The Artist is the main character and protagonist of the game Layers of Fear. At the beginning of the game not much is known about him except that he is obsessed with finishing a painting of perfect quality, his magnum opus. This obsession has cost him his marriage, his child, and even his sanity. His fate depends on what ending the player obtains.
Judging by several newspaper articles and artifacts encountered in game, the artist seems to have been alive during the early and mid-20th century. Judging by several war medals throughout his home, he was a former veteran who lost his leg in battle. He walks with a limp due to an ill-fitting prosthetic, and uses a cane to assist him. His injuries did not affect his work, and he became known as a talented artist throughout the world. His style is inspired by European art from the 1600s to the mid-1800s. He was prolific, creating extensive reproductions of European artwork shown throughout his home as well as his own original paintings. As his career rose he met his wife, a musician and singer, and married her.
The artist and his wife were deeply in love, and inspired each other in their work. The artist was inspired to paint while his wife was inspired to write music. She even became his model for several of his works. The artist and his wife moved into a large home together, which had plenty of room as well as an elevator to assist the artist in moving about his house. His wife eventually became pregnant, and gave birth to a daughter.
The artist's life would fall apart after a fire in a public exhibition left his wife with severe burns. He became horrified at her burnt appearance, and couldn't bear the sight of her. Subsequent plastic surgery seemed to have taken away the majority of her scars, but still left a large mark on her face. Even after her visits with her doctors she would suffer from stiffness, pain, twitching, and irritability. The artist took care of her but after a time he began to ignore her cries for help or relief from her pain. He threw himself into his work, but found that he could not recapture the gift he once had, instead finding that he could only paint macabre and twisted art. Spurned by the critics who once adored him, the artist found himself largely out of work. Patrons who commissioned his work would only be given depressing art that reflected his mood. He turned to alcohol to ease his emotional pain, which drove him away from his wife and child. He also began to emotionally abuse his child, believing that she should be focusing on perfecting her art rather than playing with toys. He constantly critiqued his daughter's work, and would destroy or alter the work as both example and punishment.
It is during this mental decline that he began hallucinating various phenomena around his home. He believes that rats are moving through the walls and floors of his home, even when exterminators cannot find any evidence of an infestation. He also believes that these rats can transform into a variety of monsters and can even impersonate human beings, all in an attempt to ruin his life. The artist also begins to write messages to himself as his own wife, believing that his wife wishes to harm him, perhaps even kill him. He also hallucinates his wife as a disfigured monster roaming the halls of his home, and thus locks himself away in his studio. The dog that he had purchased for his child, he neglects and abuses, possibly even killing it. His wife cannot cope with her formerly loving husband's hostility and kills herself in their bathtub. Sometime later, his child is removed from his care and is placed in a foster home. The house that the artist and his family once enjoyed together began to fall into ruin due to neglect and his obsession with wiping out the rats that haunted him.
Devastated by his wife's death and his child's departure, he begins to obsess over creating his magnum opus, his greatest work that would bring back his gift and the family that life took away from him.
Before his breakdown, the artist was a calm and caring person but at times could be overbearing. According to his daughter, he only wanted to have a child in order to have a successor. His focus on perfection, combined with his wife's unfortunate accident, led him to a severe mental decline. He appears to suffer from multiple mental illnesses, including major depression, obsessive compulsion disorder (OCD), and schizophrenia. His self-medication with alcohol has only led to alcoholism and violent mood-swings. By the beginning of Layers of Fear, the artist is consumed by his goal of finishing his magnum opus as atonement.