The Artist’s Persona

Persona and Personality

The delicious potential of creating a new version of yourself- perfectly constructed and optimized to deal with the task at hand- this is the magic of persona development.

A persona, in this context, is the public facing personality that you choose to develop along with your creative work. Yes, it is a facet of your gestalt self, but it is a clarified facet that has the strength and skills to share your work. It does not have all the insecurities that follow you around through an average day.

And the brilliance of this charade is- you do not need to maintain the persona 100% of the time.  It can be like a jacket that you put on for going outside in the snow.  It protects you.

When I was in art school I took a class on performance art.  Not the performative arts, mind you, like dance and theater. Performance art, that odd and ugly duckling sister of fine art.

For one project in the class, we were asked to develop a persona.  This persona needed to have a way of talking, moving, dressing, and interacting with the world.  It is an opportunity to explore a hidden or neglected aspect of your complete self.  It can be quite therapeutic to realize how constructed our outer facade is.

I am also reminded of reading a fictional story of a spy, living under cover in another culture.  The steps required to become “invisible”- to disappear into the fabric of the society, are an example of the power of persona development.  The spy, a woman in her mid thirties, identified a few sample women of the target culture she wanted to embody.  She purchased clothes and makeup that matched their style.  She did her hair the same way.  She ordered the same types of food and beverages, imitated their body language and habits, until all these tricks became second nature.

Much like that, if one is going to be in a foreign country for a period of time and wishes to blend in a little, it is useful to arrive with an empty suitcase and purchase clothing and a haircut after arrival.  By skimming off and replacing that outer surface of the public face, we relax into to the mode and pace of a foreign culture just that much more easily.

Likewise, we can use these techniques proactively to create a structure for embodying and enhancing our creative-work persona.  The persona becomes something we use to interact with the art world, and it becomes a habit that helps us get into flow state.

Costume & Wardrobe

For example: when I work in the studio, I prefer to wear dresses and skirts.  It doesn’t make sense, of course, to wear some of my nicest clothing while working with paint or clay, but feeling my body clothed in certain types of apparel helps with creative flow.  My art work is very much related to femininity, and so there is some logic behind the effectiveness of wearing more classically feminine clothing.

Food & Drink

My art-making persona drinks sweet Middle-Eastern tea out of little glass cups, poured out of a silver teapot.  Or, she drinks pale green tea from Japan, from a ceramic teapot. Studio work, for me, must be accompanied by tea in little cups, and small plates of cookies.

Taste & Preferences

Likewise, my working artist persona listens to specific types of music for specific modes of making. There’s a perfume I’ve associated to studio work (Patchouli by Le Labo), and an incense (Sandalwood), and a style of writing. I have a specific writing approach I use in publicly describing my work.  I chose never to analyze my own work in writing, but rather to describe it objectively and pragmatically.

 

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