For this week’s post, I thought we might look at the creative personality. Are the old “saws” true? Do you have to suffer for your art? Are we all a little mad from our obsession? Basically, are we in some way different from the others? Is artist a magical gift/curse that is only given to a few?
Sunflowers Vincent Van Gogh
Certainly Van Gogh suffered from isolation and rejection; and probably some sort of physical or mental disorder. However, the art he made gave meaning to his life. It may have been the only meaning in his life. To quote from”Creativity for Life” by Eric Maisel based on the Schizophrenia Scale of the MMPI studies: “Let’s ponder for a moment the sorts of questions that distinguished between artist and schizophrenics. Asked if they preferred daydreaming to doing anything else, they tended to say yes. Asked if they felt understood, they tended to answer no…… These are only a few items on the scale. Among the remaining questions are one that probe for eccentricities, delusions and the like. It does not surprise us to find that artist tend to show slight elevations on the scale. For the artist is intensely involved with her own thoughts, feels occasionally misunderstood, injured, and isolated enough to begin to climb the scale.” Are we to assume from this we are a different breed?
Spirit of the Dead Watching Paul Gauguin
Gauguin felt so encumbered by his family and the society in which he lived that he left them all to travel to Tahiti. There he felt he could be dedicated to his art in a way that was not available to him in polite society. He was allowed to explore imagery that gave him hope for a new way of life. Of course, he abdicated his responsibility to his family, felt no one understood what he was trying to accomplish but now he is lauded for the work. Have any of us ever longed for this type of isolated, intense period of work? To thumb our noses at the accepted norm for art and do only the work that is important to us? Are we so worried about getting into shows that we do only what is in vogue with jurors or collectors?
These are just two examples of rebellious artist. The list is long: Picasso, Pollock, Cocteau and on and on. However, my feelings are these are still issues we are dealing with today. To create a style, solid body of work, there are times we must isolate ourselves in the studio. We are required to daydream, to become lost in our own thoughts in order to discover the imagery that reveals us as artist. Occasionally, we must go against the accepted norms of the times we live in to give meaning to our work. Indeed, making meaning for ourselves is the ultimate responsibility for an artist….there are already enough Thomas Kincades.
While we would all love to constantly get acceptance letters; we must go through the rejection letters from shows, galleries or our own peer group. Is is possible that we have more in common with the rebels than we realize?
The She Wolf Jackson Pollock
For all his success, Pollock was never secure. Thinking he never measured up, he was driven to drink. His addiction effected his ability to produce work. No matter how Lee Krasner tried to save him, he was driven to self-destruction. Is obsession a good thing? Possibly if he had been secure enough to ignore reviews and trust his own vision, his obsession would have turned from negative to positive. Certainly clinical obsession is a disorder that needs treatment, but the drive to create is an obsession we all live with daily.
After some thought about this “divine madness” of being creative, my conclusion is that we all share a taste of these conditions. We are obsessed, driven. We need to daydream even in the presence of others. Being isolated in the studio feeds our soul and brings forth new work we might have never created. Going against the grain of society is our responsibility, if not artist whatever their media who will. Just some food for thought