How to be an artists when you didn’t feel artistic

Being artistic is…hard.  Admitting that I’m artistic is harder.  I come from from a family of highly talented people.  My brother works for Lucas Films, my cousin is a fashion guru and gothic goddess, my other cousin is a baker that can decorate a cupcake and make you think that it’s art of weed (Whichever mood we find ourselves in).  Yet another cousin is a free-lance writer who is unbelievably talented.  I have other cousins that do other things amazingly even if it wouldn’t be called ‘art’.  I have a cousin that is a professional surfer and rides horses so well that her 3 year old already is too.  Yet another build robots for loving and judges robot competitions across the country which I’m sorry I consider fucking art. You’re creating something. 

I myself have always been a writer but writing so something that is a bit…weird.  You can be an amazing writer and still not have anyone read it and be scared to let them.  Because writing is so literal sometimes and such an insight into your own brain, even if its just what your imagination is doing the reaction more often then not can be a “Do you…should we get you, someone, to talk to?”  There is a meme going around right now with a family asking “Oh you write?  Can we read it?”  and the Comedian goes “Not unless we all get really cool with a lot of stuff really fast.” That’s basically what you feel like every time some asks you if they can read your work. 

As I have mentioned before, my family was always more focused on having us do things that would have a linear line to a specific place. Tennis was going to keep us in shape, girl scouts was going to get me a gold award and scholarships, ect.  Writing was always something they were a bit iffy about.  Which of course now that I’m older I understand that it was because writing is hard and getting a book deal or any kind of steady paycheck is somewhat terrifying for a parent to think about.  As can be fashion, surfing and baking but still.  The things that we did were direct and tangible. When I asked to do art things like painting and drawing classes if I wasn’t good at it right away it was deemed a waste of time and our families resources.  I should also mention that I was the first hold so by the time my brother got into computer design and wanted to go to grad school for three d digital rendering, my parents had eased up and were pretty much tired of fighting both of us. 

Needless to say this didn’t stop me from writing but I did stop trying new art media’s for many years.  I just felt like I didn’t have the eye or the talent.  I knew I could write.  Writing for me was always just a natural habit in my life.  It just comes out of me every day.  I’ve barely ever had writers block because even if I couldn’t figure out what to write that day in a fictional story, I could most certainly vent my frustration at not being able to write into a journal entry or blog post- don’t get me started on the early days with Xanga and formatting your myspace page so that there was music on it or sparkly crowns to show just how cool I was/ was not.

In college I was ‘busy’ as most college kids were with dating, class, trying to be social and generally trying to have a college experience.  Plus unless you’re an art student there is very little space in a dorm room to put I set up.  I did do some photography but that was right at the age of the integration of the SLR into everyday life (Showing my age here) so photo development in a dark room was almost obsolete but not?  But was going to be pretty damn soon. 

Then I got married and we were…struggling to survive.  So taking art classes and having hobbies that required supplies was out of my budget and also I was just exhausted from trying to live a life and work in non profits and then the service industry. 

It wasn’t until my 30’s and honestly wasn’t until the pandemic rendered us all homebodies that I really started thinking about art.  To be honest I wasn’t even thinking about it.  I was drinking a glass of wine, hadn’t left my house for more then a run in two weeks, and watching one of the worst/ best no-brain sitcoms ever: Community.  For those of you that don’t know that show…I don’t want to recommend it because it’s garbage but I also totally want to recommend it…because it’s garbage. The characters are in community college (Hanse the very on the nose name) and they are taking their courses.  Of course, every year, being dead beats-because according to media only deadbeats go to community colleges, as opposed to smart people that don’t want to spend all their money on the basics in tuition and put themselves in dept for the for the next 40 years, they are trying to pick the most no brain easy class they can.  Naturally, they pick ceramics?  Ceramics is NOT easy. But sitting there, drinking a way too big glass of wine, I think “Hey!  I could do that!” and end up signing up for a class at Tyler State Park Center for the arts. 

I feel in love.  Like instantly.  The moment I got on the wheel I was terrified but the first time I centered the clay and made something reminiscent of a cup, I was in love.  Within three months I had bought a wheel.  Within six months I bought a better wheel that wasn’t off amazon for children. Within 8 months I was throwing six-pound vases and selling them on Etsy from the little studio that I commendered in the basement room where the hot water heater is.  I am currently saving for a Kiln which will make it easier to experiment even farther with glazes and other firings.

I still, however, have a very hard time calling myself an artist.  I don’t do will with that even though I have been told by people that my work is great and that every time I tell them I’ve been doing it for now just under a year they are flabbergast.  Though my family really isn’t.  They know me and they know that when I do something I do it hard.  I don’t half-ass things. When I started running I went from a 5k to a marathon in a year and a half.  When I go, I go hard. 

But that doesn’t make it any easier to call myself an artist after years of being around highly artistic people.  People that went to school for things like this, people that have been doing it since they were 15 years old.  Even when those people are telling me I should.  So how do I reconcile being an artist with all of that doubt that creeps up?  I have a few ways. 

Keep Going Even when its Shit:

I heard a quote on a writing podcast once that in order to create great things, we have to be willing to create fabulously horrible things.  This may sound counter productive but it really is true.  Most of all when you are learning or even trying something new.  You have to be willing to fuck up to be an artist of any kind.  In fact, you have to be willing to fuck up to do anything of any kind from making art to raising kids to running the slowest mile you have ever run.  Know that going into a new activity. 

Use social media for good:

Social media is a powerful tool for good and for evil.  You can get on Instagram and feel bad about all of your old high school friends having babies or you can get on and watch Corgis and throwing videos like I do.  We have never had more resources at our fingertips than we do right now.  Chose to use them to watch artists you admire, learn something new or get ideas.  Not to spread misinformation about the earth being flat and the Governor of Florida pretend he cares about education.  You really can create an amazing community and support network. 

Realize that everyone Else is Afraid too:

Fear is not something that we fight once and it along with its annoying brother imposter syndrome just goes away.  It is something that you have to remind yourself of every day.  You are afraid.  To start something new, to call yourself an artist, to put a price on your art, whatever that art might be.  These are all things that are really really hard.  I had a guy buy a sake set from me and the international shipping brought it up to over $100.  I wanted to message him and tell him it wasn’t great. I feel bad- I’m not worth that much.  But he knew the price and saw the detailed video I took.  But I still felt bad- I still feel bad actually because this is my art and what if he doesn’t like it?  When I told people in my pottery class this they all said to stop.  That I was worth it.  But also that everyone feels afraid.  And that’s not something that will go away.  And when it does, I’ll start something new and will be afraid of that too.  And that’s okay because what I’m really afraid of is being rejected.  We are all afraid of that and learning to live with it and fight it is part of the walk. 

Create “Sacred time”

Sacred, in its most base form, means time set aside.  Set aside time for your art.  Maybe its early in the morning of late at night. I run on my lunchbreak so that I can pot when I get home.  I set aside time, make a cup of boozy tea and light a candle in my studio.  This is how I mark the beginning of my creative time.  I do the same for writing.  If you don’t set aside time to do these kinds of things in your life, you will never get to them.  Life is busy.  Sacred time is normally time for religious experiences, but it is also time that you can make yours.  The best way to do it is to make it a ritual.  Proform an action that signals to your brain “This is maker time; my time”.  If you have to tell your SO or your kids, do it.  Discuss it with your partner, turn your phone on silent and light a candle (Or any other meaningful activity). Then do the same when you are finished.  Blow out the candle, clean up.  Marking time makes it sacred.  And your creation is sacred.

“Comminity” isn’t just a shitty show on Netflix:

I fucking love the pottery community.  I can’t even describe how much I love them.  From my studio to the people that I talk to around the world on Instagram, they are all so supportive and loving.  I try and return the favor as often as I can.  I help out in my studio and sand the kiln shelves when I have time, I help newer students, I give words of encouragement freely and without reservation.  Showing up to people’s shows and if you have the money buying their work is a huge, huge booster.  Sharing their work on social media is another great, easy and fun way to support them.  In turn, they do the same thing for me.  Because one of the beautiful things about all of the communities I’m in, from ceramics to running to book lovers and writing is that unlike so many other things, we all know that we are not in competition with each other.  Their love of their craft and there work is not a threat to me and mine isn’t to them.  In fact, when they thrive and bring awareness to the shop small and the independent artist movement, I thrive too.  So the one thing that can affirm your place as an artist is simply by being around other artists. 

Just fucking say it: 

I am working on this.  I have to say it.  I have to be okay identifying myself as an artist.  Even though I started late, even though there is so much I have to learn, even if I’m still developing my own style.  Art is something that I am. 

I am an artist.  And so are you. 

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