The Making of Artists: Processes of Development

(An excerpt from my dissertation - I interviewed 6 professional artists, and after identifying individual and common themes, boiled down the findings into a description of the life development of "the artist".)

Beginning with an inherent drive of creativity and curiosity, the child artist receives enough support from the parents (at least in some creative areas of their life) for the seed of creativity to grow. In addition, the young artist’s proclivity for being alone for extended periods of time and their self-reliance and joy in trial and error learning fosters the development of skills as well as ways of thinking that allows creativity a central role in their life as the artist moves into adulthood. It was not a conscious decision to be an artist early on, but rather, the tendencies and skills already developing, are later understood to fit into the category of “artist,” which was discovered when considering what to study in higher education. Within the educational system of the domain, the artist dutifully attempts to learn the techniques, skills, and values that are taught. Soon, however, conflict arises and the artist finds the domain’s gatekeepers are not in accordance with their own values and instincts. Through this conflict, the artist is thrown into deeper self reflection. The artist seeks to find their identity through experimentation with materials and techniques, often to the chagrin of the domain’s gatekeepers. However, support from peers is a glue that helps put together a more clear sense of self that had been broken down by self-doubt and negative critiques. Sensing this new inner coherency and place in the world as an artist, they vehemently pursue new knowledge, be it immersion into a period of history, new techniques, imagery, or materials. However, after this period of growth, the artist comes to see that a different kind of learning is necessary to overcome new barriers that emerge. Situational factors from outside, or internal complexes emerge that demand to be addressed. The artist may turn to traditional forms of therapy or a structured program of cultivating self-insight. Additionally, the artist comes to accept and value the limitations of their chosen materials, form, and imagery, which in turn furthers self reflection. This procures a reviewing of past work as the artist attempts to gain a more relevant concept of self. Through studying observed patterns in their artwork, as well as behavioral patterns that are revealed through therapy, a cohesive sense of self develops, an acceptance of ones past, of ones parents, and a sense that there is something greater than themselves that is directing their development. The artist’s ego is grounded and placed in a position of greater harmony with other factors within themselves and within the environment. The artist uses parallel creative activities to sustain him or her self during difficult periods as well as to increase insight, perspective, and feeling. The role of a spouse and ones chosen home is an invaluable factor as the artists develops. This support, which provides a rhythm and a consistency to life, creates a safe place from which difficult questions in pursuit of truth can be more deeply explored. The artists’ attitude all this time is being cultivated and pruned with increasing conscious awareness of self. Through the cultivation of an attitude that is based upon humility, honesty, clarity of intention, sensitivity to inner states and immediate environment, and open-ended curiosity, the artist refines their self in the pursuit of being a fine-tuned instrument that may increasingly allow transcendent elements to pass through and find expression in their chosen art medium. The artist sees him or her self as a question posed to the world (as Carl Jung had put it in his autobiography [1965]). The artist initially is primarily a question posed to themselves (during which time attention is directed towards resolving personal and historically rooted complexes), and their artwork expresses this as it communicates through (often unconscious) metaphor. When the primary personal complexes have been adequately brought into consciousness and worked through, the artist, as an embodied question, is then available to be meaningfully posed to the world. With a strong sense of self, the artist becomes increasingly able to respond, moment-by-moment, to transcendent elements as they emerge. A personal philosophy of life emerges; one that sees a meaningful and synchronistic relationship between the inner and the outer world that allows an increasingly effective embodying and communicating of truths to others.