These three of the twelve traits of the avoidant artist speak to how well this organization has defined the struggle of the artist archetype:
- “Self-defeating thoughts and societal myths turn in our heads: ‘Art is not practical’ – ‘Artists are neurotic’ – ‘You’ll starve’ – ‘You have to be trained’ – ‘You are too old’ – ‘It’s too late’—’You are a fraud.’ We have accepted these as true when, in fact, they are not.
- We have felt intimidated by other artists’ success. Jealousy, envy, fear, self-pity, perfectionism, resentment and other character defects block our faith in our creativity. We do not feel worthy of the success we achieve or desire.
- We often feel ‘not safe.’ Afraid of becoming a target for criticism, harm, and rejection, we prefer to be invisible.”
Quoted from: http://www.artsanonymous.org/about-arts/arts-traits/
Every archetype has a light and a shadow and the shadow of the artist archetype is the starving artist. The starving artist can waste countless hours fiddling with a piece, never show her work to anyone, give her art away to everyone, charge too little for her artwork, and thus dump her creative life force down the drain.
The true essence of the starving artist is refraining from all creative endeavors, literally starving herself of art. This creates enormous suffering that results in endangerment of her physical health. The artist archetype needs art as much as anyone needs to breath, eat and drink.
Inspiration for the Artist
For the empowered artist, expression goes beyond a single work of art. A canvas covered in paint or a cleverly crafted line of prose will never fully encompass that ultimate work of art that is life. The artist that finds herself free from doubt and shame is able to see the whole of her life as a fantastic masterpiece. Through the artist archetype you engage the infinite power of what it means to truly love your life. When you love your life, you want for nothing, you never go hungry.
The artist archetype does not necessitate that you are the hand that guides the brush. You are as much an artist when you are appreciating any form of beauty because what is art without eyes to behold and revel in it? In that way we all have a little of the artist in us, but to call the artist archetype your own, you’ll need to identify an intense need to participate in the infinite creative process of the universe.
The Different Types of Artists
Some artists specialize in a certain medium such as oil pastel whereas other artists can never seem to settle on any one track – painting with water colors one day and working with a flower press the next. Remember just as there are seemingly infinite mediums, there are countless styles of art – abstract, expressionism, realism, surrealism, pop art, photorealism, minimalism, impressionism, etc.
Before you dismiss your creative endeavors and deny yourself the chance to call yourself an artist, know that artists come in all shapes and sizes. Here is a sample list of the manifestations of the artist archetype – Creative, Craftsperson, Musician, Writer, Painter, Sculptor, Sketch Artist, Potterer, Chef, Herbalist, Gardener, Landscaper, Auto Body Repairman, Woodworker, Singer, Dancer, Seamstress, Cosmetologist, Hairdresser, Fashion Designer, Graphic Designer, Website Designer, Welder, Basketmaker, Knitter, Scrapbooker, Photographer, Quilter, Interior Designer, and more.
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About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch is a Spiritual Director who teaches about archetypes and symbolism. Her speciality is working with soul pioneers - those of you who are making it up as you go along the spiritual path. She works with beginner and life-long spiritual seekers. Through working with Stacey, lost seekers find their way home and professional spiritual guides receive mentorship. Stacey empowers people with the ability to explore their purpose and calling. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.
Hello Stacey, I’m a fan of yours, and so enjoy the info and videos you forward to those
that follow your energy and teaching.
This article was by far the most profound for me as I’m an Artist. I have been drawing
Spirit Guides for over 25 years, along with a Clairvoyant/Medium reading. You hit on some
things that I really needed to hear. I do Spiritual Art in many forms.
I’m also on the path of the Shaman have been for years. I love your Animal Interpretations
in fact have used them in my sessions. Along with the drawing/reading they receive
an Animal with interpretation. I work Expos here in the North East.
I am rambling, and need to say keep up the good work Stacey and I continue to look for
your words of wisdom from the Beautiful State of Colorado. (lived in the springs in 1968/69
70 connected to the Military). Many Blessings to you, Jessie
Hi Jessie, It is always nice to hear from you. Thank you so much for your support. How fun that we get to stay connected over this distance! I look forward to the next time we get to talk. With Gratitude, Stacey
This article resonated at many levels for me too, as I am also an artist. I explored my artistic talents very early in life, going on to show and create some decent works in highschool. And then I stopped. I began to compare my work to others, became frustrated, and then blocked. I became interested in other things as a young adult, but always felt a pull towards art. After I married and had children, I would dabble here or there, but my art was always on the back burner. Finally, my mantra became “I’ll get back to it when the kids are older.”
Here I am now, at age 55, back into my art and extremely happy. But I wasn’t. What it took me to find true nature and rekindle the passion was the passing of my 23 year old son a year ago. I don’t know why I threw myself into art, but it welcomed me with open arms ….an old friend. It’s given me a way to connect myself to spirit, beauty, and my true life’s work. Thank you for this article; it was yet another reminder that I am on the right path. ❤️
Hello Mary, I am so grateful to hear that you’ve been able to find power and draw support from the artist within you. What a profound spiritual gift! Many Blessings to you, Stacey
Thank you for this view of the artist as archetype. I work as an artist but starting out I did everything I could to avoid
using my creative gifts and powers and often denied I had even a spark of creativity in me.. I was very afraid of not being able to navigate life as a “dreamer.”
Speaking to this shadow helps others come out from behind it.
You are most welcome Deborah. Yes, I think too infrequently we forget to acknowledge how we hide behind the shadow of the artist. Speaking up about it brings more creativity into consciousness. That is always a good thing! Many Blessings, Stacey
Dear Stace, Good description. This includes me and I was supported and encouraged reading this article. I am reclaiming my artist and growing in seeing the art of living as a part that is very satisfying. Still the need to create and the joy of discovery in playing with and being inspired by beauty remains a song in my everyday world. Thank you for the art that you bring through with such power and Grace.
Hello Puja, It’s lovely to hear from you and to hear that you are reclaiming your artist in a new way. And too I know she’s always been with you. I remember all the countless conversations we’ve had about beauty and all the ways you strive to find it in your everyday :). Love you, Stacey
Excellent article and a terrific site… Really, this is SO me.
I also enjoyed the Totem animal descriptions.
You are most welcome Karen! I’m glad you’re finding helpful information here. Blessings to You, Stacey
very meaningful overall. i started drawing very early, unselfconsciously–until i realized it brought attention; confusing because that resulted in strained relationships within the family & questionable “rewards”. painful to realize jealousy the reaction simply because i could do unusual things when i was simply expressing myself. my father told me “art is for people who don’t like to think” & very angry i didn’t follow in his footsteps & wasn’t interested in math. mother expecting me to give everything to her, and nothing for myself or my own reasons. started ‘shutting down’ when it seemed too much of a price to pay & would spend energy instead on more ‘mainstream’ interests to fit in more. (ironically, father wanted me to teach him about art & then tried to make it look like he did it *all* by himself. also bragging about how easy it would be to copy ‘and nobody would know that’) whew!!! what is sickening is when people who desire creativity won’t just do that for themselves, with all the honest labor to learn how, & be honest about giving credit where it’s due. this may sound odd, but i don’t regret sharing tips but can do without the need to ‘compete and compare’ creativity. nobody ‘wins’ with that kind of ‘co-opted’ “self esteem”.
Hello Mieke, Yes, comparison and competition can be the enemies of honest, authentic creativity. Authentic creativity means vulnerability for many because of the cultural conditioning that prizes the left-brain logic over right-brain intuition. It can be hard sometimes to be forgiving to the people in our lives that are the agents of criticism and ridicule of our artistic abilities, but in forgiving them we open the way for them to also feel safe creating and then the world changes. Many Blessings, Stacey