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:

  1. “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.
  2. 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.
  3. We often feel ‘not safe.’ Afraid of becoming a target for criticism, harm, and rejection, we prefer to be invisible.”

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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 couch spiritual directorStacey L. L. Couch is a Spiritual Teacher who specializes in shamanism, inter-spirituality, archetypes, and symbolism. She supports soul pioneers - those of you who are learning 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.