Why are artists always portrayed as eccentrics? Are people drawn to the archetype of the crazy artist – sensitive, touched, otherwise unhinged – by the flamboyance of some, or is there a more mundane reason why writers and artists and actors all seem to be painted as odd?
If we accept the premise of introverts and extroverts, that one group flourishes in solitude and the other in company, this explains the artist-as-wacky-eccentric in both ways.
Introverts, being naturally reclusive, are happiest on their own. When an introvert artist has a gallery show, the opening night – all those strangers, begging to tell you how fabulous you are, or asking you about the inspiration for this piece, or that title – must be fraught with tension. Crowds unsettle this artist. They were nervous to start with, and the addition of the acclaim or otherwise of other people reacting to their art is hard enough. So the artist becomes nervous, fractious, voluble, effusive, burbling, anything, just please-let-me-back-into-the-studio behaviour.
Extroverts, on the other hand, are happiest surrounded by people. The extrovert artist struggles to lock themselves away in a room or studio to create their body of work. When they hold a gallery opening, the same trepidation of will-they-like-it is there, but it’s overwhelmed by the extravert’s natural eagerness to talk to people. Crowds fascinate this artist. They’re nervous, of course, but they engage with others, are encouraged to enter into expansive gestures, flamboyant, thank-the-gods-I-finally-get-out-the-studio behaviour.