are you an artist?

In the last month I have had this conversation with many people, some of them SAVI artists about whether or not what they do is ART. This is not as unique a problem as you might think, in fact I am pretty sure it is one we all had to face at some time.

When I first graduated from college with my BFA, people I knew started introducing me as their friend the artist, every time this happened I would look around expectantly, an artist where? and then realize they were talking about me. Now of course, technically speaking I was officially qualified to call myself an artist, but I had been the Mum for so long I didn’t really feel as if this new title fit, and if it was right, how did that affect all my other titles, you know, wife, mum, car pool driver? I was AFRAID to admit I was an artist, I was afraid the universe would laugh at me and the other shoe would drop.

I’d love to tell you that there was an easy solution, but in reality other people’s definition of me wore down that fear. Like water rubbing away rock, until eventually I thought, well maybe I am. I do all the things artists do, that is I make stuff, nice aesthetically pleasing stuff (mostly!), I exhibit in art galleries (surely if the art establishment says I am an artist I must be?) and I even teach art at a college. I have a studio, I have art supplies, I make money selling art. But here’s the truth, deep down, I am still not entirely convinced. Some days I look at what I am doing and I say to myself in a harsh and critical tone, that’s not art!  Is t?

I can relate to where you are coming from, and after all what the heck is an artist anyway? So just keep saying it until you too get worn down and start to believe (even just a tiny smidge).

And for further confirmation that you are not alone read this

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About dryadart

An artist struggling to balance art, teaching and family in suburban America. View all posts by dryadart

One response to “are you an artist?

  • Tony

    Deb,
    At the moment I’m still hung up on the term “artist” as it applies to my work in ceramics. I’ve been conditioned to believe that an “artist” is one who creates/conveys an “original expression” of something in his/her respective medium (painting, poem, novel, sculpture, music, etc.). I’m not there yet and don’t know if I’ll ever be. All I can do is continually push myself to produce better quality work, and more of it. The experience feels much like lowering one’s head and looking at the ground while walking against a stiff wind… not quite sure of what’s ahead, but very sure of where I want/need to be… plugging forward and every once in awhile looking up to get a reality check… even if it’s a stick in the eye.

    Years back I invented a 5 pound electronic commo test set for armored crewmen (tankers) helmets which netted me a $2500 pat on the back and the proverbial 15 minutes of fame. It took me two years, a few bucks, and an obsession with a problem. When I sit behind the potter’s wheel I often ask myself why I can’t translate that creativity to my ceramics work… what the hell happened? I feel the same obsessive need to create, but I’m never happy with the results. A feeling much like that when those ordinary folks were drawn to the mountain by the mysterious craving in the movie “Close Encounters”. I haven’t a clue as to why I feel I the need to “create” something original (and that really bothers me). Is that what the “artist’s” experience is all about? Is that what “everybody’s” experience is all about?

    My gut tells me that in the process of becoming an “artist”, every person must at some point go through an “emulation period”, acquiring skills by making things that “noted people” have already created/made or attempted to make. Likewise, I’m guessing there’s also some guilt or self-imposed naivety involved in that process. I’m definitely going through that stage right now; and it’s very frustrating knowing that I’m still “riding the short bus” in terms of “true creativity”… especially in ceramics.

    All I know is that I’m taking a significant risk in time and money trying to find the answers. I don’t want or need fame… recognition scares the hell out of me. I don’t want/need a title… been there, done that. I “do” hope it all comes together some day, allowing the craft/quest to be financially self-sustaining. Should I (should we) really care what title we go by when we strive to create… probably not. A moment of reflection after reading your blog… thanks for the ignition, it’s been awhile.

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