Sammy, Detail, Oil on canvas, 24 x 36” / 60.96 x 91.44 cm, ca 2003
The ‘sensitive artiste’ is a meme, almost, a trope, a joke ~ if I say something along the lines of ‘but it’s true, though’ ~ that just adds liquor to the flambé doesn’t it XD
But anyway, my objectives for writing this post are to maybe
1. Help you understand artists more If you’re not an artist (but have to live with one or more of them, or work with them, e.g. you’re an account manager at an ad agency and you have to deal with graphic designers)
2. Help you understand yourself or your fellow artists more if you are an artist (but somehow I get the feeling you already do anyway ^^; )
3. Also maybe help myself / indulge in a little self-therapy (because now that some time has elapsed since I went in for some actual therapy, I now know that no one can help me, actually, except myself).
Because in keeping with the recent trend on the jillablog, this post comes in the wake of what’s happened to me in the past few weeks since the last jillapost.
Ja~in the words of J Worthington Foulfellow, ‘On to the theatre!’ XD
So is it true that artists are more sensitive?
Porcupine Person, Watercolour on paper, approx 10 x 15” / 25.4 x 38.1 cm, ca 2000
The internet says it is ^o^;
But it was in the days before the internet when I’d first heard this (and it wasn’t because I saw those Kirk Douglas or Charlton Heston movies either ^o^).
The idea was first suggested to me during my first round of university (round 2 was when I actually went to art school). It was in a philosophy class under Fr de Torre (took me a while to remember his name) who said that artists feel things more deeply than other people.
I wrote his words down the way I did everything else he said but I remember thinking something like 'well that explains a few things' ^^; But since I didn't know I was going to be doing art as a career I didn’t think all that much of it at the time.
While I’ve just about forgotten everything else the good Father taught us, this tiny thing that he happened to mention during one of his lectures managed to stay with me since then.
And since then (and since the advent of the internet and 2017’s world’s first fully painted and 2019’s Russian-Italian movies) ~ the internet has justified the assertion that artists are more sensitive than other people. (I’m actually, mildly x idly curious as to whether whoever said that first was an artist or not.)
You can check out No. 1 in the SERPs (that’s Search Engine Results Pages and the holy grail of SEO humans and the businesses they slave away for) for: ‘is it true that artists feel things more deeply than other people’ (talk about long tail keyword LOL), here. It’s tightly, pretty well-written and you’ll find some links to science and such to back it up.
Here’s another one from Google’s elusive Page 1 that goes a bit more into creative vision (and includes a fun video test featuring some guy in a gorilla costume XD). So there’s really no need for me to go into all of that, again.
But is it a bad thing for artists to be more sensitive?
Orion, Acrylic on canvas, 19.75 x 19.75” / 50.165 x 50.165 cm, 2019
The internet also says that it isn’t ^O^***
But before I go further, I’d like to point out how this post isn’t meant to be some sort of excuse for artists, kind of like: ‘You’ll have to cut me some slack for the way I act (rudely / inappropriately) because artists really are just extra sensitive.’ Uh, no. I’ve gone into that in a previous jillapost, so I’m not going into that again, either.
What I am going to touch on a bit here, however, is how it’s not necessarily a bad thing for artists to be more sensitive than most. Just a touch x just a bit, because sensitivity being a strength, rather than a weakness, has also been more than adequately explored, I feel, by better minds than mine. (Feel free to Google 'highly sensitive person' and knock yourself out ^_^ /)
And here’s the bit: I myself had recently come to the conclusion that sensitivity was a bad thing. It was really getting in the way of my, efficiency, shall we say (no I didn’t do Lean Six Sigma, I just wrote about it a couple times lol). I found myself spending so much time nursing my hurt feelings that I just thought life would be so much simpler if I armoured up ^o^ /
Case in point ~ one of my ex-bosses once sent me this photo:
Okay, it’s not exactly about being sensitive but more about my big mouth and lack of self-control ^^; But I figure if I didn’t feel anything then I wouldn’t be compelled to have the emotional reactions referred to by Mr Buffet.
Besides, I couldn’t help remarking on how those of my erstwhile co-workers who didn’t feel anything ended up being the ones who performed better and ended up staying at the company longer. (So yeah, I don’t work there anymore, but I did write this post while I was there ^^)
It’s not a bad thing to be sensitive, period.
Calico, Watercolour on paper, 9 x 12" / 22.86 x 30.48 cm, 2015
In any case, attribute it, if you will, to the psychology-therapy-analysis-filled world we live in today (although Siggie and Carl made waves over a hundred years ago) ~ but since then I’ve read a lot of people saying it is not a bad thing to be sensitive, even in the workplace ~ and even in the studio.
I mean just today, my psychology major cousin (-slash informal-therapist-for-free T_T) shared this Instagram post with me:
To distil what I’ve read in countless other online places: People basically say that instead of like, desensitising yourself, or having your sensitivity surgically removed (which, along with my guilt complex I would so totally do in spite of my congenital fear of any and all medical procedures) ~ the thing to do is to work with it.
So you know you’re extra sensitive. So, figure out how you can work with or around that. There’s no point in trying to make yourself other than what you are. That’s like teaching a dog to meow.
I’m far from being in a position to give pointers for how to do this, as I am in the process of learning how to do that, myself.
At the time of writing I’m more inclined to protect myself from things that could potentially hurt me (as an artist and as a mortal, in general lol). When avoidance isn’t possible, I figure the thing to do is to manage and process my pain as best I can (okay maybe therapy wasn’t completely useless lol) whilst extracting what lessons or good may be gained from the pain-causer.
That way, I reckon, I can maybe improve my work, or, myself, or, learn something (which is a lesson or something good). At the very least, I will not have suffered for nothing and I can put my hurt feelings to good use, heh heh ^^
Sensitivity as a source of creativity
Agnus, Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16" / 40.64 x 40.64 cm, 2011
I find it a little funny how the ex-boss who sent me that Warren Buffet quote is also the one who told me, just a few months ago, ‘How can you stop feeling things when you’re an artist? Don’t you need that to paint?’ (So yeah, we’d been catching up for the first time in ages after I’d resigned.) (Full disclosure: The guy is a(lso a) cellist, so, he’s not talking out of his sleeping bag or something.)
Fuller disclosure: That kind of stopped me in my tracks when he said that. The man did have an excellent point! I mean, I’d like to think I can admit when I’m wrong, right? lol ~ cos I had just been saying, I think, that maybe the best way for me to proceed (as I had been doing therapy at the time) would be for me to ‘delete all my feelings files’ from my OS, as it were.
I mean, this is one of the things that separates us from the elephants or the monkeys (or even those child prodigies) who can paint, n'est-ce pas? (Although I am not in the least saying animals (or child prodigies) don’t have feelings ~ fullest disclosure: jill just read Rice Burroughs’ first two original Tarzan books ^o^)
Although, if I had a nickel for every person who ever said to me (well-meaning people, I should hope) ‘just put all your feelings / pain into your paintings’ (come to think of it, one of them was the kindly orthopaedic surgeon I saw after tearing my left shoulder hefting plywood for painting XD)… 0_o
What if they didn’t mean it
Amy, Detail, Watercolour on paper, 12.5 x 19" / 48 x 32 cm, 2021
It was just such a person who told me something similar quite recently who, with the best intentions I’m quite certain ~ said something again which ultimately led to this post. I reiterate the ‘best intentions’ because I’m sure this person did not mean or expect to hurt me upon proceeding to give me advice on how to run (or well, improve (the profitability of) my art career.
I had the great misfortune to lash out at this person when the last thing I had wanted was to hurt this person ~ who also happens to be an artist ~ in turn. I guess I should not have only saved that photo quote from the ex-boss, I should’ve made it my freaking desktop picture so I remember it.
In any case, if I may restate what I stated in that previous post I had on living with artists ~ (the lashing out thing) is not behaviour I’m proud of. Truly, incidence reduction was one of the reasons I went and got the jillahouse in the first place.
(Understandably, after I’d reacted to what my would-be adviser said, the person seemed taken aback and was all ‘I don’t know where you got that from.’ It’s quite possible that person really didn’t.)
I don’t even know whether that has anything to do with my being (over) sensitive or just a jerk (more likely the latter ^^; ).
It’s just (here come the excuses), I guess I hadn’t expected that to come from a fellow artist who I might’ve expected to be a little more, aware, I guess. Aware of how we might feel when certain things are said to us in a certain way at certain times.
Even if it didn’t quite come across that way, to me, at the time, the person was just giving some friendly advice. But I guess that’s my own fault for even expecting.
But that’s beyond the scope of this post, now, I should think ^^ Anyway, if you’d like to talk to someone who might be expected to understand about artists and sensitivity, and artists with sensitivity XD (and who promises not to lash out at you ^^; but to just listen), I’m here for you.
* Interested in any of my pieces in this post? ^_^;
Drop me a line to let me know
and I'll let you know if it's still available,
or how soon I can make something similar just for you.