Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Worthiness Wednesday #46 Call yourself an artist

This journalling prompt of Flora's has put me in a flat spin all week: How do you feel about doing what you love as a way to make a living?

On the one hand, I don't think it is too much of a stretch to imagine that I will have a novel published in my lifetime. Whether or not I'd be able to "make a living" from that is questionable, but I digress...

But on the other hand, making a living by making art? My impulse is to say that this is so far out of the realm of possibility that it almost doesn't bear entertaining. Actually, it's almost a bit painful.

Even though my art is evolving in leaps and bounds. Even though I have witnessed other artists make a living  by producing art not dissimilar from mine. Even though I am committed to the journey. Even though it makes my heart sing.

I just don't feel I can call myself an artist.

This makes me curious. I mean, how hard can it be?

Recently, I met a woman who is a friend of a friend of mine. Our mutual friend is an artist. The woman I'd just met asked, "Are you an artist too?". I ummed and ahhed and mumbled and fumbled before finally answering vaguely in the negative.

What am I waiting for? To have amassed a body of work? An exhibition? A publication? Does someone else need to call me an artist before I can claim the mantle for myself?

This week, I invite you to wonder: would you call yourself an artist? I am especially interested in your answer if you do not feel drawn to draw or paint or sculpt. What is it that you do in your daily life that could be considered art?

What is it, really, to be an artist? To this, I will let Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes reply:

An artist is an artist before they have ever produced a single thing. […] An artist is an artist, no matter what.
The production of something is not what makes a body an artist. It's the soul […], the centre of the psyche that fills the creative person, the creative fire inside a person that makes them an artist.
And if a person has the soul of an artist, that is, they have the fire, the burning as each individual does, then they are an artist. They are entitled to the title of artist.
We're all entitled to the title of artist 
before we've produced

This week, will you stand next to me and boldly introduce yourself as an artist to the next person you meet? And when they ask you (as they doubtless will) about your drawing or painting or sculpting, will you gently explain how you are an artist because you chose the colours and textures you are wearing today with hope in your heart? Because you arranged the most delicately succulent salad leaves you could find in a handblown glass bowl for your lunch? Because you chose to walk home a different way, and noticed the unusual patterns the powerlines made against the clouded sky? Because you wrote a tender and gorgeous blog post, sharing your vulnerability about your children growing up or your fears for growing old?

Because you just are?

Your life is art, my friend. And you are worthy of the title: artist. You are an artist.

And so am I.


  1. Let me spill your words straight back to you "Your life is art, my friend. And you are worthy of the title: artist. You are an artist."

    The notion of what it is to be an artist has been hijacked by agents and galleries and turned into to something that has something to do with money and the ability to sell things that you make. Being an artist has nothing to do with any of that as we all know.

    That said I am perfectly comfortable with the idea of making a living from doing that which I love. In fact I don't think there's any other way for me to make a living really.

    Do you know when I first started painting I had numerous people talk to me about artists they knew and they would often say things like "i know this person, she's a real artist, as in she sells her work or exhibits in galleries, or sells her paintings for thousands of dollars". It always humours me that some of these people have now brought paintings from me or are planning to travel to Ballarat to see my new show. I guess I must be a 'real artist' now.

    Anyway, thanks for letting me have a big ramble.

    1. I love this post and I love Cathy's response to it!

      I struggled for a long time with actually calling myself an Artist and saying it OUT LOUD because of how artists are generally viewed in society: often as drug taking, irresponsible people who die young. This is another way people have hi-jacked the concept of what an Artist really is and it scares off so many other fledgling artists =-(

      Artists may sometimes be those things but I appreciate Dr. Estes definition of an artist, especially since one of my first 'arts' was dancing, though it would be a few years before I actually performed and I've never been paid for any performances I've been in - does that make me an 'unprofessional dancer'?!? What is it about BEING PAID that 'validates' artistic actions to separate the 'professional' from the 'unprofessional'??? Does having my artwork published WITHOUT PAYMENT mean I'm an 'unprofessional' artist?!? UGH!! =-P

      I like to view my entire life as art - the clothes and jewelry I choose to make or buy and wear; the furnishings in my home; the music I listen to; the people I surround myself with, as well as the collage art or art book and art journals I work in and create. Then there is the way I see, smell and hear everything around me. I know I am an artist by virtue of the way I see things in Life and the way I see things that others, who are not exercising their creativity or artistry, can see.

      I do wish that others would give themselves the 'permission' to see the world through our eyes. Could you imagine a world of Artists who give value to arranging succulent salad leaves in a carefully chosen glass bowl? What a wonderful and BEAUTIFUL world it would be indeed! =-)

      Thank you for this post my friend - I will be sure to start introducing myself as an Artist and remember that being one encompasses MORE than just being paid for making artwork. Thanks also to Cathy for the reminder of how the term "ARTIST" is too often hi-jacked by the 'gatekeepers' - well said Cathy!