Are you an artist REALLY???
Updated: Nov 7
The last blog I did here was about what type of artist I was.
Now I am going to break that down even more.
Am I really an artist?
Well, I would say, YES.
And yes, it took me a long time to be able to say this. Such a loaded word.
But yes, now that I have been in group exhibitions, curated and non-curated, had solo exhibitions in galleries small, large, public and privately owned, now that I have had a few residencies, received several grants, been written about and won a few prizes, my work has been bought by people for personal, public and business purposes.... I finally realised that yes, I am doing this. I am an artist.
I realised how important this was to me, the acceptance of that word, when recently I was challenged by another artist. I was challenged about whether I really had a long arts practice? I was challenged about whether my practice was taken seriously by others - more specifically, other artists. I was told it would NOT be, not really. That many of the things I considered important were not taken seriously by others, in fact they would be a bit of a joke. I was asked "What is it you really want, what do you hope to achieve. Why? How?"
I was truly challenged about so many things. I was confronted. I was bruised. I was hurt. From someone who suffers from atelophobia, it was a bit shit.
I reflected later about on this a great deal, and realised that this was most probably asked not to hurt me, but to make me think - but my reaction at the time was one of real shock.
I reflected on what was asked, as well as the motivations. And I came to this conclusion.
I may have not been following the same arts practice journey as some, but it is mine, and it is valid, and it is what I needed and wanted to do for that time. It is all process. I completed my Visual Arts degree in 1993, a long time ago. Does that mean my degree has less value because it was that long ago? Basically past its due date. Or does it mean that I have had much life experience, built up many skillsets, with this as a solid scaffolding to have that I can add to as need be?
And as for whether other artists saw my work as valid, as even rating? Well, I am not an idiot - I know that in the rarified and quite exclusive air of the art world, I am NOT known at all, and completely 'emerging'. I'm fine with that. My entry into this world, should I want go this path, will be long, slow, and very competitive. Hard work. And quite possibly futile. I get it.
BUT... In other quarters and sectors of the art world, not so elite, I am already known, and have some standing. Which is great. It happened because of consistent work, consistent application, hard graft.
To people who know me but are not part of the art world at all, but colleagues, friends, family, acquaintances, members in my community... I think that they would say I am an artist. And that is also something I am grateful for.
But I guess the person that really matters whose opinion I really need to worry about is my own. Am I being an artist in the way that I need to be? To make it authentic for me, for it to make sense in my own head? Does it FEEL right?
We all come to where we are in different ways. Different paths, experiences, understandings, and the way we frame and view things is totally subjective. We all create in our own unique way and for different reasons, which we should be allowed to alter to fit with our circumstances. Personal and unique are the key words I think. Comparison is the thief of joy and all that too. I realised I was being asked to judge myself on the other person's perspective of what an artist is.
So I walked away from those confronting questions knowing that in my heart, I can say, yes, I may not be like you, but that is okay. Because this is my journey, and I am still working it out. I am a practicing(!) artist after all. This is me.
And I am an artist.
A page completed for The Sketchbook Project USA , back in 2018
Vintage postcard, ink, embroidery thread, tracing paper.