February 7, 2021 1 Comment

Are You A Shadow Artist?

There’s a passage within ‘The Artist’s Way’, written by Julia Cameron in which the author discusses a challenge that many artists face. That is the challenge of being a ‘Shadow Artist’.

Shadow Artist’ is a term used to describe creatives who deny themselves of their own creativity. Simply put, they are non-practicing artists. Writer Carl Jung uses the term Shadow to describe aspects of ourselves that we do not fully embrace or acknowledge fully.

In the situation of Shadow Artists, the creative aspect of the individual, a very positive aspect, remains buried, unexpressed, and unacknowledged because its development has not been supported in the past whether due to lack of time, energy, resources, support, etc.

Perhaps, like I did, you feel as though you don’t have the time to support your creative endeavors due to other responsibilities such as family. Perhaps you have been turned off from the possibility of pursuing your creative work because the world sent you such negative messages about the life of artists.

Do aspects of this feel familiar? Are you a Shadow Artist? I most certainly was! As much as I would not have wanted to acknowledge such, there was a point in time when I would have certainly identified as a Shadow Artist.

A Familiar Story

Instead of making my creative work a large aspect of my life, I left it in the shadows. I couldn’t find a way to really integrate it into the totality of who I was. Or maybe it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t… really it was that I just didn’t.

Whilst I’ve always had a strong passion for art, I never studied nor have any ‘formal training’ in fine art. I did take art in high school, but then gravitated towards the sciences as I was always advised that art was merely a ‘hobby’I obtained a degree in Engineering (a field in which I still work today) followed by an MBA.

Years after graduating from university and while managing a new career and motherhood, I picked up my art materials and began creating again but it would still be some time before art truly became a substantial part of my life. I had to learn how to create time (because waiting until I had time wasn’t working!). And while balancing responsibilities I had to continuously remind myself that my art had a place in this world. 

Fast forward to present day, I’ve been exhibiting professionally for over 15 years and am grateful to have been the recipient of numerous awards. My work is published internationally, and I am currently represented in many private collections around the globe.

I say that, not to tell of my accomplishments but instead to share with you that it is possible! We can step out of the shadows and reject all of the reasons why it will never be the right time… Honestly, you’ll ALWAYS have reasons to never start, or to stop. I still have reasons… But when you push past that – oh there’s beauty honey!

Acknowledging The Shadow Artist Within You

In the situation of Shadow Artists, the creative aspect of the individual, a very positive aspect, remains buried, unexpressed, and unacknowledged because its development has not been supported in the past whether due to lack of time, energy, resources, support, etc.

Perhaps, like I did, you feel as though you have the time to support your creative endeavors due to other responsibilities such as family. 

Perhaps you have been turned off from the possibility of pursuing your creative work because the world sent you such negative messages about the life of artists.

Does all of this sound familiar? Are you a Shadow Artist?

So, you’re a Shadow Artist… Now what?

Firstly! It’s ok! – Because that’s not what matters. What matters is what you do next?

Acknowledging The Fear Within You

As a shadow artists, you may have found success in other aspects of life, but you still hear the distant piping of your creative aspirations because the desire and love for it is still there.

And the truth is, the real reason you are putting off your creative work is:

  • Not because you don’t love it
  • Not because you’re too busy
  • Not because you can’t afford it….
  • It’s because you’re scared…

You’re scared of:

  • Critiques
  • Criticism
  • Rejection
  • Comparison
  • Failure
  • Being seen for who you really are
  • Success – yes sometimes we fear that too!

And all rightfully so! None of those feel good do they? Critique and criticism were certainly huge factors for me as well. – The BIG question is whether or not you’re willing to begin the journey of facing those fears and bring them along with on your journey, for the sake of your passion and dreams.

“Very often audacity, not talent, makes one person an artist and another a shadow artist… hiding in the shadows, afraid to step out and expose the dream to the light, fearful that it will disintegrate to the touch.” – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Compassion & Patience

Above all things, the first step to coming out of the shadows, is to grant yourself compassion and patience. Because it’s not easy.

It’s important to remember that the Shadow Artist in us is a scared artist. It is our inner critic and negative beliefs that really play at our heart. So the worst thing we could possibly do is to overwhelm ourselves with unreasonable expectations, demands or perfectionists attitudes. Certainly, that will send us running for the hills.

In her book, Cameron urges: “Remember, your artist is a child. Find and protect that child. Learning to let yourself create is like learning to walk. The artists child must begin by crawling. Baby steps will flow and there will be falls—yecchy first paintings, beginning films that look like unedited home movies, first poems that would shame a greeting card. Typically, the recovering shadow artist will use these early efforts to discourage continued exploration, but you must persist” – Julia Cameron

Here are a few tactics I have used that worked well for me as I began to step out of the shadows.

  • Go gently and slowly – it doesn’t happen overnight
  • Be open to learning and growth – it is a journey
  • Kick perfectionism to the side – it has no place here
  • Accept fear – it will be your companion whether you invite it or not
  • Make it YOURS – it is YOUR journey, YOU don’t have to follow anyone else’s script

Taking the leap to embrace and pursue your passion can feel hella scary! But I guarantee you it will soothe your soul and you’ll be glad that you did in some way shape or form.

Want guidance from someone who has been there before?
Want to begin your journey with support by your side?

Consider the beautiful benefits of coaching as you step out of the shadows!

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