Am I an Artist?
I recently had a great e-mail conversation with a past student. She is interested in what her next steps might be, but she is not an artist. This makes me smile. She sent me some photos of some beautiful work, but since she does not paint every day, she does not consider herself an artist.
Unlike being a dental hygienist, a doctor, a volunteer firefighter, an electrician and many other designations, no one is in charge of calling you an artist. This designation is up to the individual. You might think this means everyone calls themselves a artist. I actually think it works the other way. We CRAVE confirmation and when you don't get it, we tend to assume that we are not enough.
That sentence about not being enough, lead me to think of parenthood. The world is ready to call you parent – if you have a child under your care, you are undeniably a parent. But how many of us feel like we are ready for that? I was not. That was a classic case of 'fake it till you make it' LOL. I did not know what I was doing, but I never questioned if I was a parent – I had a baby right there to prove it! So yes, I was a parent.
Are you an artist? Do you create? Art takes many forms: paintings, drawings, gardens, a home cooked meal, a piece of music, a haircut, make up... I think there are a lot more artists then we think there are.
Below are some of my work from 2015. That was when I started recording and saving them. I suppose I was not an artist in 2014?
When Someone 'Gets' Me....
I am not talking about gazing deep into the eyes of a soulmate. I am talking about when I sell a piece I almost didn't offer for sale....
What do I mean? Sometimes a piece is just a little too weird. Crazy colors, a mundane subject, too abstract, it was too easy. The last one is a big one. I am pretty sure I am not alone when I doubt the value of a piece if it just kind of fell off the brush. Those magic moments when a painting “paints itself”. So cliché but so true. How can I defend such a ridiculous statement? Simple, I have tried to recreate some of these – and I CAN NOT. There was magic and alchemy involved.
But I should really trust the magic. I give up trying to guess what people will like and even more what people will buy. More than a few times people have latched on to a piece I almost didn't bother to bring! Maybe they watch as I flipped through paintings still in the box, or I decide to hang it 'just for me'. They ask to have a closer look. Then it reminds them of something or someplace, and it's sold.
Don't get me wrong I always like the piece, or it truly would have gone in the garbage. If I kept all my failed attempts I would run out of room for the new stuff. It's just a surprise and exciting that someone sees it the way I do.
The bottom line – someone got it. They saw the gem that it is. The one-of-a-kindness, the flow of the pigment, the magic that happened to create this very special piece. Or maybe it just matched their sofa. Either way, a piece of my heart is on its way to a new home.
Here are a few examples of beautiful misfits that found loving homes:
Lollipop Trees and Other Disasters
I am a teaching artist, so I see my share of beginner mistakes. Knowing better and doing better are not the same thing, so I am not above executing my own cliches and faux pas. This week I am featuring – the lollipop tree. Yes, this is my painting... No, I did not do it on purpose so I could write about it.
Sometimes my hand seems to have a mind of its own. We are prone to making the kind of mark we are used to making. Habits are hard to break. Did you ever get a new hair style and within a week it looks the same that it always did? We revert back to old ways pretty quickly.
What do you keep doing that you wish you could stop?
If you are trying to do something different, good for you. Don't be too hard on yourself. We seem to think that learning is for children. Or perhaps learning and making mistakes to be more exact. I promise this is not the case. Professional athletes practice, professional musicians practice. Everyone wanting to improve must practice and thereby somethings fall short. Balls are fumbled, notes are missed, voices crack. It truly happens to everyone, so get yourself a lollipop and go ahead and paint another tree.
This Saturday you can find me at The Allegheny Fire Police Craft Show at 27 Crescent Street, Pittsburgh PA 15223 (Etna Ball field) for 10:00 – 3:00 If you are there, please stop by to say Hello.
Melissa Tai is a lifelong creative, nature lover & tree hugger.