The Archetype of the Artist
Archetypes are ideals, blueprints and/or stories of how different energies and roles can be played out in a fully manifested way. The Artist archetype is typically portrayed as the tortured soul, the seeker of truth and beauty and/or the one with a gift for the world. When we are living this archetype in a positive way we are searching for and manifesting through music, dance, visual art or word, an expression of beauty, inspiration, and creativity. In our culture we hold two very contrasting images of this Archetype. One as the creative and celebrated genius who is revered and lives well and the other is the suffering tortured one who lives and dies for her/his art and is often misunderstood, lonely and off balance. We have many stories of the Genius Artist as Picasso, the Visionary artist as Michelangelo, the starving Artist as Paul Cezanne, The Misunderstood Visionary as Van Gogh, and/or the Mad Artist as Beethoven. We have romanticized this dark side of the artist. In order for authors, actors, playwrights, chefs, musicians, sculptors, etc. to create their magic, we feel that there must be some suffering involved. There seems to be a belief that if one can transform formlessness from the depths of the human spirit and manifest it into a form that deeply affects us all, there will be a price to pay. This birth that the artist allows to happen through her/his talent is so powerful that they may not survive the process.
Playing With the Artist Archetype
Which artist, alive or dead is your Archetypal template? What is it about them that you want to model; their ability to live passionately, their ability to stay focused and dedicated to their work, their ability to stay fresh in their vision? What can they teach you? Do you feel that you have a spiritual poetic gift like William Blake, vision and talent like Leonardo Da Vinci, humor and wit like Salvador Dali, artistic ability like George O’Keeffe or passion like Frida Kahlo? Do you want to help bring social justice to the world like a Banksy, or manifest spirit like an Emily Carr?
Finding your Archetypal influence, guide or muse is finding someone or several people that you feel have manifested in a large way what you already sense inside about yourself. They feel like part of your family and help you grow into your own talent and gifts. This is different than finding your mentors and teachers. I have had many teachers over the years for art and my therapy work. Archetypes live in the Mystic Poetic realm. They come from myths, universal stories of Gods and Goddesses. I can read the writings and hear talks by my teacher, Art Therapist and author Shaun McNiff, that can help me understand compassion and empathy, but the Goddess Kuan Yin is my Archetype for compassion. Archetypal stories are universal, enduring stories that transcend culture and time. Myths, or stories about Archetypes often become part of folklore and mythology.
All the most powerful ideas in history go back to archetypes. This is particularly true of religious ideas, but the central concept of science, philosophy and ethics are no exception to this rule. In their present form they are variants of archetypal ideas, created by consciously applying and adapting these ideas to reality. For it is the function of consciousness not only to recognize and assimilate the external world through the gateway of the senses, but to translate into visible reality the world within us. [CW 8, par. 342} Storr p. 16
The legendary stories about heroes/heroines that attract us are keys to or blue prints of how we can become more enlightened, successful, creative or happy. Archetypes hold the stories of our primordial desires and fears, and collective dreams.
To read more on Archetypes check out the following books:
Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential by Caroline Myss
Who Am I – An Archetypal Quest by Katie Altham
Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey by Sallie Nichols
Read Karen’s Contributing Editor Profile here.
Listen to a podcast with Karen and Ricë Freeman-Zachery here.
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS