I’m going to say something that’s hard for me to admit out loud:
I am an artist.
There I said it. After 20 years of creating, feeling, relating, finding and making meaning; I will admit that I am an artist. I write, draw, paint, sing, design, cook. I live, I love, I breathe, I am.
I don’t know why it’s so hard to say. Maybe I don’t feel validated because I haven’t been published, or I don’t have an art degree, or I don’t do anything specific. I have a great, deep admiration for art – as well as myself. I express and share my works; I try to improve them, I try to see the shit for the shit and the great for the great.
Maybe I don’t want to sound pretentious. Or over-instate the lack of things I’ve done when I try to explain, yes I am an artist and my favourite paintings are all hanging on my apartment walls. I have never sold a piece of anything – hell I’ve never even tried. I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about all the aspects of what a “career” as an “artist” entails and why exactly I don’t fit into that category and why I shouldn’t actively think of myself as a part of these communities. All of my friends are in bands, galleries, and magazines. I see myself as a part of this art-world without actually seeing myself as an active part of it. More just the necessary observer to “oo” and “ah” at what others have created. A spectator.
So what makes an artist? Publication? Audience? Authenticity? Relatability? Rawness? Determination? Confidence? Tenacity? Is it any of these things, or a combination of them? Is an artist anyone who creates, or is an artist anyone who believes in what they’ve created? Do you need to have an audience to be an artist, or do you just simply need to create? Why is validation outside of ourselves such an important part to being ourselves?
Here’s the thing: in my head I am an artist. There is no question about it. But in my world I am not. I am a barista. I am twenty. I am a daughter, sister, friend, lover, commuter, dog-lover. I am willing to label myself as these things because even through the comparison of others achievements in these fields it doesn’t diminish my own status in them. And I think that I over compensate everyone else’s abilities and dedication in the fields of my own passions and interests. I don’t see myself in the world at large as an artist because others diminish my accomplishments and abilities, but because I have diminished them to a state of insignificance before they could be recognized.
This is not being humble. It is not okay to diminish yourself, your passion, the (smallest) things that add to the beauty and understanding and questioning of the world. Yes, criticisms do come from comparison, but comparison is not the basis of creation.
This isn’t the only field I have trouble admitting myself to either. I run, but I don’t see myself as a runner. I was a sous-chef for 8 months but I don’t see myself as a cook. The list goes on, and I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only person who does this. My main reasoning is that someone else is doing it better, someone else is more accomplished, someone else is giving it their all and I am merely giving these things all that I have left after doing everything else.
So I ask, why it’s so easy to do the things we love but so hard to let the things we love define us?