Confession: I call myself an artist, but I feel like a fake every time I say it.
Look at my About page. Read my blog posts. I say “I am an artist” on this blog a lot. But am I?
I have been an artist. I’ve been drawing since I was a little girl. In fact, I was the go-to girl for large-scale cat and dog drawings in the second grade. And let’s be honest: I rock at Pictionary. My friends and family have always thought of me as artistic. I even majored in Studio Art, sent my work to an exhibition in England, created live art at fundraising events and won the art award in college.
Those are mostly past tense though. I have been an artist. Am I now?
I stopped calling myself an artist (or maybe I had never started) when I was a post grad studying Early Modern History. When someone asked, I told them, “I majored in Studio Art” and quickly added, “but I minored in History.” “Interesting background,” they would say.
But now I call myself an artist. I started around the same time that I started calling myself a writer. I think for two reasons:
- If I can call myself a writer maybe I can call myself an artist too. Steven Pressfield told Jeff Goins, “You are a writer when you tell yourself you are. No one else’s opinion matters. Screw them. You are when you say you are.” Same for an artist, right?
- The convenience. I work at an arts organization so when people talk to me about art, the “are you an artist” question almost always pops up. I got tired of saying, “Umm… uhh… sorta… uh… I majored in art…” So I started saying, “Yes, I am an artist.”
And if I’m really, truly honest with myself, I really am an artist right now. I work in our ceramics studio, throwing and glazing pots. I’m always sketching on scratch paper, especially when my mind is about to explode from stress or boredom or exhaustion. And my job has lots of creative aspects including some graphic design and exhibition curating. Even if I’m not painting massive canvases and selling them across the globe, my little artist voice gently shows itself a lot.
I just don’t believe I’m an artist.
Why, after a 25 years of artistic talent and achievement, do I not feel like an artist? Is it a forever battle? Will I always feel like a fake? When will I actually feel like an artist?
What will it take to make me feel like an artist?!
Jeff Goins asked the same thing about writing, and talked about his journey to calling himself a writer. Well. I feel like a writer. I write every day, for work and for fun. Not to mention the years I spent writing essays. History was my college minor and I got my masters in Early Modern History. Paper writing was my business.
Why is it different than art? Maybe it’s not.
I think two factors will play into my belief: one, calling myself an artist, and two, pursuing my art.
I found this artist’s wonderful blog post about the same subject. She says what I suspected: “You have to SAY ‘I’m an artist’ before you can believe it” and “You have to say ‘I’m an artist’ as many times as you’ve been told (and told yourself) you’re not.” That’s a lot.
For her it took a year. I don’t know how long it will take me, but I’ll keep saying it until I believe it.
Let’s be honest though: I can’t just say I’m an artist and have it be true. I have to do something about it too.
I could call myself an artist all day every day and not believe it if I wasn’t actually creating. So what level of creating do I need to believe that I’m an artist?
I need to be producing regularly. Just like writing every day makes me believe I’m a writer, creating something visual on a regular basis will help me believe I’m an artist. And I also think I’ll feel more like an artist if I’m active in the art world: entering artwork in juried exhibitions, displaying artwork in galleries, sharing my artwork, selling my artwork.
Overtime those experiences and creations will build up, just like they did for my writing, and I’ll be able to say “I’m an artist” without feeling like a fake.
Until then I’ll keep saying it and pursuing it.
What will it take for you to believe you’re an artist? Answer in the comments — I’d love to hear from you!