Yesterday I found myself immersed in a thought-provoking article in the Stranger about the sad and slow decline of Seattle's paramount art school, Cornish College of the Arts. For those non-Seattleites, the Stranger is a weekly Seattle news publication with a focus on alternative arts. It is written for the foodie, genuinely funny at times, and liberal to the core. Anyway, the article (written by a former Cornish professor) discussed the rise and fall of the college's institutional pandemonium over the last few years, largely citing lack of funding and worldview dissimilarities among the school's professors as the root of the trouble. Can you believe that — an art school in a major art-centric city going down the tubes, partially due to professors' disagreements on something so incredibly basic: the definition of what makes an artist an artist.
This isn't uncommon, however. From Bravo's controversial reality TV show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist to Monet's paintings initially dubbed "impressionistic" in 1874 as a negative observation and later deemed revolutionary, the good art vs. bad art conversation has rippled through culture for a long time. So is an artist one who makes "good art" (whatever that is) or is an artist simply one who creates, who produces?
Ever since preschool, I have said I want to be an artist when I grow up. In an interview recently, I was asked what goals I have, as an artist, that are still unaccomplished. As I pondered the question, I realized I've only ever really had one goal: to simply be an artist. Truthfully, it doesn't feel like this goal has been accomplished yet, because every time I reach a new step in my career (first solo show, selling prints on my website, getting some press, etc.) it feels like there are still so many more to ascend. Just because I own a couple of easels and know the definition of giclée does not necessarily mean I am an artist... or does it? Is everyone an artist? When you type "oil painting" in the search box on Etsy and see a plethora of both incredible and rather ugly art pop up, are all those people artists?
In my humble opinion... of course they are.
Life is about the journey, not the destination. Nick and I have had to learn this the hard way as of late. We have many dreams, one of which is to open a business together. Recently, we were forced to realize this dream is still a few years away. We are currently making plans to move to an in-between city to work on stuff before we're ready to move to the city we really want to live in. And in the meantime, we'll find jobs, make friends, join a church, buy a house, turn it into a home, and make memories. All in the in-between city. And that's what life is all about, right? Allowing the in-between moments to shape you, to mold you, to dictate what happens next. How often do our dreams really come about exactly how we plan them, anyway?
I think art is like that. It means being comfortable with still having a lot of boxes unchecked, but working for something, learning about yourself, and simply putting the hours in. For me, saying I'm an artist is bold, it's risky. It defines something about myself. That I'm comfortable not making a lot of money because I'd rather paint. No, I'm not necessarily creating work I'm incredibly proud of these days — I know I have a long ways to go before I label myself as a "professional," and that's okay. I will still boldly put myself out there. I will still live life, sell paintings, and be proud of myself for who I am NOW. In the in-between. That's all I've got, anyway.
About a month ago, I began my #28DaysOfArt project in which I told myself and the world I would release a brand new piece of art every day during the month of February, culminating in 28 stunning masterpieces. Today is Day 28, and I only have a little over a dozen pieces, most of which were "in-between" pieces. I'm okay with that. By around Day 9 I began to realize the the point of this project was simply to work on art every day and get better at time management (damn you, right brain). I now have a work-from-home schedule that includes cooking, working out, writing, and arting every single day. It's a pretty simple concept and yet one that's seemingly taken a long time to figure out: when I take the time to invest in what truly makes my heart sing, I will be a better wife, daughter, friend... I will be more me.
Recently, a talented and artistic friend texted me asking for prayer that she will paint. God is not going to come down from heaven and hold your brush for you. As Nike says, just do it.
My childhood dream of "becoming an artist" is absolutely being realized. Even though I know there is still a long ways to go, that's okay. I'm doing it. And I'm loving it. The stunningly simple task of creating something visual, something pretty to look at, expresses the innermost parts of my heart like absolutely nothing else on this planet. So I will move onward and upward.