To stereotype the character of the artist, one might think of the words "free-spirit", "imaginative", and a "dreamer", words which are thrown into the same basket when referring to one as "bohemian". This word, bohemian, could define those people coming from the region of Bohemia, the western part of the Czech Republic, but this definition of the word is separate from its artist association, only perhaps being a part of its origin.
Bohemianism illustrates a picture of the free-spirited, non-conformist. Today, one would call someone "bohemian" if they grew their hair long, wore boho-chic clothing, had some kind of a creative pursuit, as a musician, artist, writer, etc, or lived in poverty out of devotion to their craft. You've got variations of this. One doesn't have to be dressed like a hippie to practice the ideology of bohemianism. As well as one wearing the costume of a bohemian, but perhaps, lives untrue to the lifestyle. The role of the bohemian has changed significantly through history, but the fundamental values of bohemianism is well rooted into society.
Where this word links to its regional definition is through the evolution of the "gypsy". In the early 1800s, the French categorized Romani gypsies as bohémian, from the idea that they travelled to France from the Bohemian region. The gypsy fits another image, one leading a nomadic, outsider life, and notable for pickpocketing skills. But how does this life on the streets as a crooked wanderer transform into that of the brimming creative? It was around this time that the artists began to cluster in lower class, gypsy neighbourhoods and the values of both characters began to blend.
One of the most romantic definitions found in the 1932 Dictionaire de l'Academie Francaise depicts a bohemian as "one who lives a vagabond, unregimented life without assured resources, who does not worry about tomorrow".
Poetic as it is, I can't help but be bothered by the hint of arrogance brought about when one classifies another as a bohemian. The role of the artist in society has undergone a great deal of change throughout history - from esteemed patronage to the role of the "starving artist". But often the "starving artist" isn't necessarily a fair enough label. An artist isn't someone who necessarily lives frugally, pay check to pay check, but it's someone who sees their wealth in something else. That something else is a passion. Arguably, some finances are needed to fund one's talent, but there's something beautiful about the purity of an artist's intention.
So the bohemian is: one who lives on their creative ethos. Money isn't always the motive, and as long as they've got their art, there's no worry for tomorrow.