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Art Reflects Personality

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Poetry is the shadow cast by our streetlight imaginations.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
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When an artist creates their works, they're putting at least a part of themselves into what they create. This can often indicate the artist's overall personality, attitude on life, or their general mindset at the time. Often times, other characters will notice and comment on what they see of the artist in their works. This exchange is not always positive, though, and people may see a lack of some vital part of the artist in their creations, or perhaps that the artist has only created with their head and not their heart. The opinions expressed may or may not make an actual change in the artist, but they'll often be taken to heart and dwelt upon.

Sister Trope to Clothing Reflects Personality, when you can read a person just by what they wear.

Compare Author Appeal, Author Phobia and Reality Subtext for specific ways in which the creator channels themselves through their work, and True Art Is Angsty and True Art Is Incomprehensible for general thoughts on the content of art.

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Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • In Nijigahara Holograph, at the start of ch. 4 Maki is chided by her college art teacher, who calls her work "nothing but technical skill" and boring, wishing to see her emotion and passion. She sulls up over this, but as the story goes on the teacher's comments prove to be on point as Maki is shown to be possessive, manipulative, and seemingly incapable of genuine love.
  • In a Kyouya-focused episode of Ouran High School Host Club, we see pieces of a flashback of him creating a painting within a frame that is already hanging on the wall, symbolizing how his personal growth is always confined by the framework of his family's wealth and tradition. Towards the end of the episode, when it is revealed that Kyouya pulled off a scheme to essentially take over his entire family's estate (over the heads of his father and several older brothers), we also see how that painting ended up: at some point, he went over the frame and started painting on the blank white wall behind it, creating a massive artwork of which the frame was only a small part.
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  • Isuzu Hana from Girls und Panzer is being groomed by her austere mother in flower arranging. Lady Isuzu is disappointed that Hana's efforts so far have been uninspired and plebeian, with Hana herself having to apologize for her less-than-excellent arrangements. Matters seem to worsen when Hana's mother learns Hana has joined the school's tankery team. However, the excitement of competing in tankery leads to Hana creating a prize-winning entry in a floral competition, which also wins the admiration of Hana's mother.

Film

  • Sudden Impact has Detective Callahan visit a waterfront town where a multiple homicide suspect has set up shop as an art studio. Callahan takes one look at the bleak, haunting, almost chiaroscuro images, and sees a woman with demons in her soul: she's taking grisly revenge on being raped as a teenager by some town ne'er-do-wells.
  • In Brightburn, as Brandon begins to deteriorate into an Ax-Crazy Creepy Child, he starts drawing sinister pictures of himself as a demonic being and other disturbing images.

Literature

  • In Path of the Warrior, Korlandril is insulted when his friend Aradryan isn't impressed by his most recent sculpture, and cuttingly remarks that Aradryan's comments show he doesn't know what he's talking about. Aradryan replies that the work is self-indulgent and that it is more about Korlandril's skill and technique than anything, and begs him to leave the craftworld and take up the Path of the Outcast so he can grow beyond his current confines. Korlandril dwells on this, and the upheaval it causes in him eventually causes him to abandon the Path of the Artist and seek the Path of the Warrior, where he eventually becomes an Exarch of the Striking Scorpions.
  • In The Thrawn Trilogy, Thrawn has an amazing gift for gleaning information about other cultures and species from their artwork, especially psychological blind spots and other similar flaws, and will tailor his battle strategies and tactics to take advantage of those weaknesses.
  • The Naked Sun: The humans of Solaria live alone on isolated estates and abhor all physical contact; art exists, but only as abstract three-dimensional "light sculptures". An Earthling sees this as a sign of their Fatal Flaw: in a Post-Scarcity Economy deprived of human contact, their intellectual and artistic pursuits are all superficial, since they have little reason to do anything at all.

Live-Action TV

  • Subverted in one episode of House, where the main characters are trying to work out what's wrong with a teenage patient and discover a very dark poem in their room. When they confront them with it and suggest they may be dealing with mental health issues, the teenager scoffs, revealing that they had just been told to make a poem in the style of Sylvia Plath for English class.
  • Invoked in Spaced, when tortured artist Brian says that he uses his art to depict "anger, pain, fear, and aggression". Later on in the series, when he has a girlfriend and his life seems to be going quite well, he finds himself unable to produce any artistic work.
  • In Good Luck Charlie, Amy has been taking art classes in her private time and asks her family to critique a painting she had made. They aren't sure what the painting is depicting and make way off guesses about what it is (mostly pertaining to what they like), much to her frustration. It's a banana. Amy is frustrated because this means her family's oblivious and inconsiderate of how much work she puts into taking care of them.

Print Media

  • In issue 69 of Sinclair User, a competition to win five copies of a Yogi Bear game was introduced with a joke article showing bears supposedly drawn by the staff writers and what these implied about the writers' personalities.
    This person is obviously suffering from a serious identity crisis. When asked to draw a bear, he draws what can only be described as a rather mankey cat. Perhaps there is some devastating personal trauma in this person's life - trouble with roofing materials or a lost biro seems likely.

Tabletop Games

Visual Novels

  • Rin of Katawa Shoujo struggles with expressing herself, and tries to do so through her art. It's abstract and strange, though, and to her disappointment nobody really ever manages to understand her through it the way she wants.

Webcomics

  • Tripping Over You: While Liam is struggling with being closeted and hiding most of his life from his strict, emotionally cold father, he starts writing gory horror stories about a hunted Author Avatar. Zig-zagged after things improve for him: he admits that he'd started it just to shock his therapist, but came to genuinely enjoy writing, and is excited to get published.

Western Animation

  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Squidward often paints pictures of himself, showing that it's all about him.
    • In one episode, when a curator visits his art class to see what pieces have been made, he dismisses all of them because they're all focused on Squidward ("I call this one, 'Bold and Brash'." "More like 'Belongs in the trash!'"), except for a Greek statue that SpongeBob made. Meanwhile, SpongeBob had been creating perfect pieces of art with little to no effort and he only joined for fun, whereas Squidward wanted people to look up to him as well as hoping to get rich and famous off of it. When SpongeBob starts taking Squidward's advice, he fails to recreate his success and makes terrible pieces of art. At the end, Squidward throws a tantrum and accidentally makes a beautiful statue without realizing it. The Aesop of the story is do your hobbies out of fun and passion, not because you want to get rich and famous.
    • In another episode, Mr. Krabs asks Squidward to make a statue. Squidward has Mr. Krabs pose for his statue and makes it unflattering (spiky and cold) because it reflects how he feels about working at the Krusty Krab (cold, miserable, hopeless). Mr. Krabs isn't pleased, partly because of that and because the statue was supposed to be for children to climb on.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In one early episode, Ezra asks Sabine to paint something in his and Zeb's quarters, so she paints a cartoon-ish picture of them doing something goofy earlier that episode. When Ezra and Zeb express disapproval at being depicted as fools, she simply states that she draws what she sees. This is one of a number of moments through the first half of Season 1 that shows that Sabine doesn't like Ezra until they both have Character Development.
  • Discussed in the Family Guy episode "A Painting Worth a Thousand Bucks", after Peter accidentally discovers that Chris is an incredibly talented artist.
    Chris: It's partially an expression of my teenage angst...but mostly, it's a moo cow!


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