I think the most aggravating conversation that creative and athletic people ever have goes something like this: “I want to be an artist (or photographer, painter, writer, baseball player, basketball player…you get the idea) when I grow up!” To which the adult probably responds by saying something to the effect of “Yeah, but it’s so hard to make a living doing that.” Or “Yeah, but the competition is very difficult, and not many people make it.”
I’ve heard and have been part of conversations like this at several points in my life. Now that I’m an adult who teaches art and photography, as well as someone who always has a creative iron in the fire, I can say without a doubt that being an artist, a writer, or an athlete is easy! Being able to assign yourself the label of artist, writer, or athlete doesn’t require anything more than engaging in the various activities that make up the enterprises in which you take interest. I, for example, own far too many art supplies and various types of paper, which I use regularly. I create drawings and paintings, post them to my Instagram and from time to time there will be something in my Etsy shop that I hope someone will find and appreciate.
I admit that I’m not as well-known as many other artists, but does that alone negate my validity as an artist? If someone aspires to play sports are they less an athlete because they play in a local adult league? No! What about the person that dedicates some time each day to sit in front of their computer, or typewriter, or even notebook to write? Does that individual have less of a right to claim the title of writer than a bestselling author? I don’t think so.
If you have the dedication and means to actively pursue creative and/or athletic goals then proudly call yourself an athlete! Proudly call your-self and artist or a writer or whatever else, and encourage others to do the same! Let’s motivate one another to pursue our passions instead of offering reasons to give up on our dreams.
Up until very recently I considered myself a fledgling artist. Four years of college art, studying everything from photography, to sculpture, I struggled to lock in what I considered to be my style. Thumbing through art books was really no help either. I remember pouring through a book about Seurat, and being in awe as to how such a young artist could have developed the iconic style of pointillism. I’d sit in my studio admiring his paintings, and copying his conte drawings, learning about how to quickly and efficiently manipulate light and shadow.
Eventually I’d move on to other artists, admire their work, copy it, and repeat. This mode of operation is one that I continued with for quite some time, and it extended not just to famous artists of the past, but also to Pinterest and Google image searches. The more art I copied, and the more I learned about technique, but the further I felt from honing in and creating my own style.
I remember standing in front of the whiteboard in my first classroom with a dry erase marker in my hand and no ideas in my mind. The blank page can be very intimidating for an artist and some say that making a stray mark can be a good place to start. For myself I feel a sense of permanence when I putting my ideas on paper or canvas. I had to drive to the store, wade through vast hordes of consumers, seek out the products that I wanted, and pay for them. Before even starting a project I already have time and money invested! I’d better not negate my efforts thus far by drawing or painting garbage! However, a white board drawing is nothing permanent. I didn’t buy it and I don’t have anything invested in it, thus there is no intimidation factor. Horrid drawing or masterpiece, the life of whatever I was about to create would only exist for a day or two. I was free to draw to what I chose without consequence!
What I noticed when I started working on this impermanent surface was that I felt free. I didn’t feel like I needed to produce great work in order to vindicate myself or some made up animistic god living in my pad of Canson! Drawing became quick and uninhibited. Instead of producing of a doodle here or there, I would fill the whiteboard daily! Drawings I disliked would quickly meet the eraser, and I would take pictures of the compositions that I liked, in order to turn them into completed works on paper or canvas.
My advice? Ditch the fear of creating bad art. If that means drawing on a whiteboard, or sketching on scrap paper then do it! Great art doesn’t have to be conceived on high-priced artist grade materials. Many of my painting ideas were worked out on used envelopes taken from the recycling bin.