Seven Incarnations of the Artist

The following was a passage I found in reading Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves and it really had me thinking. It's a mind wrap of a story (well actually two tales wrapped in one) and you can find out more about at

I'll give you more after the passage.


“There are seven incarnations (and six correlates) necessary to becoming an Artist:
1. Explorer (Courage)
2. Surveyor (Vision)
3. Miner (Strength)
4. Refiner (Patience)
5. Designer (Intelligence)
6. Maker (Experience)
7. Artist

First, you must leave the safety of your home and go into the dangers of the world, whether to an actual territory or some unexamined aspect of the psyche. This is what is meant by ‘Explorer’.

Next, you must have the vision to recognize your destination once you arrive there. Note that a destination may sometimes also be the journey. This is what is meant by ‘Surveyor’.

Third, yo must be strong enough to dig up facts, follow veins of history, unearth telling details. This is what is meant by ‘Miner’.

Fourth, you must have the patience to winnow and process your material into something rare. This may take months or even years. And this is what is meant by ‘Refiner’.

Fifth, you must use your intellect to conceive of your material as something meaning more than its origins. This is what is meant by ‘Designer’.

Six, you must fashion a work independent of everything that has gone before it including yourself. This is accomplished through experience and is what is meant by ‘Maker’. At this stage, the work is acceptable. You will be fortunate to have progressed so far. It is unlikely, however, that you will go any farther. Most do not.

But let us assume you are exceptional. Let us assume you are rare. What then does it mean to reach the final incarnation? only this: at every stage, from 1 thru 6, you will risk more, see more, gather more, process more, fashion more, consider more, love more, suffer more, imagine more and in the end know why less means more and leave what doesn’t and keep what implies and create what matters. This is what is meant by ‘Artist’.”

(Source: Danielewski, M. Z. (2000): House of Leaves. - Pantheon Books, New York, p. 420)


Again, this passage got my brain stirring. I get a lot of ideas for things which I usually jot down in a notebook. I take these ideas and write stories, screenplays, poems. Also I take a lot of pictures and when doing so frame objects up in a certain way. I have an urge to let of my creaive nature out that constantly battles with my need for organization and set rules. This can be frustrating as I try to form my abstract and surreal thoughts into a realism point of view.

That's not my point. What I think is more interesting about the passage is how it seperates novices, amatuers, and professional artists. The novice's only follow one or two of these steps. The amatuers follow a few more. But the professional completes all seven step. That is why they are a true artist.

This certainly doesn't mean that an artist can be successful until you reached the seventh level. Many artist have received fame and fortune with ever reaching the "Artist" level.

Of course this is just my take on the passage. Each person will find that it means something a little different to them. And I put myself somewhere between novice and amatuer.

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