Thursday, June 8, 2017

Shadow Artists - The Artist's Way

p. 27 – The author discusses people who abandon their creativity and become “shadow artists.” Can you describe the characteristics of shadow artists? Would you be able to recognize one if you saw these characteristics in a client ? 

":Too intimidated to become artists themselves, very often too low in self-worth to even recognize that they have an artistic dream, these people become shadow artists instead. Artists themselves but ignorant of their true identity, shadow artists are to be found shadowing declared artists. Unable to recognize that they themselves may possess the creativity they so admire, they often date or marry people who actively pursue the art career they themselves secretly long for. . . Artists love other artists. Shadow artists are gravitating to their rightful tribe but cannot yet claim their birthright. Very often audacity, not talent, makes one person an artist and another a shadow artist—hiding in the shadows, afraid to step out and expose the dream to the light, fearful that it will disintegrate to the touch. 

Shadow artists often choose shadow careers—those close to the desired art, even parallel to it, but not the art itself. Noting their venom, François Truffaut contended that critics were themselves blocked directors, as he had been when he was a critic. He may be right. Intended fiction writers often go into newspapering or advertising, where they can use their gift without taking the plunge into their dreamed-of fiction-writing career. Intended artists may become artist managers and derive a great deal of secondary pleasure from serving their dream even at one remove."

I would be able to recognize a shadow artist - they say things like - I wish I were you and - you are so creative - and I could never - when I was young I wanted to do that. 

I would notice is they were an artist manager or an AD or married to an artist. All those things would tip me off to a person being a Shadow Artist.

"It takes a great deal of ego strength to say to a well-meaning but domineering parent or a just plain domineering one, “Wait a minute! I am too an artist!” The dreaded response may come back, “How do you know?” And, of course, the fledgling artist does not know. There is just this dream, this feeling, this urge, this desire. There is seldom any real proof, but the dream lives on. As a rule of thumb, shadow artists judge themselves harshly, beating themselves for years over the fact that they have not acted on their dreams. This cruelty only reinforces their status as shadow artists. Remember, it takes nurturing to make an artist. Shadow artists did not receive sufficient nurturing. They blame themselves for not acting fearlessly anyhow. 
     In a twisted version of Darwinian determinism, we tell ourselves that real artists can survive the most hostile environments and yet find their true calling like homing pigeons. That’s hogwash. Many real artists bear children too early or have too many, are too poor or too far removed culturally or monetarily from artistic opportunity to become the artists they really are. These artists, shadow artists through no fault of their own, hear the distant piping of the dream but are unable to make their way through the cultural maze to find it."

And here is the problem with being a Shadow Artist?

"For all shadow artists, life may be a discontented experience, filled with a sense of missed purpose and unfulfilled promise. They want to write. They want to paint. They want to act, make music, dance ... but they are afraid to take themselves seriously."

What can we do and how can we help them? or ourselves?

"In order to move from the realm of shadows into the light of creativity, shadow artists must learn to take themselves seriously. With gentle, deliberate effort, they must nurture their artist child. Creativity is play, but for shadow artists, learning to allow themselves to play is hard work."

I remember a few times when I felt like a shadow artist.  I was in my early 20s working for the National Theater of the Deaf.  I was a manager of actors and I felt like I too was creative.  I was washing the costumes when I felt like I could equally have designed the costumes.  People reminded me that it wasn't my place, maybe I was too young, maybe I needed to wait my turn.  Any of these things but I didn't feel satisfied.  I, infact , felt jealous and resentful.

I remember having the same experience when I was working as a Shopper-Buyer.  I felt like I had more talent, ideas and energy than my boss.  I looked at her and became more and more angry. One day I wanted to push her down the stairs.  I realized then I needed to either quit and become the boss or go to jail for killing someone.  I decided to quit and that's when I started by career as a Decorator.

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