When to Call Yourself an Artist?
As children we are often asked what we want to be when we grow up and without hesitation, we toss out anything and everything from fireman to astronaut, doctor to magician, famous singer to veterinarian and more! Our imaginations are limitless, and we are unrestrained from qualifications. As we grow up, we assess in greater detail what each role would mean for us and we have our parents, society and teachers also weighing in on what direction we should take. We learn to identify with our career instead of our passions (when the two don’t fully align). You may work as an accountant, but the work of your heart is in singing. You spend all day as a surgeon, but paint every chance you get! When someone asks us as adults, “What are you?” or, “What do you do?”, we answer with our career even if that tiny voice inside of us pipes up and wants to say, “I’m an artist!”
I hear from students that they struggle identifying as an artist due to their subconscious ideas of what makes you a “real” artist! Many struggle with feeling like they don’t qualify for the title or can feel like a fraud when they are in situations that present them as artists. Imposter syndrome is an internal experience where people feel unqualified or like they are acting as something they don’t have the right to be. These feelings can stem from perfectionism and comparing ourselves relentlessly to others. Our creative selves are sensitive which allows us to interpret the world we see, emotions, music and translate that into physical works of art. That same sensitivity also means we are susceptible to criticism and learn to disassociate from anything (such as an official title) that expose that sensitive side to judgement. Despite the kind words, accolades, or successes we may experience we still have that nagging feeling that we don’t belong in the same circle as “real artists”.
What is a real artist? Take a moment and think about your own definition. Does it require a formal art education and degree? Is it someone who sells their art for profit? Do they have to show in galleries and exhibits? What about self-taught artists who are extremely successful? What about artists in galleries that you don’t like? Do they have to do art as their sole source of income? Dig deeper into where these ideas stemmed from – was it in school, from your parents or from friends? Our realities are heavily shaped by our beliefs which in turn, are shaped by our experiences. As adults we carry around definitions that we sometimes picked up as kids – definitions that shape our day-to-day live but in fact, may have no basis. What is an artist objectively?
art·ist | \ ˈär-tist \
Definition of artist
A person who creates art (such as painting, sculpture, music, or writing) using conscious skill and creative imagination
Wow. What were your first thoughts on reading that definition? Did you notice it said nothing about your education, your skillset, your medium, sales, success, quality, or career? You have two requirements only by Merriam-Webster’s definition: conscious skill and creative imagination. Conscious skill means you are intentionally applying a medium to a substrate. That’s it – you are exercising a conscious effort to express something. Creative imagination (not flawless execution, mind you) is the process of taking something in one format (a photo, a live model, another work of art) and translating that to your own work. Creative imagination happens without effort even if you are copying a masters work or taking a course with a unique style that you are trying on. The way you hold the brush, the feelings you bring to the work, the day you had prior to creating – all of that is the sum of your creative energy.
Let’s try the concept on – say it in your head or in a quiet room, “I am an artist”. Maybe it starts as a whisper or maybe you laugh! Look in the mirror and try it again, how does it feel? Do you feel that silliness of being a fraud or a phony? Can you remedy that now with the actual definition and sit with those feelings? Can you accept your creative self a little bit more? If you’re feeling bolder, try adding the word artist into your social media bio, “Mom of four, dog lover, artist, and yogi!” Play with introducing yourself as your career and artist (and yes, mom of four is a career!) While our creative selves are sensitive, they also embody pure freedom of expression and to allow ourselves to fully accept, recognize and even celebrate our artist role not only serves to empower us, but each other as well. Imagine you have the courage to introduce yourself as an artist, and someone else steps up and says, “I am too!” It is in the acceptance of the artist role that we allow ourselves to be free of judgement, shame, doubt, and fear. In that freedom is precisely where creativity thrives!
We have an ARTIST CHALLENGE happening on FB and on IG. We would love to have you join us! To join the challenge, you just need to take a picture similar to the one at the top of this post and share it in our Facebook Community, or on IG and tag @karabullockart and include the hashtag #iamanartistchallenge2022. This is our year to say we are artists, and own it!
I leave you with this beautiful snippet from Our Greatest Fear by Marianne Williamson below and hope you spend some time this week considering the role that being an artist plays in your life.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
Do you have other ideas to share with out community! We want to hear them! Please comment below!
Bravo 🙂 I’ve been an artist my entire life, but only called myself an artist less than 3 years ago! I am embracing it now, but it still feels a bit awkward to say it, even as I am filming an art class for others. I think the more I say it, the more comfortable I will become with owning it. 🙂
I am so happy you are embracing it! Good for you!
Hi my name is Nicole I live in montreal Canada. I love painting and drawing!! I do Art therapy which I love as you can express yourself in different ways. Scribbling can be art. It doesn’t have to be perfect it’s what comes from you.
You are so right! As long as you are creating, that is all that matters!
Hi, my name is Angela Stowe from Atlanta, GA. I too have always been into art but didn’t teach myself to draw until covid 19. Now I finally feel good about saying I’m an artist.
That is the best news! Yahoo!
Thank you so much Kara for this post. I have called myself an “artist” on FB & IG & do always refer to myself as an artist, but for some reason putting my work out there & putting a price on it has been so hard for me to do. Taking that step is very challenging. Any chance we can discuss this?
I know what you mean! We will be discussing these very topics in some upcoming blogs! Stay tuned!!
WOW Kara! I love your blog. Just when I think I truly don’t care about anyone’s opinion of me or what I do, I realize that I am comparing my artwork to everyone else’s that I see on social media and I feel like an Imposter. In my younger years, I was in art school but left because I was offered a free ride to nursing school. Yes- I couldn’t pass that up and became a nurse, but I am realizing that a lot of that decision was because I felt like a artist-imposter. Later, I finished my degree in photography when all I wanted to do was draw and paint….because I felt like an imposter! Who am I to think I can paint? Whoa….how many years it took me to realize this!!! What are your thoughts about “inspiration”? I often feel like an imposter when take elements of work I see online and put it into my paintings. “Well, it wasn’t my original idea. I’m an imposter.”
Thank you so much! I think so many of us choose the “safe” road. The good news is it is never too late to become an artist! I think we take in inspiration from all around and that becomes who we are as an artist. Don’t be fooled by it all! Do what feels right!
I needed to read this!!! I have three unfinished paintings because of my inner negative dialogue that says I’m not really an artist…what am I doing…. I’m too old… but inside there’s the feeling if I couldn’t be able to create something I would be sad. Am I an artist? By the definition above…. I am!
You ARE an artist and I am so happy that you found what you needed to hear!
I really appreciate how you broke down the term “artist” into its simplest form! For the most part I think of myself as an artist through and through. But, it only takes one ham handed comment to send me into a tailspin. Sometimes I have to stay in my own head but I really appreciate keeping involved with a small art community. We always try to appreciate the work and intention of others in that small group all while helping each other evolve. Thanks for posting!
We are always good at over-complicating things, right!? If you create, you are!
Thank you for this!! I needed to read it as well. Instead of saying “I am an artist”, I usually say that I love making art or I love doing art – not that I am an artist. I’m not sure why…maybe it is because it is scary to say the “I am an artist” words. By the definition above, I definitely am one. I guess I worry about what others think of me and everyone has an opinion about what art is – which is crazy to me! But I know that I am a people pleaser, but I am working on it!
I could ramble on, but this artist must run!! Have a wonderful day being an artist!
My father loved paintings. While in hospice I brought him a bird painting, he loved it. He told all the stuff that I was an artist.
I’m slowly starting to believe it. Especially now, since he’s gone.
Keep on going! Your father would want to see you living your dreams.