On Being an Artist

Why is it so hard to call myself an artist? I know I’m not alone. Is it because I came to this later in life–being serious about creating art, instead of just “having a hobby?” There is always that niggling thought in the back of your head “who does she think she is?”

And since needlework HAS been a hobby throughout my life, it has been a leisure activity for me. Its hard to give myself permission to spend large amounts of time doing something  that I always considered play.

And then there’s that whole BIG AREA–how do I fit normal life (you know, cleaning, cooking, etc.) into a life that has enough room to create art.

And of course, there’s the thought that if no one else likes it, is it really art?

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But at the end of the day, I am discovering that I am the only one who can decide if my work is “art.” I have to like it. Sure, I can get input from different people (and believe me, I do!) but it all comes down to me liking what I create enough to say–“that’s it! Its finished.” Or, “I think I’ll change that part of it.”

I like what Anne Lamott says in her wonderful book “Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life.” She is speaking to a group of young hopeful writers, some of whom ¬† have unrealistic expectations, and some of whom she knows will never be “successful” in the world’s eyes.

I still think they should write with everything they have, daily if possible, and for the rest of their lives.

And she ends her talk with this:

You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as you hear them, as they come to you. You can either set brick as a labor, or as an artist. You can make the work a chore, or you can have a good time. You can do it the way you used to clear the dinner dishes when you were thirteen, or you can do it as a Japanese person would perform a tea ceremony, with a level of concentration and care in which you can lose yourself, and so in which you can find yourself….

The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madman or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work.

Its still hard to call myself an artist. But I will keep working at my art every day. Someday maybe I will believe that because I am creating art, the only thing to call myself is an artist.

I wrote a post about “a day in the life” over on my quilt blog. It was a very good day. A day in the life of an artist. There’s lots of pictures–I think you’ll enjoy it.

13 thoughts on “On Being an Artist

  1. This is such an interesting post. I teach art history at an art college and you would be surprised how many of my students have difficulty calling themselves an artist (yes, at an art college!). I love your work and I do consider you to be an artist. It is something in the heart, not the head, that makes the difference. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I liked this post, too. And in the end, what others say doesn’t really matter. Because what sewingaddict said is true, it’s what is in your heart that matters.
    Off to read the other blog now. :-)

  3. To me, an artist is anyone who puts their time, energy, creativity, heart and soul into whatever their minds and hands create. On the seventh day as he rested, God looked at what he had created and said, “it is good!” If we have utilized our God given talents in our own creations, how can we say anything less? Of course, you are an artist!

  4. Yes, you are an artist. You create things that are lovely and loved by many people. So yes, my friend, you are an artist.
    The first time (okay, the only time) someone called me a writer, I spit-choked my water. But you know what? I write. Therefore, I am a writer. Some days I write stories, some days it’s blog posts, some days it’s a list of To Do’s. Either way, I like to think of myself as a writer.
    Guess what? Not only are you an artist, you are a writer too! :)

  5. You don’t think your an artist? Yes, Debby ofcourse you are an artist. Look at what beautiful things you create! You make the world a brighter, beautiful , better place to live. But i understand where you are coming from. I have trouble calling myself an artist. It feels ‘funny’ rolling off my tongue for some reason. But you know what? The more you say it the easier it will be to believe! Have a good weekend Debby , my blogger buddy ,the artist! :) Hugs! deb

  6. I find this really encouraging. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing something “creative” or not. You can do it as an artist. You could be painting a masterpiece or cleaning the toilet. It’s about “engaging in satisfying work.” Thank you!

  7. Perhaps it’s easy to say it doesn’t matter what others say but the truth of the matter is that it does impact those of us who “invest” ourselves in something that is “put out there” for the world to accept or, perish the thought, reject. It is exactly because it IS our heart that is put “out there”……a piece of ourselves that is accepted (possibly even applauded) or rejected and no one wants to be rejected on any level!!! Having said all that, we/I must be satisfied with the piece and confident in MY assigning it the definition of art……..MY art, for it is “my art” because I so designate it. I struggle off and on with this and have come to terms with the fact that “I am a textile artist” whether the world chooses to accept it or not, and, as such, must practice my art every day in order to sharpen my technique (just as a painter must enter the studio to apply paint to canvas………and the world considers that person an “artist”!!!!!!!!). My advice to you is to rejoice, relax and go forward in your enjoyment of the gift that you have been given!!!!!! Hugs and blessings……………………….

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