When you have an artistic temperament but are not an artist you will find yourself lying on your back in drama class unable to visualize your abdomen as a ball of yellow. You will try very hard to follow your drama teacher’s soft voice, to imagine yourself on a beach, or somewhere less cliché, and observe the way that it makes you feel. The truth is it doesn’t make you feel anything. And you will realize early on that you are incapable of feeling whatever it is that you’re supposed to be feeling when you’re acting; that whatever inner piping actors have that allows them to translate visualizing yellow balls and imagining sand between their toes to a Chekhov character, either doesn’t exist for you, or is so blocked that it is basically useless.
When you have an artist’s mentality but are not an artist you will meet a boy on the street who will show you a picture of a girl’s messy hair. You’ll say something like “I love how it’s an octopus!” and he’ll say something like “I love how you’re an artist!” You will keep meeting this boy in various forms. Sometimes it’ll be a colleague who pulls you aside at the company Christmas party to tell you that she too loves arts and crafts, apropos of nothing. Sometimes it’ll be your old drama teacher who you go to visit when you decide you’re going to be in a band. She will hug you and say “I always knew you were a vocalist!” beaming and fully unaware that you don’t actually have the stuff to write songs.
Your friends will write plays and get articles published almost matter-of-factly. You will tacitly be expected to do the same. When you look for work, people will throw out suggestions like, “Why don’t you make a graphic novel?” or, “Why don’t you write a one woman show?” Nobody will ever suggest that you become a bank teller or be responsible for the lives of small children.
When you have an artist’s temperament, you will naturally gravitate towards real artists and seek out their company, hoping that you will maybe be able to absorb their talent through osmosis. You will feel that you have the capacity to understand them in a profound way. Maybe a more profound way than anyone has ever understood them before. Because you very badly want your (imaginary) cosmic connection to be true, you will take the smallest gestures as proof of its existence. In this way, you will mistake perfunctory tolerance for attraction, mutual boredom for friendship, sex for intimacy, etc. Etc. At this point you may well imagine yourself to be an artist as well. You will harbor this delusion for as long as it takes to try to sneak backstage at a show and be reminded by the venue staff that backstage areas are “for artists only” …because they don’t know how good friends you are.
Afterwards, you may discover that you paint well enough for people to ask you where/how you learned to do it. But you can only paint from photographs. You can imitate and recreate, you can mimic approximately, but you can’t create. You can’t bring anything new into existence born out of your imagination.
At some point, when you have an artistic temperament but are not an artist, you are going to get very frustrated and angry and maybe violent. You are going to run into walls and set things on fire trying to get your pipes unclogged. You’re going to hurt yourself, physically, emotionally, psychologically and on purpose. You will go out and instinctively find people and situations you know are capable of hurting you to see how much you can take, you will want to know the exact measurements of your tolerance levels. You will become disaster-prone and hard to take in large doses.
Eventually you will realize that you are not an artist because you can turn a phrase, or weave a metaphor or recognize composition. It takes so much more than that. Nor do you become one by geography or proxy. Curating fascinating friends won’t cut it, neither will amassing interesting tattoos. However, if you amass enough of either you will eventually become interesting to look at and may consider a career as a found art object. Photographers will wish to photograph you as they tend to do with interesting to look at things. In this case, you might get asked about your opinions on art, which, unfortunately, will not be very original or interesting.