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…
- false modesty
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 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.
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.