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Artist stereotypes: which one are you?

28 October 2020

6 mins

Written and illustrated by Gemma Shrimpton

Stereotypes… Some may say that we all fit into one or another, others would argue that they are limiting. Artists have been categorised for centuries: the poor, the visionary, the tortured, the self-indulgent artist. In recent years, the difference between the students and their chosen degree has become increasingly noticeable. You can almost always spot an artist amongst other students.

I have observed artists coming and going from Loughborough University and, now that I am in my final year, I have to confess that we are an eclectic bunch. I remember the volunteers showing me around the art studios on an open day. One student had their hair in Sailor Moon buns and bright pink makeup, whilst another had baggy jeans covered in earth-toned paints. Two incredibly talented artists, two very different styles both artistically and aesthetically.

You could say our clothing choices often correlate with what artwork we produce or how we are feeling that day. One day I could walk in wearing a pristine, monochrome outfit, only to walk in the next in an oversized, neon, yellow jumper and joggers. Now, this brings me to the first stereotype I want to mention: the confused artist – often anxious with a hint of existential dread. Art evolves with the artist, and trying out new styles is a key part of experimentation. However, the confused artist frequently doesn’t know quite where to begin. Eventually, they’ll find a theme or an aesthetic but before they do, they will constantly look to friends around them to see what they are creating.

Older or more seasoned artists usually comfort the confused students. Often branded as the “mum of the course”. Their friendly aura and comforting fountain of knowledge alleviates stress… That is until they reminded you of a deadline you had forgotten about the night before it was due. These art students have taken gap years, done an art foundation course, or simply decided to do a degree later in life. Therefore, they know what to focus on and when. As lifesavers to other students, they often get asked far, far too many questions. Questions that were answered in the lecture that morning.

There is a fine line between the environmentally conscious and cottage core artist. ‘Cottage core’ refers to a romanticised agricultural aesthetic. Whilst environmentally conscious artists protest the change in fossil fuel usage, cottage core art students will be making an effort to use as few unnatural products as possible. One wears bright, layered patterns whilst the other wears neutral tones and organic cotton. They either fight for sustainable change or relish in the natural world we have left. These two artists generate elaborate pieces, which display the beauty of the natural world and sad realities of climate change. From an outside perspective, these two types of students can be better identified as “hippy artists”.

You will always find an artist who looks like they’ve been dunked in a pot of paint. The messy artist is expressive, and their workplace truly encapsulates this. At the start of the year, you’ll see them attempt to wear different clothing each day, only for streaks of paint to appear. As the year goes on, they will settle for one outfit to wear on “painting days”… In theory, this should work, however, paint still finds its way either onto their other clothes, shoes or their face. In time, the messy artist will learn that being covered in paint is unavoidable.

As we are all well aware, Loughborough University is home to incredible athletes and known for its sports teams. The AU art student is a force not to be reckoned with. Usually in their club’s stash, the AU artists chatter together in a blinding, bubble of purple as they debate how well their team-mates played last Wednesday. Honestly, are you from Loughborough University if you don’t own something purple? Perhaps slightly competitive, many AU artists thrive on going big or going home. They usually have the largest art pieces in critiques. Juggling their studies and sports is challenging but they all seem to have created a wonderful Loughborough family.

The complete opposite of the last stereotype is the hermit artist. There are several avenues for this generalisation to manifest. Firstly, I’d like to mention the gothic fine artist. Their art consists of multiple layers of black and heaps of dark symbolism. You will never find them without their earphones in and they always sculk off when tutors turn the corner. The second brand of hermit artist is ‘the geek’. Whether they love Star Wars or anime, the geeks are pros with technology. Their workspaces are either filled with elaborate line drawings or a laptop and Wacom Tablet. Quietly producing beautiful artworks that display their incredible imaginations.

Finally, I would like to mention the most mysterious stereotype of them all: the artist who never shows up. Many of us aren’t particularly skilled at timekeeping, but the art student who never shows up will forever remain an enigma. The only time you will see them is when they dive quickly in and out of the studios to put up their final pieces. The lecturers will ask where they are, only for everyone to turn their heads, shrug and wonder who is attached to that name. It’s always lovely bumping into that artist, they constantly have several ideas on the go, but you won’t learn about them until the final exhibition.

Stereotypes are odd, and not one person will fit into a particular category. Every artist is unique and brilliant. I am looking forward to this year’s new talent and final degree show. I would like to leave you with one question: which stereotype do you most identify with, if any?

Gemma Shrimpton is a 21-year-old digital artist. Her work centres around feminist theories and how women are presented within social media. Celebrating the female form, Gemma aims to counter stereotypes within her studio practice. Contrasting to this, her commercial work focuses on a unique aesthetic that is playful and vibrant. You can check out Gemma’s commercial work by following her Instagram page at “gemma.shrimpton”.

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