Saturday, January 21, 2012

How I Came To Call Myself an Artist

How do you know you are an artist?
When do you claim the title as your own?
When do you believe it?

It’s common that those around you can see quite plainly what is right in front of you. But you are blind to it.  Or, you see it through too many filters…

- unbelief

- false modesty

- pride

- fear

- comparison

Since I was a small child, I’ve delighted in making things. I’ve been attracted to beauty and nature and textures and colors and music. I didn’t just want to see them, I wanted to feel them. I never thought of myself as an artist, and the idea of being an artist wasn't even a reasonable thought.
Mom saw something in me and as Santa (or herself), she gifted me through the years with many crafts, teaching me to sew, embroider, cook and bake. She believed in me and even handed over the task of birthday cake decorating to me at a young age. She signed me up for junior high art class.
Even though I enjoyed learning techniques and working with art supplies, I was intimidated by other students whose art I considered to be better than mine.

By now I had convinced myself that I wasn’t an artist. Never really considered that I was one because I wasn’t good enough.
But I still liked to make stuff.

In college, my Home Economics curriculum included a basic art concepts class as a prerequisite for a required interior design class. Wow! I really felt out of my league. But I enjoyed the art exercises just for the pleasure of working with paint and scissors and glue.

A part time job in a needlework shop gave me ample opportunities to feed my creative spirit. I began the job with a few basic skills in embroidery and knitting. By the time I graduated college, I was managing the store, teaching a variety of stitchery classes and even helping to design very simple cross- stitch patterns! I took comfort in stitching detailed counted cross-stitch patterns because the designs and colors were already determined by the designer. I didn’t think I could draw, let alone paint anything as beautiful as these cross-stitch designs.

Over the years, I also played with quilting, custom sewing, and crafts. I taught myself jewelry making and started my business, RGR Designs.

But paint lured me. Oh yes it did! I told myself that when I was older (over 40), that I would take lessons. But in my early 30’s I took an adult ed watercolor class with less than impressive results. In the meantime, a great friend invited me over to paint on sweatshirts and wooden ornaments. Well, that wasn’t so bad. Designs were available that we transferred to the fabric, and patterns could be traced onto the wood. I could do that, so I was off and running. I was hooked and wasn’t satisfied painting simple folksy designs for long. I found instruction booklets using craft paints for flowers and even watercolor techniques.

Still, I was not an artist.

A local watercolor artist’s work caught my attention. She painted flowers with such intensity I could hardly believe my eyes. She was teaching an adult ed class and I signed up. Now I was learning to paint the way I had hoped. My skills with the medium needed lots of work, but I was headed in the right direction. In addition, I met a great group of women who also love to paint. We met regularly to paint and encourage each other.

Oh, surely I was an artist now. I belonged to a group of painters and we even showed our paintings in public.

Are you kidding ? I was convinced that for someone to call themself an artist, she must have her art hanging somewhere important or make lots of sales. That wasn’t me.

At this point, I developed some photography skills. I learned from the recent watercolor class that I really needed my own reference images. I was still stuck on the idea that I couldn’t draw well and therefore I needed to enlarge my images and trace them on the paper before I painted. I was also building my jewelry inventory and photographing it for promotion.

Without going into a lot of detail, this thread of art in my life was just a layer over deeper issues. A critical juncture was finding out that I would never give birth to a child, would never give my husband our offspring... Devastating to the heart of a woman. But the good news is that my heart belongs to Jesus Christ and He gives me the strength and the tools to overcome even this heart ache. In obedience to Christ, I began a daily practice of gratitude.

During my drive to work with nearly ten miles of rural landscape, over the course of several months, I observed elusive bits of beauty and gave thanks to God for them. That winter, I began to notice nuances of color in the dead landscape that had previously been all dull and grey to my eyes. For example, I delighted in seeing the shades of muted reddish brown in certain grass varieties and how lovely they appeared against the straw colors of other grasses.
Each day the sights were different with the changing angle of the sun or cloud cover.

Then one day on my way to work the truth hit me.
It was a gift of great significance.

i am an artist
I am an artist
I am an Artist
I Am An Artist

I realized that I had been thanking God for artistic aspects of what I was seeing; the juxtaposition of complementary colors or analogous color schemes, texture and value contrasts, shapes, rhythm. I was processing what I saw through the lens of an artist and expressing my gratitude in those terms to the greatest artist, the Creator.

Thanking God for giving me joy through these elusive and often temporal glimpses had been the tool to open my heart more fully to God, and He helped me see and accept who He created me to be.

It feels good great to be able to say I am an artist.
By saying I’m an artist doesn’t mean I think my work is better or worse.
In fact, being an artist is not about what I make.
It’s about who I am. How I see the world and process it.

Having said that, as long as I remember who I am, then I am free to make art. I have fewer mental distractions than I did in the past. The self critic has not been totally silenced, but I am a work in progress.

I’ll continue to follow my curiosity, develop my skills and be an artist.

P.S.  After my great epiphany and  I started sharing my identity as an artist, you know what I heard most? "I knew that." 
Reminds me of the story about a girl who wore ruby slippers and woke up with a bump on her head.

 Note:  Image edited in PS Elements 4.0 and includes Kim Klassen's texture layer Evolve.


Anonymous said...

I didn't see your name at the bottom of your post and I am counting on the detail on the top RHS RGR DESIGNS BLOG by Regina, I am hoping that this is the case. I just wanted to let you know that I really and truly loved you life story. It resonates with me as I struggle with the idea of being an artist. Although I dabble with photography, I too thought that unless I had work hanging in some expensive building or I had had an exhibition and people were buying my images (unlike yourself with your jewellery etc) I could not even conceive in my mind that I too could be an artist. But your right, it isn't about what you make, it is about who you are and how you see the world. I too see the beauty all around and I am so curious about God's beautiful design that it took for me to pick up a camera to look down the throat of a flower to truly connect with the creator.

You write beautifully.

I wish you well in your journey within Beyond Layers (I think you have already delved into and beyond the layers, and come out with a strong resolve that you have taken up the gifts that God has given you).


Warm regards and blessings always
Debbie R

Louise Docker said...

Thanks for visiting my blog Regina. As I read your story I smile as this is exactly how I felt, never quite the artist, never good enough, never believing in myself. I finally woke up to myself and admitted that I am, however on bad days the doubting and negativity creeps back in. Thank you very much for sharing your story and your work with us, its lovely

jgr said...

What a lovely and heartfelt post! I can relate to many of the things you mention: Feeling intimidated by other, seemingly more accomplished artists-and sadly; no babies for me either (that was/is/will always be tough). The best part: Strength from above to handle what ever life brings. Gratitude. Thank you my friend!

amanda said...

Truth. Thanks for sharing your story, from a fellow artist.

Carol L McKenna said...

Beautiful photo ~ lovely post ~namaste, carol (Share the Creative Journey) linked w/ CED

xinme said...

Regina -- I love, love, love this post! As others have said, so much of it resonates with me -- faulty perspective of who I am and what I create -- an empty womb -- and the discovery of God's Grace in Christ that makes me an artist because He, the Master Artist lives in me! Thank you for sharing your story.

xinme said...

P.S. Just noticed the verse on your blog banner. It is a perfect verse for me as I claim God's healing power over the cancer in my body. Thanks for the reminder!

xinme said...

I'm sorry to keep flooding your comment boxes -- but it just occurred to me that if you haven't heard of Ann Voskamp, you would probably enjoy her blog, and her book, 1000 GIFTS -- a challenge in gratitude -- counting God-gifts.

Blessings to you today:)

Sara said...

You wrote straight from the heart. Your defining our views of life as seen through filters is a very important distinction! I am thrilled that you now own it Regina....yes, you are an artist! And a darn good one too!



Carolyn Dube said...

What a great post. This hit home in so many places for me as I am on that journey to own my artist self too. Thanks for sharing such a heartfelt post.

Tracey Fletcher KIng said...

Glad to have found you through CED and loved reading about your journey to seeing yourself as an artist.... I had an interested mentor who pointed out that we say we are a mother just because we have a child in our life, so as long as we have art in our lies we are artists.... it always stayed with me...xx

michelle ward said...

Regina, what a generous post, to open your heart and share you thoughts so freely about the journey you are on. You have touched many. Beautiful.