~a guest post by Maxxe at Memories on a Page~
I’ve always really enjoyed art, but up until the past couple of years, I’ve never felt entirely comfortable identifying myself as an artist. Other people would tell me that because I enjoyed writing short stories, or ceramics classes, or because I was a theater kid for several years, I was an artist. And I never believed them.
Part of that was because I didn’t honestly think that what I was doing counted as art. To me, it was acting, or making bowls, or writing. And I always thought of myself as an amateur. There was always a feeling of ‘well, when I grow up, I want to be an artist. Maybe.’ Always a qualifier, always something to separate out a potential future as an artist from my life at that time.
That has changed in the past few years. I can’t identify a specific moment when that shift took place, but I know that it did. In those years, I have:
- Started writing novels seriously, and published one.
- Been employed as an intern at the largest arts center in the Southeast
- Gotten involved in the Atlanta artist community
- Started a blog, and gotten involved in the blogging community
- Stopped worrying about what people think about what I’m doing, and just started
All of these factors—and probably several others that I’m just not considering— have combined to result in a lot of reflection, and decision-making about how I feel when it comes to the work that I do.
I am an artist. There is no question about this. I am an author, and I qualify that as my art. I have some of my visual arts work on a wall at the High Museum of Art. But success isn’t the reason why I started thinking of myself that way. Honestly, the change in self-perception is almost certainly what led to the small successes that I have had. Because in order to get featured anywhere in the art community, you have to put yourself forward. And in order to do that, you have to be able to stand up there and say, “This is who I am. This is what I do.”
It’s not a matter of being good enough—and that’s the mistake I made when I was younger and less experienced. There is no qualifying bar for what it means to be an artist.
It’s a matter of intellectual freedom and expression. It’s a matter of being able to believe that you belong among the giants… only, also, it isn’t.
Because it also matters to be able to admit that you’re not as good as you could be. Because I know that I’m not. I’m a teenager, who still learns something new every day. But that’s the thing: all of the giants, the insanely famous and the absurdly talented? They were all teenagers, too. They were once where I am.
And that’s what gives me the confidence to identify myself as an artist.
Anyone with the guts to call themselves one, is.
Looking back, it seems I also defined the term ‘artist’ as a career—and I’ve been learning lately that that’s an absolute untruth. Yes, it’s a great and wonderful thing for those people who can support themselves by doing what they love, creating art. But not everyone can—and those people have careers made up of non-art… and they are still artists. It’s not about how you create, or what you do. It’s about how you see the world and translate that to your own life.
I say now, with complete confidence, that I am both aspiring and an artist. And there isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not proud to make that statement.