Cultivating a creative identity is something that puts off artists, or at least the three that I asked about their creative identities. I believe that artists all agree that they have something of a creative identity. This is essentially the same as a brand, and I suppose we all have it to some degree. Our creative identities are often linked to our appearances by accident. For instance I have a dear friend who is an artist living between two worlds. She looks like she travels with textiles and jewelry from around the world and her art also is influenced greatly by location. I venture to say that this was in no way an intentional choice, but something that has happened gradually over time. Another artist I know well is very conceptual and a performance artist. She is always wearing clothes that look as though they are part of a performance, her hair looks like she took an ancient sword and sliced at it in the dark. She looks the part of a performance artist, not a traditional Western landscape painter.
While these two examples show a bit about the external identity of the creative artist. I think both of the artists I mentioned would not necessarily see themselves in such narrow terms, because they are so much more than that. However, their appearances are an unintentional signal to their patrons about the art that they create. While that sort of branding is quite basic it is powerful. It is like a doorway into their world. You get a whole lot more as you enter into that discussion. You can learn about their beliefs, what they are trying to say or not say with their art, what their influences are, where they are headed.
I know another artist who knows his brand and is working it hard. He is possibly the most successful artist that I know and it may be in part to his self-awareness. He knows what he wants and how it is reflected in his work, look, life. I have been trying to identify those clues that I am giving off to my own patrons in how I present myself, not physically so much as the whole picture. What is my creative identity? How do others see the work I create as part of the whole?
Does it matter? Well, I think that it probably does matter. There was a time when I rebelled against this notion, that was also a time when I sold no art. I think that self-awareness in an artist is often very important. I mean I certainly do not want to collect art from an artist who has no clue who they are or where they are headed. So as an artist I know that I have direction, but I am not sure that I am clearly communicating that direction. Ultimately it will be a gradually changing progression as I move deeper into a self-actualized artist.