STAYING TRUE TO YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST + INTROVERT

in this op-ed, artist and designer, keyonna butler, explores the lifestyles and perspectives of sociable artists who are also introverts. keyonna is the owner of the stellar design brand.

It’s a Friday night and you were invited to attend an art show. It’s a great way to network, meet fellow artists and maybe even get an opportunity to showcase your own work. You are ready to go mix and mingle but then all of a sudden you think of all of the reasons not to go. It will be crowded, loud and you simply hate networking. Just the thought of being around so many different people all at the same time drains you... And at that very moment, you decide to stay home to work on some new projects instead.

If this has ever happened to you, then you can most likely relate to being an introvert. An introvert can be described as a person who is energized by spending time alone. Contrary to popular belief, introverts aren’t necessarily "shy," but they would rather spend more time being by themselves than being surrounded by others. 

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As an introvert myself I know how it feels to want to spend time alone with my sketchbook and my IPad. It can be a bit draining to be around people with the pressure to mingle, network and even promote your brand as an artist.

At this point, you may be wondering: how can one be an introvert and an artist? Well, it can be a nerve-wracking experience... Especially with the pressure of needing to find ways to speak about your work and share a part of you that's so comfortable living behind closed doors, with the outside world.

We've all seen the Instagram posts of creatives out and about, showcasing their work at events, partying with influencers and being the life of the party... So one would find it hard to believe that creatives in this field of work could be introverts and still achieve success. But, it's possible.

While it is true that creatives have a tendency to be very sociable; always out on the scene and making new connections... It is also true that many artists have the same traits as introverts. Both artists and introverts think deeply, work alone with creative projects, embody self-motivation and are sensitive to the world around them. As artists, we have these traits not just because it's who we are as people but because it also makes us better artists. Having time to ourselves without the distraction of a crowded room full of people helps our ideas flow better and help get things done. Plus, with social media outlets such as Instagram and Facebook, it's become easier to promote and connect without the feeling of being too overwhelmed by public settings.

To explore more on my ideas about introverted creatives, I went to social media to get the opinions of my fellow artists to hear their thoughts. I posed the questions: Does being an introvert affect your brand as an artist? Does social media act as more of a problem or a solution to this?

One artist/photographer responded, ”For me, social media is the only reason that I have any people who see or like my work. I am terrible at introducing myself to people and just generally talking about myself. I'm awkward in most social settings... So Instagram and Facebook are the reasons I have any clients or people who want to work with me. Because the work can speak for itself ya know?”

Another artist/fashion designer chimed in by saying, ”If it wasn't for social media no one would see my stuff. I like and hate fashion shows because once I come off stage, I get bombarded by so many people.”

A point that was made from an artist who works in the theatre industry is that social media can be a double edge sword for those who are introverts in the art world: ”Speaking as an artist who is an introvert, social media can be a great tool. Part of being an introvert is not desiring a ton of interaction or social events with people you are unfamiliar with. Social Media allows you to interact with an audience almost instantaneously without actually having to be in their presence physically.” He continues his thoughts by explaining, “The double edge sword is that you can promote an idea, feeling or persona that isn't actually you or how you may feel at any given time. While this is something we all do already as people... Social media makes it easier. Maybe a little too easy in some cases."

Lastly, an artist/writer stated that being an introvert may even be a good thing for an artist in this generation stating, "To be honest, I found that this works in their favor more than it hurts their brand. Many many of the successful people I meet claim to be introverts. Social media makes it even better.”

Now, although it may sound like I’m suggesting that creatives and artists should be loners who only work by themselves, I actually do promote that we as artists go out, collaborate and brainstorm with others. It’s a great way to get creative while also building a network that can definitely help you and your career in the future. This is simply a spotlight on an issue in the artist community that I think needs to be discussed more often. Many people assume that in order to be a successful artist, you must outgoing and sociable. I hear many stories of artists who pretend to be extroverted just so they can be successful. I do agree — it takes more than making great art to be successful in the creative world but one shouldn’t have to change their personality or force themselves in awkward situations in order to advance in their careers. So, before you think you have to live the fabulous life of some of the celebrities you see on TV, just know that anyone from Beyonce’ to your favorite local artist may have the same insecurities or doubts about sharing themselves with the world as you do. It's about growing as a person and as an artist. Most importantly, it’s about being yourself no matter what — that's what will lead you to success.