Believe You are a Real Artist — Own It
For the longest time I never believed I was a real artist because my art had made little to no money. My creative process and its products didn’t exist in my mind as legitimate because they are not my main source of income, or that I don’t have a huge following. I felt like a fraud. A failure. I longed to support myself with my art because then and only then, would I be a real artist. For now, I was only an aspiring artist.
“Aspiring.” This is such an ugly work for creatives. It is chocked-full of connotations that we are trying to be an artist and what we make only aspires to be art.
You either are an artist or you aren’t. Even if you aren’t making money at it. Even if you have one fan. You are an artist if you make art.
You are never aspiring to breathe, are you?
Aspiring is a word our insecurity LOVES. It is a way to not truly feel horrible when we don’t get the likes or the money for our work. It stops us from being truly vulnerable.
Because when we admit to ourselves that we are artists we open ourselves up for disappointment, pain and failure. But in the process, we are stopping ourselves from truly feeling those uncomfortable emotions that make us and our art grow. It’s failure that makes us grow. We can learn much more from failure than from success.
So we label ourselves as somebody who is just trying to make art. People are more forgiving to somebody who is just trying, even ourselves. It is our way of keeping our hearts safe from rejection. It is something we tell ourselves for protection because if we are still aspiring to be something, how can we truly fail at it? We can’t.
The truth is there is no such thing as real artists or aspiring artists. There are just artists. The moment you write you are a writer. The moment you practice music you are a musician. It’s okay that you’re not making money at it. It’s okay that you don’t have a million fans, or even one. It’s okay that you aren’t the most amazing artist out there. It really doesn’t fucking matter. It’s okay that you create in solitude and you never share your art. You are still making it. It still exists. You are an artist.
We like to think that there are failures and winners in art. There isn’t. Art doesn’t fit into the ugly little capitalist box we’ve put it in. It lives and breathes outside of it. It is for us, for our souls.
You are an artist if you have 2 followers on Instagram. Social media means nothing. It isn’t real. You are an artist if you self-publish. The book is out there. You wrote it. You don’t need a major publisher to validate you.
You are an artist if you create and don’t share your work. You are an artist if you paint puppies and flowers. You are an artist if you paint your deepest secrets on the canvas. You are an artist if you’re shit at it. You’re an artist if you make no money at it. Remember Van Gogh? Sold one painting his whole life.
Being an artist simply means you make art. Don’t over complicate it with your fears and doubts. Don’t half-ass it. If you are COMPELLED to make, let it pull you. Don’t make barriers for yourself because you’re scared. Art pulls you. It wakes you up in the middle of the night. It puts the brush or the pen or the guitar in your hand. Let it. Regardless of the outcome because frankly the outcome isn’t in your control. Making is. MAKE.
The only way you fail as an artist is if you are not making art. The rest is made up bullshit we like to tell ourselves. All the other failures are not failures, they are lessons. Lessons for yourself to work through your fear and shame and doubts.
Being an artist also means you fail constantly — whatever failure means for you. You fail small by spilling water all over a finished painting. You fail big by hosting a showing of your work and nobody comes. These are opportunities for you to grow.
Being an artist means you evolve constantly. It means you persevere. You stand your ground. You find conviction to keep going amongst the ‘no likes’ or the bad reviews or family members that call it a hobby and are relieved you have a stable job somewhere else.
It isn’t a hobby. It is our love. Our raison d’etre. Our purpose. Our purpose doesn’t have a price tag or an expiry date. Purpose doesn’t fail or win. It simply exists. Do not let their dismissal become yours. Do not dismiss yourself for anything else other than an artist.
An artist never stops. We take breaks, we rest. Even then it calls to us. Our brains are running in the background. We are always making. But we never stop. To stop is to fail. To let our fears win, is to fail.
Please, I beg you. Don’t get in your own way. Call yourself the thing. Own it.
I urge you that we need your art. You deserve to call yourself an artist. I see you. We need you. It deserves to be out there. Whatever you’re passionate about. Whatever fuels you creatively, do yourself justice, stand proud, look yourself in the eye and call yourself an artist.
You are real.