In order to get the full impact of what I am about to speak of, one needs sound.
Lucky for you, this story has that.
What I need for you to do is every time you read the word SERIOUS imagine you hear this dramatic music:
So first we practice.
When I was a young gal (30 seems REALLY young now) I wanted to be taken as a
SERIOUS (cue dramatic sound bite) artist.
Being a woman, a housewife, a mom, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, the sibling of an artist, I feared not being seen as a
SERIOUS artist. (When the sex is F AND an artist, it comes with its own particular set of baggage.)
In my view, you were either SERIOUS or you were a hobbyist (i.e. –someone who settled for creating things that only your family would ever want and only then because you had made it with your own little hands).
I studied what the SERIOUS artist would be like so that I could clone myself into one.
I amassed a ton of art books because that seemed like a good place to start—my thoughts being, “I have a library full of amazing knowledge—therefore I must be a SERIOUS artist.”
I built a studio with flat files and framing stations, deep utility sinks and awesome lighting. I was sure this would help shape me into a SERIOUS artist.
I proceeded to angst about the creative process. I journaled pages of “I am filled with self-loathing” and “I am not a real artist—I don’t have the magic ‘it’.” Pages and pages, proof positive that I was indeed getting very SERIOUS about my art.
I joined art organizations which allowed me to have further conversations on the angst and horrors of being a SERIOUS artist.
HOWEVER, I did have some missteps along the way. Like the placing of 2 white couches and a white rug in my new studio. Any SERIOUS artist would have known a work space should be utilitarian and devoid of any fufu stuff. (Not to mention that I also put up a Christmas tree complete with stuffed cats dressed as Claw Monet and Vincent Van Cat.)
There were also wardrobe issues. I couldn’t seem to get into wearing funky painter’s clothes. I liked wearing my “good clothes” when I painted.
I did not look like a SERIOUS artist.
I was too clean.
Even my husband pointed out that I didn’t seem to be like the other artists he knew. (I inserted SERIOUS in front of that in my mind and felt so exposed for the fake that I clearly was.)
I worked for years at becoming a SERIOUS artist with somewhat limited success. I had occasional brushes (pardon the pun) with it—but nothing I could sustain. I knew I was faking it—how long before I was found out??
Looking back I can see when it all began to unravel.
It was when I went online with my art.
I was painting away, posting new paintings frequently, having fun and totally forgetting myself. Forgetting about my quest to be a SERIOUS artist.
I quit entering competitions. I stopped hoping one of the famous galleries would discover me and want to make me their queen for a day.
I forgot I was supposed to be angsting.
I just painted and had a good time.
I think I realized I had gotten off the SERIOUS artist boat and boarded the dinghy of no return when I did my first few paintings of Eddie the Cat and Phyllis the Mouse. I had so much joy in doing them that I forgot all about the years of endeavor to be taken seriously until—I got ready to post them online.
I actually saw my SERIOUS artist life flash before my eyes.
What would everyone think? What SERIOUS artist paints their cat with a rodent (sorry Phyllis) doing the hula and having lunch?
Me and only me.
I looked around at my shabby chic NEAT studio, my mostly paint-free clothes, my mouse infested artwork, and my colors of the rainbow paintings. I had to admit to myself that I was not very good at gallery openings and shows (I’m actually a closet introvert). That if you took color away I probably wouldn’t paint at all. That sometimes I’d rather write than paint and that I have been known to use valuable time to do a silly painting of Eddie for his cat room. There are even more gruesome details that I am to embarrassed to put down here.
After thinking long and hard on it— I arrived at a few conclusions.
My belief in who and what a SERIOUS artist was had been totally made-up
There IS no one size fits all definition of the SERIOUS artist. It occurred to me that maybe it was
okay to be me.
That it was okay to be happy first and let that feeling help me decide where to go next.
Artists, even the SERIOUS ones, come in all shapes and sizes. They wear funny clothes, expressive hats…or not. They work while others sleep…and vice versa. They work with the best of materials while some work with found materials. Some paint on linen only while others do amazing angel paintings on brown kraft paper. Some are articulate and some are very shy. Some love capturing the delicate details of life while others have a broad sweeping vision.
I am glad that things finally came to a head for me. Happy that I had to investigate where all those crazy ideas of who, what and how a SERIOUS artist was supposed to do, look and be had really come from.
Always judging myself for what I wasn’t sure wasn’t much fun.
I love the silliness of me.
I paint in my PJ’s with hair standing on end—without getting any paint on me
I talk to Eddie and play everything from opera to Maroon 5 while writing.
I’m terribly messy AND terribly neat–all at the same time.
Every time I paint, I wonder why it took me so long to get in the studio.
My quest for the last few years?
To forget the serious and just be happy!
Cue theme song:
What’s your definition of a SERIOUS artist?
How well are you matching up?
You are the one who decided what the definition was in the first place.
You are the one who can change it.
You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. ~Nietzche