Confessions from an Artist, Part 1

Confessions from an Artist, Part 1

I have wanted to be an artist since I was a little kid. In my child’s mind, being an artist was glamorous. It included fame; my work would hang in museums. Money, I could buy a house for my parents where they could have their own bedrooms (I shared a bedroom with my sister, so having your own room was a huge deal)! And acknowledgment; people worldwide would know my name, and I would be another Michelangelo!

Me as a teenager

Me as a teenager, and dressing the part of the artist!
Photo courtesy of Robert Wilcox. 

I started studying oil painting at age ten and later completed an undergrad and masters in Studio Art. After grad school, my paintings hung in juried shows, mainly in the Midwest. I found life after art school challenging, as many artists do. Gone were the critiques and structure. I had developed the habit of painting at home, so I didn’t lose studio space, as some art students do, upon graduation, but often, it was a small section of my bedroom in an apartment.

I had to unlearn some of the attitudes I acquired in art school. Somewhere along the line, I began filling myself with stories about what a “true artist’ could and couldn’t do or be. I was a complete failure by the standards I set in my head. So, three or four years after grad school, I quit painting.

unsplash image
 Photo by Laura Adai,

 During the non-painting years, I still hoped to return to my art. One morning, I decided never to paint again; oddly, a month later, I picked up a brush and returned to painting. I can’t explain it, but I think it had something to do with “letting it all go” that made me want to paint again.

Upon my return, I realized how deep some of my misconceptions about what a visual artist was. I had spent years telling myself things like “only serious artists paint abstraction” or “oil paints are what a professional artist uses to create.” What a bunch of horse manure! During that time, I learned a lot about my artistic beliefs and grew in my art.

I didn’t show nor sell; I was content to paint. The desire to show, after a long period of not, came sometime in the last ten years.

I was fortunate to teach the visual arts from 2006 through 2018. It was a marvelous time in my life as an artist. I learned much from my students, which made me a better artist. Helping others understand their art and how to achieve their goals is a perfect way to help yourself with your personal artistic discovery. During this period, I raised a child as a single parent while teaching full-time, so painting was assigned to the weekends, but I was content.

I never was serious about selling my work until about three years ago, when I decided to sell online. I am not sure that decision has been the best for my artistic growth. Part of the process I enjoyed was building my website(s) and photographing the work. I also expanded to include photography, which I enjoy. I discovered that I enjoy writing blogs. As a person with dyslexia, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would feel that way about writing. All of that was positive.

Photo by Aaron Burden,
Photo by Aaron Burden,

But selling my work also seems to have brought an existential crisis. I understand that the quality of my work isn’t about a price tag or sale, but somewhere in the process of attempting to sell my paintings, I have lost track of what I want to be as an artist.

During the last year, I turned to fellow artists, friends, family, a very helpful boyfriend, and the internet in hopes of sorting out what I’m seeking. I have yet to come to a conclusion, but I have been asked some interesting questions to consider. I have read some helpful articles, and a few have made me angry. In my next blog, I will share more on this topic.

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