In an attempt to get back into reading while still pursuing my Special Interest of the
Moment, I (digitally) took out a couple of library books about art. The one I’m working through right now is called Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon, the author of Steal Like an Artist.
I have this perpetual concern that I don’t complete enough work to ever gain any credibility as an artist, or that I don’t have the raw talent to ever confidently call myself one. I came late to the game in terms of doing art; or, at least, in the corners of the internet art world in which I lurk, it certainly feels like I have. Realism is not really something I strive for; I think I would like trying to dip my toes in it at some point, but I really loved more stylized, illustrative works, so those are the sorts of artists I’m following. People who produce webcomics, independent illustrators, character designers.
And, oh my God, so many of them are so young. Decades younger than me, sometimes. Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old, with a few years of consistent practice under their belts. Then here I am — pushing 40; having stalled out of drawing entirely at about fifteen, with very little consistent practice even before then; two years into teaching myself to draw, with myriad gaps and fits and starts in between.
And I know it shouldn’t be discouraging. I know. I know the factor that separates us really is time — time devoted to learning techniques, to practicing, to actually doing. I can see the progress I’ve made it two years, even with all the interruptions I’ve had; imagine what I’d be doing if I didn’t have a full-time job, a child, the responsibilities of a household, raging ADHD…?
So every once in a while, it’s nice to get a reminder like this:
There’s this idea that’s hard to shake, that I’ve spoken about extensively before, that you’re not an artist until to reach a certain level of skill. But remembering that artists grow and evolve, and that even mediocre artists are artists — I’m defined by the act of creating, not the quality of the art I create. And the more art create, the better that art will be.
I mentioned to my wife today — this year has been markedly different from the last few. This year, my periods of “art frustration” — feeling “empty,” feeling like I have no ideas, or no inspirations — have been unusually few and far between. They haven’t been non-existant, of course, but the bigger impetus to my output this year has been general stress and ambient chaos — and frankly, I am just going to put it out there that I feel like most of that has been well fucking warranted.
But I’ve had ideas. I’ve had a steady flow of thoughts and projects that I’ve wanted to work on. I’ve pushed writing to the backburner for now because art for my in more muscle memory, and with how crazy the world has been and the toll that has been taking on my mentally, that seems like it’s for the best, but I’m even starting to have ideas for writing projects again (I fully intended to start NaNoWriMo — ha!!! Like I wasn’t going to be driven to the brink of losing my shit by the election), and am keeping a running tabs of ideas to work on when things calm down in the world, both the one outside and the one within.
It’s almost like, once you start creating — once you move from the doing nothing to the doing something — you start to gain momentum.
You start to notice yourself getting better, and you start permitting yourself to dream bigger and take more risks.
And you start wanting to do more, and more, and more.
This is the first year of my life that if someone asked me, I would tell them I made “art.” I haven’t made the leap to not qualifying the word yet; I’m afraid I would still append “amateur” to “artist.”
But last year, I would not have even used the word “artist.”
I’m making strides. Earlier this year, back in March, I took a leap and submited three of my pieces to a local exhibition that was meant to elevate the work of women and non-binary artists. Sadly, this was the week before COVID really took hold and lockdowns began, and I don’t know — with my city still in the red zone, and cases rising again — when or if that will ever actually happen. But that doesn’t take away the fact that I took that shot. It doesn’t make me less proud of me for taking that leap.
I just took another huge (for me) leap. I don’t want to say what it is yet (“I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious”), but I will let you know when decisions have been made and plans are set in place. I am cautiously hopeful, but whatever happens, I am proud of myself for putting myself out there and taking a chance.
This year has been good for some things.
I hope you can think back on a few bright spots. I hope you can carry something out of this year that brings you hope, or comfort, or pride.
I hope to post more frequently. I know, I say that a lot. I’m trying.
Stay safe and sane, my friends.