Monday, April 30, 2012

Artists are Introverts! Discuss...

More than three quarters of artists are introverts is the very significant finding of the Making A Mark Poll for April (see Artists - Are you an introvert or an extrovert?)

Chart of responses to Making A Park Poll (April 2012)
Those taking the poll where asked to take Susan Cain's quick quiz first - the Quiet Quiz: Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert?  This helps you to find out whether you tend more towards introversion or extroversion.

Of 138 people who responded to the Poll the results were as follows:
  • 61% are introverts
  • 18% are very introverted
  • 16% are ambiverts (able to relate to both introversion and extroversion)
I know I was fully expecting a strong lean towards introversion but not as much as that!

The number who thought they were extroverts was tiny - just 4% of the total poll.

To give this some context, the percentage of the population at large who are introverts is reckoned to be only 25%.  So a result which says 75%+ of the artists answering the poll are introverts seems to me to be a pretty significant result.

I think that makes Introverts the "In Crowd"!

What is an Introvert?

What are the characteristics of an introverted personality - and how do these relate to being an artist?  Here's my list - maybe you can add to it?

The bonuses of being introverted for artists
  • take pleasure in solitary activities - like painting
  • like working on their own - week after week, month after month, year after year
  • not dependent on the company of others
  • no need to verbalise - able to express their thoughts and feelings through their art
  • much happier with one on one situations (such as when painting a portrait)
  • happy to talk about what interests them
  • capacity for long periods of focused attention (on creating art)
  • motivation and energy comes from an inner world and internal direction
  • usually not interested in following trends - tendency to tread their own path
  • good at reflection - work requires thinking time
  • enjoyment from solving problems and puzzles
  • happy at home or communing with nature
The downside of being an Introverted Artist
  • not very interested in or good at small talk at Private Views (Lucian Freud never went to his own Private Views)
  • marketing (outward facing/people oriented) can seem like a real challenge for some
  • communication with those people who sell your work can be difficult at times
  • introverts don't follow the crowd - they don't even want to part of a crowd!
Would you care to elaborate and add in your own perspective on the characteristics of the Introverted Artist?


  1. There's probably an interesting research study in this Katherine. What's possibly even more interesting is that all the attributes you've listed above in 'bonuses' or 'downsides' of being introverted would also apply to someone with Asperger's Syndrome.

  2. I suggest you read this website re the characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome

    There's a lot more to Aspergers than the characteristics listed above.

    For example, it's very important to differentiate between 'preferences' and 'attributes' eg when it comes to communication. People with Asperger's don't always understand verbal signals and what is being said to them. People who are introverted often prefer to converse in a specific manner - and are unlikely to win awards for being social butterflys!

    1. I should add that I'm not putting down people with Asperger's - just saying that it's not correct to equate people who are introverted as being people with Asperger's and also that there are degrees of Asperger's.

      At the same time some people with Asperger's have found it very helpful to becoming very successful - and some of those are people who are artists and authors. Look at any list of people with Aspergers and you'll see a lot of very famous names!

    2. Apologies, I should have explained, my point was not made as a negative one against people with autism, nor as one against people who are introverts, it was just an observation from someone who has close family members with autism who are artists and highly intellectual, and as I personally am involved in postgraduate research on autism.

    3. Tracy - that's fine. I was just concerned that some people might read the comment the other way round - that all introverts are really people with Aspergers.

      I agree there is some degree of commonality but it is does vary quite a lot.

      I'd be interested to know what the connections between autism and art are - the only one I know is that chap who draws lots of buildings from memory.

  3. As you say Katherine, no surprises there. However is 'usually not interested in following trends - tendency to tread their own path' a downside? An artist who is trendy for a period can quickly become unfashionable. I constantly hear advice that it is better to go down your own path and develop something new and unique.

    I would be interested to see how these results correlate with the art produced. Is a contemporary sculptor more extrovert/introvert than a traditional oil painter?

  4. I missed this poll, but I'll happily weigh in. In person I am extremely introverted. I can relate to Lucian Freud, because I once didn't show up for an art award ceremony at my school and it turned out I had won the top prize. I hate crowds and ceremonies; they're enormously draining. I thought myself unlikely to win, so no one would notice if I didn't go. Turns out I did win and everyone was mad at me.

    Strangely enough, I am quite extroverted online. It's easier to connect with others when I'm not being distracted by my damaged real-life interface. In real life I am very self-conscious and aware that I am being judged for my appearance and facial expressions and body language, but online none of that matters and I am being composed of pure thought - which is marvelously liberating.

    1. i totally agree with this! as a disabled person, online my personality can come through without the trappings of judgement/pity...

  5. Two good points - and I'm now moving the trend one p to "bonuses". You're definitely right about that one!

  6. If it makes any difference, I am a painter and sculptor...currently doing the lesser of my two abilities, painting, because I don't have the materials or inclination to pursue sculpture right now.

  7. I'm not surprised by the results of this poll because it was taken online - the home of introverts.

    Had you taken the poll live at some location where artists hang out you probably would have found many more extroverts and possibly very few introverts - we would have all been at home on the computer :)

  8. Lisa snap! I just came on to write the same thing!

  9. Missed the poll, but would have definitely called myself an introvert, even though most people who encounter me would never know it. Here is an excellent book on the subject:
    It made me come to peace with my childhood and growing up in a mostly extrovert family and understanding myself much better now. My very extroverted partner gave this to me after reading it himself. He now is very good at understanding why events with crowds drain my energy and what I need to recharge it. In short: scientific research on the differences in the brains of extroverts and introverts show that extroverted people get their energy from being around other people and lose engery being alone,while introverts get energized from solitude and reflection while getting easily tired and drained when in crowds. Neither way is better or worse, but introverts definitely are outnumbered in society and have a harder time coping with activities like parties, weddings, crowds, noise, etc.
    It makes us great artists but bad at marketing and sales. I'd be happy as a clam if I would never have to attend another awards ceremony and could just view the art in peace and quiet on my won :)

  10. at first i put down introvert because i like LOTS of solitude to create and would happily be by myself more hours if i could but with having a 9-5 job as a manager and dealing with lots of different people all day...which does drain me completely...i changed my vote to ambivert because i have no problems talking to people, carrying on conversations on many topics. i just prefer lots of alone time when possible.

    i wasn't surprised by the results as i think every artist need lots of alone time to think, create, and just be.


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