March 14, 2013

Artists & Sensitivity

‘The arts are more dangerous than other occupations, because they require sensitivity to a large extent… If you go too far you can pay a price — you can be too sensitive to live in this world.’

– Terence Ketter of Stanford University

Someone finally put it into words!

I have often felt that I was more sensitive than those around me, more affected by my surroundings and the energy of an environment than your average person. More affected by the aura of people whose space  I share. Even the smallest of things don’t quite seem to skip out of my observation. It makes life beautiful!

They say highly sensitive people are gifted through:

  • – Sensory detail
  • – Identifying nuanaces of meaning
  • – Emotional awareness
  • – Creativity
  • – Empathy

After sometime, I came to the conclusion that it must be a trait common to many artists, because without it how would we create our works of art? At the same time though, I wondered if that gift, that blessing was also a slight curse. There are times when that sensitivity renders itself into internalized conflict. That sensitivity can be too overbearing, too overwhelming, too demanding. And that sensitivity just makes life difficult.

What clear is that once very sensitive people reach adult age, they are generally hard-wired as such; this sensitivity is integral to who they are and how they experience the world and interact with others. Very sensitive people, in general, simply feel things differently, and more strongly.

Studies show that they look at art work and photographs for longer periods of time, and feel more deeply moved by it, and remember more detail of the work. They are also more affected by the moods of others, and often have a better intuitive sense of what others are thinking and feeling… and in extreme cases can feel the feelings of others so strongly that they end up feeling things” for” them.

Does this mean being highly sensitive is always a bad thing? Certainly not. But if you are a very sensitive person, you probably already know that… think of it as a gift.

Very sensitive people, with all of their gifts, need to value their own unique insight and subjective experience. Since they see and experience the world differently and more intensely, their gift can be highly valuable to friends, family, and those out in the world if the very sensitive person values these gifts in themselves.

– Jennifer DeFrancisco, The High and Lows of The Very Sensitive Person, or the “Artistic Temperament”

The key is to embrace this sensitivity with compassion free from judgment of any kind. By then reframing it as a gift, rather than as an obstacle, we allow ourselves permission to be exactly who were are, free from judgement and encumbrances. It’s a balance that one masters over time. I’m positive that other artists and fellow creatives can relate to this struggle. Embrace it and go forth!



  • Katherine April 14, 2013

    I really love this post Vanessa. Sometimes I think this sensitivity is a curse, though, not a blessing. Sometimes I wish I DIDN’T feel everything so keenly and take everything to heart, and think so deeply about everything.

    I’ve also noticed that not all those who make art have that same degree of sensitivity. Many artists consider it a competitive sport, or a way to get attention, and they approach their craft with the goal of making something to appeal to buyers, as quickly as they can produce it.

    Your artwork shows the sensitive artist, one who loves the process of creating and expressing what is inside all of us, and letting others see in a new light. I like the new pieces with the rich colors and how masterfully you shaped the subjects and created the mood with the values. Beautiful!

  • Reply

    I really appreciated this thoughtful and emotional post. This is how I feel much of the time! It is always so nice to know other creative people feel the same way. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Vanessa May 27, 2013

      Thanks Erin! It doesn’t;’ seem to be something that people talk about often or are willing to admit but I think it’s something that can be seen in positive light.

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