Do You Fit the Artist Stereotype?

By Carolyn Edlund

Flakey, snobby, dark and brooding. Do these stereotypes make any sense?


Flekey Artist

Artwork courtesy Edie Everette


I got a huge kick out of the article “Who Art Thou? Artist Stereotypes” by Alexandra Gjurasic on Pyragraph and recommend it as a “must-read” if you suspect you may fit a stereotype or know others who do.

The most prevalent stereotype is that artists are “flakey” which is defined by the Urban Dictionary as:

An unreliable person. A procrastinator. A careless or lazy person. Dishonest and doesn’t keep to their word. They’ll tell you they’re going to do one thing, and never do it. They’ll tell you that they’ll meet you somewhere, and show up an hour late or don’t show up at all.

Hmmm … well, there are plenty of flakey people out there, although they certainly aren’t all artists.

Still, there seems to be a general consensus even in the art community that many artists are a little “out there.” Recently I spoke to a gallery owner who said, “You know, working with artists is like herding cats.”

Would you agree?

Do you dress in a stereotypical artist fashion when meeting your audience? (I’ll admit that back in the day I would wear hand painted clothing and handmade jewelry at art shows myself, not only because it was fun, but because it was “expected” by the attendees. A business suit certainly wouldn’t have cut it.)

What about the “crazy artist” stereotype?  An artist I know recently referred to the “woo-woo” community and assured me there were plenty of other artists in it.

Do you “woo-woo?”

Regardless of whether you admit to a little flakiness, or are a hardcore business person who is totally responsible, do you feel stereotyped?



  1. I think Alexandra did a great job nailing just about every artist type out there and I liked her descriptions with how she tells them to deal with the “condition,” Very clever and funny!!

    There will always be artists who are flakey, snobby, lazy or who possess the tortured soul, poor-starving-artist mentality, but I can tell you I won’t associate or have them in my circle of artist friends. I strive to surround myself with talented, highly skilled and intelligent artists who are driven to succeed and who are very professional in their dealings with others. The gallery owners, designers and art consultants I know don’t have time or patience to deal with these folks either — they don’t need to since there’s a LOT of talented business-minded art professionals out there who are reliable and easy to work with.

    There will always be artists who continue to perpetuate the “flakey artist” persona and mentality, and I hope with time, this perception disappears and becomes an interesting chapter in an art history book about artists then and now.

    • JJ, Thanks for commenting.

      I think you are really smart to keep your inner circle filled with artists who are professional in their approach. There are flakes in every walk of life, and they can be huge time wasters!

  2. I feel like I do fit the stereotype but I don’t.

    I love flowy (almost hippie like) clothing at times and maybe some people would call my outlook on life a little woo-woo but I am responsible, reliable, and dedicated to my work whether it’s my day job in the accounting field or my artistic passions.

    I like to say I’m a dreamer with her head turned towards the clouds but my feet firmly planted on the ground.

  3. Flaky is not a word that would ever be attached to me. Maybe because of my mid-west roots or because i’m a Taurus but in going to a lot of art shows…i would say there are a lot of artists that are characters…not necessarily flakes tho! I think all the arts: musicians, actors, poets attracts people who are not willing to conform to society’s rules…and i love that!

  4. I must admit I became more artsy in the way I dressed after my first TV Interview about my art.
    The reporter commented,”You look more like a PTA President than an artist.”
    So now I wear clothes with a flair and I have fun choosing artsy attire, but I would not call myself Flakey.

  5. What fun it was to read Alexandra Gjurasic! Being from Maui, I see an attitude that ebbs and flows and flickers with a trend towards “what will be will be” in ALL facets of life here. So…artists who are “flaky” are also excused for being on “island time”. So the have two reasons to not bother replying to an email!

    Being a mentor and teaching and coaching within my community, I separate the wheat from the chaff all the time. Happily, I have seen people move into more responsible “business” roles as they learn that being elusive (or “woo woo” or “flaky”) in an already elusive and mostly laid-back location can deeply stunt their income.

    We in Hawaii must work much harder to make a living and we have a much higher cost of living on top of that. Flakes need not apply! It takes more work to be successful out here in the middle of the pacific ocean. Doubly-hard for self-employed and triple-hard for artists.

    Great subject matter as usual Carolyn!

  6. I worked in the graphic design industry for over thirty years and have come back to my roots in fine art. In both professions I have seen stereotyping of “artistic temperament” both put on people and in people’s natural behaviour.
    In an office environment it is less tolerated as deadlines and profit as well as representing the company you work for are a concern. This does not means that “flakey” behaviour doesn’t happen, as I have had to supervise people who made to workflow of the department a nightmare.
    As an art student in tertiary education I also see it is some of the students who continually miss deadlines for assessment tasks, are late for classes, and who can not produce a body of work for end of year. Some turn up to class looking like they just fell out of bed.
    I dont know if this is supposed to be part of the “temperament” but it looks a lot like disrespect both for themselves and their peers and teachers.
    Eccentric behaviour may be what gets someone noticed or famous (or infamous) but it has to be backed up by something substantial. People and businesses will not put up with unreliable artists or any other professionals for long.
    My business ethic is show up dressed for business, leave the “arty” clothes for the studio if you must wear them. Keep deadlines, keep appointments, act professionally with everyone you deal with, have respect for others and yourself, have honesty and integrity and remember that even as an artist you are a business (if you are selling your creations you are a business not a charity) and should act accordingly.
    The stereotyping of artistic temperament will continue to flourish as long as it is enacted and no one points out that it is not the norm. Just like any other profession, we should all be judged or assessed individually not pigeon holed together.

    • I can totally relate to your experience. Although there are flakey people everywhere, I think the artistic community may have more than it’s share, which contributes to this perception. Recently I heard of an organization that wanted to help artists get loans, but repayment was so haphazard that the bank discontinued the practice.

  7. Estoy encantada de saludarte Carolyn y lectoras-es.
    Nunca tuve necesidad de disfrazarme de nada, soy madre , esposo, artista y represento mi propia vida (obra etc)
    Es muy importante una imagen cuidada y ¨Normal¨creo que el arte es delicado, muy estético y no permite tonterías.
    Reconozco que muchos artista desean ser valorados en la totalidad y creen que encarnar algo especial… para su publico resulta fantástico.
    Mi caso particular, es de respeto y de no interferir con la contemplación de mi obra, así que yo soy delicada en mi aspecto, demostrando que un artista es una PERSONA, un ser HUMANO.
    Un afectuoso abrazo y feliz verano.
    M Gina

  8. http://Pat says

    i believed those tales, too. In part it was easy to accept because some artist I’ve known had emotional problems. Another myth is that planning detracts from the flow of creative energy. Planning skills, we are not born with, but we can learn them. If someone has emotional problems, there’s no shame in seeking guidance. Keep on painting; use your art to visual the strength to seek that guidance.

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