Before you answer this question, follow this train of thought... if art (whatever it is you create) is an expression of your inner self, an outward symbol of your interpretation of either your inner world or your perception of the outer world, then as long as you are creating, you ARE an artist and you are certainly entitled to claim that title for yourself. Or are you?
There's a famous quote by Henri Matisse:
“Creativity takes courage”
And that's the place where I happily step on the stage under the spotlight in this blog post and gather my courage to explore this philosophical question.
I'm 34 years old and I knew that I had talent for art ever since I was 6 years old. At least that's the earliest time of my life where I can remember being drawn to colored pencils and empty pieces of paper. Little did I know at that time, what it means to be an artist. I was just silly and certain that one day I'll be an artist.
By the time I was 10 years old, it had already been made clear to me that artists don't earn much money and that being an artist isn't a very good career choice. Our parents always want the best for us... however, their best tends to often be very egoistic and narrow-minded in terms of our talents and skills. Either they try and live out their dreams through us or they direct us onto the road that seems best suited for a successful life.
The sensible career route
To be honest, I still don't know, what my parents thought that I'd become (perhaps I should ask them now?) when I grow up, but they didn't prohibit me from learning art either. Thanks to my enthusiasm I did end up in an art school for a time being between the ages of 12-18 and I did go to university to study something that was related to art - architecture. However, I can say that this subject wasn't really where my heart was leading to and much to my dismay, due to this one failed attempt at turning art into a lucrative career and education choice I ended up in the technology scene for a full decade after that.
There was a hint of longigness for an art or design related career in those years. I grabbed every opportunity that I could get to create something that would be considered creative or art related (banners, training materials, posters for events, digital photo manipulation projects, pixel art jewelry... the list goes on), but I can't say that I ever dared calling myself an artist or a designer for that matter, even though I was doing a lot of projects related to that and also very well!
The Imposter Syndrome
That weird feeling inside, that "I'm not an artist" stayed with me even after I had graduated and got my Associate of Arts diploma as a graphic designer from Kuressaare Regional Training Centre at the age of 31. I remember getting the honours and certificate (in a folder that I had been asked to design, by the way) and thinking to myself that... wow, does that mean now that I should go to work in an agency instead of trying to continue to freelance on my own now that I've got proof of my skills?
Well... I didn't go to an agency, or truth be told, I tried and failed. My vast experience and wide interests weren't that exciting for the agency I tried out for and I took that as a sign from the Universe... don't follow the path that has already been laid out to you... you're meant to walk your OWN path. Some would argue that I could've tried a little harder... like apply for a few other places, you know :) but my gut feeling was driving me to a place that was way more exciting.
And... what's being a graphic designer got to do with being an artist anyways. If you're a graphic designer then you can't possibly be an artist too, right? :) (yeah, I see the failure in logic now)
I think I'm an artist now?
So it was only in my 30s (mere few years ago!) that I once again decided to start building on my dream of being an artist. My first solo exhibition in Galway, Ireland (and not even in my own home country!) called "I See You" showcasing my first acrylic painting series called X-ray Flowers was the big stepping stone to my career as an artist and the road to my self-proclaimed title The Artist.
I guess, in my head, the thought process was this... an artist is someone who has organized an exhibition and shown her art to the world. Even though I had shown my art to the world many-many years before... the title "exhibition" gave it more oompf.
Fast forward 4 exhibitions and returning to my home-country and I'm yet again wondering to myself... am I an artist? Or am I something broader... like a Creative Entrepreneur, for instance? Or is it possible to have more than just one title? Should there even be more than one title?
This is where I landed
For now... It seems safer to stick with the Creative Entrepreneur title, as it best suits my vast experiences, vast interests, my multi-potentialism and adds a bit of entrepreneurism on top of it. But who knows... fast forward another few years and you might find me having moved onto more artsy lands and titles.
One thing is for sure... Henri Matisse was right in saying that “Creativity takes courage”. How else would you explain the fact that some people will never dare call themselves an artist... well, not until they're dead and a few centuries have passed and someone else sticks that label onto them the minute they do their first doodle? :D
It takes courage to be fearlessly true to ourselves. So I'm gonna be daring and say this... Yes, I am an ARTIST now. And I'll be even more like an artist tomorrow and the day after and the day after. Becoming an artist is a never-ending journey anyways. Didn't you already know that?