The Artistic Personality

September 10, 2013 Writing  2 comments

Most of us know that artists work and think differently from the general population. Granted, everyone thinks in his/her own way, shaped by his/her experiences and beliefs, but artists as a group tend to view the world in a different way. Namely, we have to find meaning in everything. And I mean, everything. If we don’t find meaning in our day or experience something meaningful we are liable to fits of depression and despair. Whereas other people think, “I had an okay day. Everything’s fine,” we experience an existential crisis.

Most of the time, if our gifts are not nurtured or if we have not chosen a specific artistic pathway or even if we have, we as artists often do not understand ourselves and why we work and think the way we do. It can often be frustrating and self-defeating. I don’t know how many times I have asked myself, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I work/think like everyone else?”

In my quest of self-exploration and understanding I came across the Holland theory, developed by psychologist John Holland, in The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People by Dr. Carol Eikleberry. According to this theory, there are six different personality types: Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional, Realistic, and Investigative. And if you take the test developed by John Holland, the Self-Directed Search (a quick Google search will find you some free ones), you will get a three letter code compiled of the top three categories that match your personality. For example, mine is ASI (Artistic, Social, and Investigative). The codes can be matched with potential jobs.

The Artistic Personality:

– see’s problems where others don’t. These problems inspire creativity and solutions.

– has nonconforming behavior

– values esthetics, value beauty

– is highly perceptive

– is often misunderstood.

– processes information differently. In his article, “What Makes Creative People Different?” Psychologist Colin Martindale “concluded that the brains of creative types operated at a higher level of arousal and that ‘creative people view the world and react to it unlike most of their peers, not because they are eccentric and strange, but because they process information differently.'” (pg. 32)

– is more likely to focus on the big picture.

– is intuitive. See the difference between what is and what could be.

– is sensitive. “An artistic sensitivity to something combines the potential for a sublime experience with the agony of confrontation with the ordinary.” (pg. 32) “The sensitive artistic person perceives a complex world in which certain elements are wrong or don’t fit and then experiences internal conflict as part of the creative process of refitting them.”

– is expressive and emotional

– can be impulsive and dramatic

– is critical, challenging, independent, risk-taking, and tends to make others uncomfortable. “Many psychological studies have found that creative people are both more anxious and less repressed than ‘normals’. They don’t deny that things trouble them.”

– is a divergent thinker. “Divergent thinkers sometimes look a little crazy and their ideas far-fetched to their convergent friends because it is likely that many of their ideas won’t work. But this is all part of the creative process.”

– tends to pursue degrees that don’t readily translate to employment. This academic path can seem idealistic and impractical to others.

– values autonomy

– creative people tend to be nonconforming in their relation to authority figures. They want to do their own thing their own way.

– can be drained by conventional work. Everyday maintenance chores done by established rules can feel like death to the soul and wear an artistic person down more than others.

– must have balance

– is existential … again with the finding meaning in everything business.

So if these traits sum you up, rejoice! You are not broken or defective. You are just you. You’re an artist! Celebrate the fact that the world has great need for people like you, just like it has great need of doctors, lawyers, teachers, factory workers, plumbers, and waitresses. If you still feel like you’re struggling to find your place in the artistic world, dabble and do your research. I highly encourage you to read Dr. Eikleberry’s book. 1/3 of the book is dedicated to listing and explaining different creative jobs.

I do not own or claim any rights to the information posted here. All information is directly taken from or paraphrased from Dr. Carol Eikleberry’s book The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People, 3rd edition.

Next time I will be talking about a personality trait that is highly correlated with the artistic personality type: being highly sensitive.

And in a later post will discuss what Dr. Eikleberry has to say about the creative process.


I will leave you with this quote by psychologist Donald MacKinnon that Eikleberry uses in the book:

The most salient mark of a creative person, the central trait at the core of his being is, as I see it, just this sort of courage. It is not physical courage of the type that might be rewarded by the Carnegie Medal or the Congressional Medal of Honor, although a creative person may have courage of this kind, too. Rather, it is personal courage, courage of the mind and spirit, psychological or spiritual courage that is the radix of a creative person: the courage to question what is generally accepted; the courage to be destructive in order that something better can be constructed; the courage to think thoughts unlike anyone else’s; the courage to be open to experience both from within and from without; the courage to imagine the impossible and try to achieve it; the courage to stand aside from the collectivity and in conflict with it if necessary, the courage to become and to be oneself.




















Find this post interesting? Check out the post on The Highly Sensitive PersonĀ 

Farewell & may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity

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2 comments to The Artistic Personality

  • […] To create is an act, a verb, if you will. It is not passive, but active and requires participation. Creativity is the process of “bringing something new into being,” (The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People). […]

  • […] “Not only for our personal lives, but for our culture, we can offer a spiritual perspective. Artistic work is spiritual, a personal meditation that provides food for the souls of others. Creative work connects us to what is fundamental and enduring and eternal,” (The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People). […]

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