The Shadow Artist

Do you suppress your creative urges by surrounding yourself with 'official' artists?

If find yourself married or related to artists while your own artistic life withers, you may be a Shadow Artist—a secretly talented person in the proximity of people who have been crowned “creative.”


Julia Cameron's audiotape series "Reflections on the Artist's Way" is available from Sounds True, PO Box 8010/Dept. BP98, Boulder, CO 80306-8010.

Excerpted with permission from the Sounds True Audio Collection "In Their Own Words"

Text of the audioclip: I have been a writer since I was a little kid. I grew up in a big yellow house out in the country with seven siblings--there were seven including myself--and it was a situation that some of you may find familiar, which is that when one kid comes along and is pretty good at the piano, when the second kid comes along--the piano is already taken.


Do any of you have an "officially" creative sibling? Well, then you grew up with a very intimate version of something I call being a "shadow artist." Shadow artist is a phrase that I invented to explain the fact that very often people who are extremely gifted will put themselves in the proximity of other people who are officially more gifted. And I want to be clear that they are only officially more gifted. Very often a shadow artist is the person who does the work at the office (you can feel free to just groan or weep if this strikes any chords with you), or someone who maybe dates a person or marries a person who is pursuing the desired art form. I don’t know if any of you know men who complain bitterly about their bad luck with actress after actress, and you say, "Well, why don't you stop dating actresses," and what you really need to say is, "Why don't you take an acting class?"

Many of us grew up in homes where art was something around the edges, creativity was very nice, but not necessarily something that someone from my background might aspire to. So there is a lot of undoing to be done as we begin to move toward dreams that we have been fairly systematically ignoring, distancing, grimly admitting, but beating ourselves up about.

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Julia Cameron
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