2 Jul

After the Creative Process

The SERIOUS Artist: A Story of Sex, Cats and Couches

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.
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 too 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

by me.
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

Colorful Paintings and Inspired Writings by Artist Dreama Tolle Perry

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  1. Connie Bailey

    I love your paintings and your philosophy, thank you for sharing.

  2. Jean Conklin Siegel

    Wow, you made my day. Loved the video of Tuscany the pizza the coffee. You are my favorite serious artist living today. Thank You for visiting my quarantine.

  3. Diana

    Your work in itself is inspiring, but the music and inspiring words makes it even all the better!

  4. Elizabeth jAMISON

    i LOVE this article! Thank you ; )

  5. Love this post! If we’re not having fun, what the heck are we doing???
    Inquiring minds want to know!

  6. Karen Meredith

    I love the idea of a truly streamlined studio. So how do you deal with all the equipment

  7. Carol Crawford Theodoru

    I can paint I can draw I have done over the years. Am 67 and trying to renew this creative energy. If you want to label “hobbyist” that would be me right now. I’ve tajwn to paint by numbers. GASP. It’s fun and will lead to once again doing real work. I love your postings and Art

  8. Ros

    When a group of us were getting to know other artists in the New Comers Club, we put out a sign-up sheet for members to join, and called it SERIOUS ART GROUP. We new that would put off the hobbyist, – but of course the sign-up-ees weren’t deterred, and we had a couple of years as a fun group visiting local galleries and each other’s homes and studios.

  9. Robert A. Sloan

    PS – Ari sheds Cat Hairs of Inspiration in your general direction, though I’m sure Eddie does as great a job as resident model and muse. He’s 15 years old and we’re celebrating his Home Day today with catnip, lap naps and anything else he wants. Big 15lb colorpoint long hair (medium, silky) who still acts like a rocket kitten several times a day and has papers as a therapy cat for my disabilities. He’s skilled at it, helps everything from my joints to stress reduction.
    I hope Eddie stays out of the paint, they don’t always.

  10. Robert A. Sloan

    Oh, I have to comment to this! Your description of “hobbyist” set me laughing. Love your style. If you’d like to know my first impresson of your art, it was “WOW! This one’s a true Colourist, she’s making color do the work of value, especially on that middle painting that has no dark or light masses!” I was impressed! Then of course saw strong, masterful values in your cat paintings because Eddie is all about values. Eddie’s beautiful and Phyllis is great. That conversation between them in the first painting made me smile and remember “Grandma Jessie” – a colorpoint shorthair with tabby points who adopted a pregnant mouse and dutifully washed both her and her bald little mouse babies.
    Your paintings are good.
    I didn’t really think about “serious” artist as such. The choice of Professional or Hobbyist fell on a different axis to me: Professionals want to make a living at it and allow the market to influence their work, while amateurs (a better word htan hobbyists) prefer the artistic freedom of doing as they like without worrying about consistency or marketability. Skill will inevitably catapult an amateur into the category of at least some sales but the amateur can be choosy about whether, when and why to sell. The UK has a wonderful term for it too: Leisure Painter.
    As an ex-professional who’s retired due to disability I’m now a leisure painter objectively better than I was when I made a living at it. That was definitely the best job I ever had as a way of making a livng, but I no longer get annoyed at not having time to paint unsalable favorite subjects like tropical reefs or dinosaurs.
    Quality isn’t the difference. Professional (or serious) is a lifestyle choice. Certainly having a studio space with flat files and good equipment is a real help for any artist. Easily justified business expense for the professional. Leisure painters aren’t spendng any time thnking about what the IRS will let them deduct and thus get more studio time. But the idea of “serious artist” to me means more a matter of time and passion.
    Do you paint once in a while and spend a lot more time knitting or writing novels or playing the piano? Not a serious artist. In the same way I’m not a serious musician even though I actually wrote a song once, can play it on the tinwhistle and learned and forgot how to play guitar no less than four times in my life. I had fun with music but it was easy to get distracted into art or novel writing.
    I was SERIOUS (dah-dum) about my Writing and Not Serious about my art for most of my life. I set out to become a Science Fiction Writer against the opposition of my entire family plus every teacher, acquaintance and adult in my life as a child and even later as an adult. I eventually understood it takes only moments to look at someone’s drawing and go “Wow, cool dragon” to be polite (and if they can tell it’s a dragon that’s all it takes for “Man, you can really draw so well, I could NEVER do that!”) but that most people, even other writers, cringe at that stack of fifty sweaty pages when you want to know whatt they think of your novel – or its idea – and are seeking validation.
    i learned to do Twitter scale pitch plugs for novels in progress to get validation. Just little hook sentences. When I Shut Up about it artist friends started saying “You should write a book.” Because I got actually better at words.
    Also still comment with return essays, novelist side effect. It’s still hard to comment in one-liners.
    if you spend enough time drawing and painting to start getting skilled enough in your favorite subjects and mediums that other people enjoy them, you’re probably a serious artist. But don’t have to be in order to be good at it. I may only have written one song but it’s a good one in the style intended – imitation medieval dance music. I followed the rules of medieval dance music by ear, traditional dances can be done to it and a medieval scholar validated it.
    if you really enjoy it and get lost in it every time you do it, then yeah, serious artist! Music is a lot of work, painting was goofing off instead of working, writing was painfully hard and full of every bit of angst you relate. I did publish one Science Fiction Novel, thus I am now a Real Writer. That’s SF with my name on it. Made my personal Everest. I had to do that before I found out painting instead of working was just as good a way to make a living. I’m about equally good at both writing and art, except possibly better at art by way of spendng more time really doing it.

  11. Dodi Groesser

    HI Dreama……in the quest to be known as a “serious” artist, I have followed many of the same steps that you walked in…..However, with YOUR help, even after the first workshop I took with you, I felt released from all of the “seriousness” of it and have been painting “happy” ever since! THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!!

  12. Susan Prescott

    This was exactly what I needed to hear! It will be my mantra! Thank you for inspiring me!

  13. Judith Williams

    I love your post! A couple of months ago I found myself on ypur website marveling at your ability to just have fun with your art. I always go back to the idea of having a less serious outlook on my art and oneday I saw your art and posts and thought that’s it!! thank you! You live your life the way you paint

  14. Dave Casey

    Another action-packed Pearl of Wisdom from Miss Dreama. Can’t beat that. 🙂

  15. Jacquelyn Fox

    Love your description of a “serious” artist! I identify a lot with wanting art to be Fun, except for the staying clean part. No matter what I try, I usually end up covered with paint! Looking forward to hearing about your “big project” which sounds like it’s very “serious!” See you soon! 🙂

  16. Kelly Dombrowski

    This is great! I so relate but I am just now getting to the good fun part! Plumb wore myself out trying to be a “serious artist”. Now it’s time to run my art biz like I want and do as I want! Because why bother if you are not having a great time? Wish me luck!

  17. Gail Barton

    Perfectly said Dreama!

  18. Jeanne Kouhestani

    I love, love, LOVE your blogs!!! They are so on target and make me feel so good! Thank you!

  19. Kim Smith Peterson

    Thank you, Thank you!! I somehow missed this post the first time and so glad you reposted i. ! you are so encouraging and inspiring.

  20. Ann Marie Judge Karmol

    I read this on the eve of my 28th birthday (last night) and it hits right between the eyes. I’ve had a thousand false starts at artistic pursuits in my life, to the point where I’m afraid to try anymore (including a ‘serious’ stint as an art student at The Art Institute of Chicago). But as I wandered Target last night, after the kids were tucked in and sleeping at Grandpa’s, I found a beautiful pack of pens in every color that I couldn’t resist, because it was my birthday, after all. The only stipulation was that I actually had to use them. No other rules than that. And then I read this and knew I had done the right thing. Thank you for your ongoing inspiration, I am SO happy I stumbled on your blog and site a few months ago!

  21. Linda Will

    Thanks again Dreama for the encouragement. You have really have gotten me back in the studio more than once. I can’t wait to see what your “big project ” is.

  22. Sally Cronkright

    This is so me! Neat and messy and all of the above! I needed to hear this and will keep trying to be me.
    “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

  23. Sally Cronkright

    This is so me! Neat and messy and all of the above! I needed to hear this and will keep trying to be me instead of that serious artist who does not exist – except in my own brain. Thank you!

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