How do you measure yourself as an artist?



When I was a young girl, my sister moved out of our home to go to college. I immediately begged my father to give me her room as a studio, a place to do my art. He gave me wood and stuff to make a simple desk and shelves and he gave me a Easter Lilly  to put in my studio. As I sat down to sketch the Lilly,  I WAS AN ARTIST.

I’m 50 years old and have just acquired studio space again. I’ve been painting in my tiny apartments over the years but I really did need a space to call my own. I needed a place where I could work on the many pieces that swirled around in my head. I found a space in a building that used to be a bread factory. It’s on the third floor, no elevator, and I share the entire floor with 17 other artists. As I sat down at my 1950’s dining room table that I purchased from a vintage shop, looked around and saw art everywhere, I AM AN ARTIST AGAIN!

Two weeks ago the artists of The Loft (the name given to the third floor collective of artists) hosted an open house to coincide with the artists of the first and second floors who are called The Enriched Bread Artists. I did not participate as I don’t have any new pieces and I was just getting my bearings having only been a member for a month. However, I was going to take part by touring every studio. And I did. Which made me feel a bit intimidated. Was I an artist? I mean most of these artists have had some sort of formal training and they really look like they know what they are doing. How did they get that texture? How did they make that so translucent? What is that material in the middle of that…..the questions were endless. Despite my feelings of inadequacy, I pushed through every studio and talked to every artist. One artist was working with blown out tires and I picked her brain for a paint that would adhere to rubber as I am presently working on an old gas mask. Another artist’s studio looks like the lab of a mad scientist so I just had to tell her where she could get her hands on an old embalming table. Oh yes, I do know where to find such things. Another artist had gone to the Netherlands on a grant to express her art in a performance piece. I was envious as the Netherlands is on my bucket list of destinations. I met an artist who is building a giant stuffed toy bunny rabbit. There were so many different types of art and artists and I filled my cup.

As I sat at my studio the following day, I felt dumb, unequipped, unworthy and discouraged. I’m never going to be able to live up to those standards, I’m never going to make any money with my limited skills. And then I caught myself, stopped those thoughts and looked around my studio. MY studio. Yes, I was in studio again. I have not painted in four years and yet in one month I began three different paintings and continued work on projects I had set aside for four years. I may not have an art education but I have an artist’s soul and heart. Why else would I pursue this every day of my life. Every day I must be able to create something even if its just this blog! I may not have attended classes but I’ve learned so much from my mistakes and now I am studying in an environment where mistakes are made every single day.

So my new measurement of an artist is a fun one. I work as a receptionist during the day to pay my rent, and now my studio rent too !  But, when I can walk down the street with my dreadlocks of many colors, then I will entertain the thought that I am a full-time artist who lives and breathes nothing but art.

How do you measure yourself as an artist?

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