Are you an artist? Are you a crafter? Are you a fireman who likes to draw? A Mom who makes Art but only with your kids? Are you an illustrator? Are you a fine artist? Are you someone who secretly thinks they have some artistic ability but are afraid to demonstrate it? Are you not calling yourself an artist even though everyone else does?
We can spend a lot of time trying to sort out the tittle for ourselves. I am not sure if the category or the title is more important for the individual or those standing around looking at the individual.
I used to think a lot about what I was in life. I thought of myself as a commercial illustrator. I wasn’t comfortable with this label, but I chose to use it. I had ideas about fine artists and how much more noble of a pursuit that was compared to mine. I definitely put myself in a box that limited not only how I thought about myself but also the kind of work I believed I could make. Looking back, I see what a big waste of time it was trying to figure out the label I was comfortable stenciling on my forehead. Today, I believe it barely matters what you or others call yourself.
Here are some reasons why.
1 The only thing that matters is what you do.
If you need a label to help make what you do more enjoyable you probably aren’t doing what you most desire. Needing tons of outside affirmation to bolster your self up is so tiring because there isn’t always a consistent stream of it. Instead let the activity, the art that is in front of you dictate how you feel about yourself. That is more reliable and not based upon perceptions other than your own.
2 What is an Artist anyway?
I had to redefine “artist” for myself.
For me, an artist is anyone who doesn’t fit or feel all the way comfortable with a preconceived label about who they are or what they are doing. Artists make things any way they want. Artists need no reason, specific education, permission, license, or even a plan of what they are going to do. To be an artist is to be part of a tribe of people who are bound by the wonderfully delicious, spacious, open idea that anything is possible. Artist is not a label. It is just the magic word that grants you tremendous freedom and possibility.
3 Be wary of those who need to label
If you are excited about trying something new, making something you never have before, then it is helpful to find others who share this passion. It is a little hard to find them as they are often working away in the corners, on the sidelines of mainstream society. What is much more prevalent however are people who tend to live within a prescribed boundary they have assigned to themselves. Which is fine, of course, it just gets difficult when this mindset is projected upon others. Especially you. Therefore, it is important that you seek out and spend some time with those who operate from a place of possibility rather than prescribed limits. Remember that making art is the exception, the path less taken and is often at first blush not entirely apparent even to you that the course your on is right. We need friends around who think like us, who know better and can nod in approval when uncertainty arrives.
4 It doesn’t matter anyway
Nobody cares but you. It is kind of sad in a way, once you realize how little you actually matter. It is such a shame to spend even 20 minutes of precious time worrying about what others might think about what you are or are not doing.
What helped me a lot was a something my father used to say to me.
“In a hundred years there will be all new people”
It kind of helps keep things in perspective, at least in terms of the relative importance of oneself.
Now back to making Art!
Has anyone else struggled with titles? If you would like to share, please comment below.
With gratitude, Nicholas
the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.