Monday, September 17, 2007

The Artist: “Tortured Soul” or Joyous Participant? Examining the Stereotype

I've heard it said that artists are unstable, unreliable, flaky, unreasonable, quirky..... The list of negative personality and character traits often attributed to creative people seems endless. But I know many people who are bitter, negative, moody or withdrawn, and they are not artists! Likewise, I know many artists who have balance and perspective as very evident traits in their personalities, who at the same time are capable of great creative vision, passion, and works of commitment and imagination.

For me, art and design have been a source of joy in my life since the time, long ago, when I first played with "Colorforms" as a small child. Viewing the art of other artists, both the great and the less well-known, and doing my own art, has seemed to elevate me above the ups and downs of the everyday world, and to lift me beyond whatever sadness or despair I might feel.

I would make the point that there are people in every field of endeavor who are evolved, stable, self-aware, and competent, and also in every field, those who are self-indulgent, biased, regressive, or just plain "insane." For this reason I dislike the stereotype of the artist as a"tortured soul," and don't accept it. Though I will concede that some artists may produce their greatest works at times when their equilibrium is upset by human suffering, either their own or other's, I believe that many artists are very conscious of peace and social justice issues, and are often outward-looking and active in the pursuit of solutions.

In fact, most artists I've known love to share and communicate as well as enjoy all the immutable and ubiquitous beauties of the world. To the artists of the world I say: Ignore the stereotypes and create in joy!

To read more of my thoughts on the creative process, please visit:, or read my articles on Creativity Portal. All text c 2006 Lynda Lehmann. The image above is "Souls of a Restless Sort," done in ink on vellum. I always loved biomorphs, so this is one of my favorite drawings. Prints are available at my site listed above.


  1. Thank you for a very insightful post! I agree. I am an artist and my best work has come to me when I am happiest in life. I don't create during the "tortured" times. I just can't. Your post helped me reflect on that. Thank you. Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

  2. I feel the same way, Cindy. During the tortured times, it's best to shed load on other things and make it a priority to work the problem out! I'm happy this post had meaning for you. I do get tired of hearing people refer to artists as "airheads" and "artist types," etc. We have just too many stereotypes in this world!

  3. An artist and his/her art are related only at the moment of conception, later the product has a life of it's own which depends on the viewer.
    Stereotypes are for those without imagination enough to see we are all different, the true artist knows it and tears the veil of the superficial, exposing the essense of the world.


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