Elements of the Artist Archetype
- eccentric appearance and behavior
- outsider status, both physically, socially and spiritually
- observer of life, curious about the world and how it works
- a unique vision, combined with a way to express and share that vision with others
- experimenting with different approaches, materials, methods and styles of presentation
- sense of mystery regarding the creation process is shifted to the person himself/herself
“Where to begin?– that was the question at what point to make the first mark? One line placed on a canvas committed her to innumerable risks, to frequent and irrevocable decisions. All that in idea seemed simple became in practice immediately complex; as the waves shape themselves symmetrically from the cliff top, but to the swimmer among them are divided by steep gulfs, and foaming crests. Still the risk must run; the mark made. With a curious physical sensation, as if she were urged forward and a the same time must hold herself back, she made her first quick decisive stroke. The brush descended. It flickered brown over the white canvas; it left a running mark.” Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, “The Lighthouse,” (p.235)
The Spiritual Artist
The creative process is a mystical, spiritual process. An artist uses a seemingly mysterious alchemy to transform his or her everyday experiences into universal ideas we can all understand. They do this by combining the ability to observe life and the universe with technical skills (writing, painting, sculpting, photography, cooking, etc) that have been developed over time.
We say the artist has a calling, an inner drive that leads to the hard work necessary for the creation of art. Sometimes the work seems like a personal working out of challenges and hurts. But the archetypal artist also has a sense of something bigger brewing around in his or her mind.
One of those big purposes is to spread beauty. The essence of beauty must be captured and translated for the particular time and culture. We see the artist’s work and we marvel at her skill, and at the amazing wonder of the universe. Artists also help us work through the answers to our biggest bagging questions, like where we came from and how the universe was created. Mythology ends up being connected with spirituality, and mythology is both created by and used by all kinds of creative people.
An artist is a creator. The mysterious fascination we have with them begins with this sacred ability.
The Artist as Prophet/Seer
Sometimes we as a society need help in understanding our times, in understanding how we interact with the natural world. Artists help us see the connections all around us, as well as the consequences of our actions. This brings us back to the most important tool any artist has: a keen power of observation. If one can see how things are, how they came to be, how they fit together, maybe we can appreciate them better. And make things better.
The Artist as Healer
A piece of music, a painting, a beautiful poem. A fine meal. An eloquent dance performance. These and other artistic disciplines really can help us heal, as individuals and as groups.
The Artist in the World
A duality must exist for the artist, to be both part of the world so he can experience it, and a separateness from it so he can create the transformation into something more powerful than the mundane everyday. This creates an image of the artist as aloof, slightly off kilter with her times. It is the key to why we sense a magic in the creative process, and why we think of artists as a little bit crazy. The concept of the tortured artist is a misreading of the artist’s need, which is not to fit into the world but rather to interpret it.
The Artist as a Personal Symbol
You can express your creative side by being a cliche of the artist, wearing certain clothing, marking yourself as different and off kilter. You can also disguise yourself in the most conventional dress and surroundings. Whatever helps you harness that power, fulfill your calling and understand the message you need to express.
Even when your artistic mark is in disguise, as an artist it is useful to have personal symbols that remind you of the power and gift of being an artist. A talisman if you wish, like a rock or other object. A place you can periodically return to and remind yourself of your purpose and gifts. Perhaps a spirit animal to transform into when you need to get away from society. It is important that the artist cultivate the mystery of being an artist to himself or herself as a respect for the gift, for the need to stay connected with the energy.
An artist must also learn about the cycles of the universe and the cycles of creation, and the idea that creative work takes time to produce. The time span is in decades and a whole lifetime. Remember, you don not operate on the same wavelength as the business world or the rhythms of daily family life. You cannot expect the same regularity in output.