Sunday, July 19, 2009


It is daunting to become an artist, be it writer, actor, dancer, visual artist or any other expressive field. Perhaps one of the more frightening obstacles we face is the fear that we will be discovered. No, not by American Idol, the Museum Of Modern Art or Random House, we try to convince ourselves that we would welcome that. No, it is the everyday folks that we are afraid of – we fear they will discover that we are a sham, and that we have feet of clay. Don’t believe me? OK, try this if you dare.

In the next few weeks, every time you strike up a conversation with someone, work into the conversation: “Oh, I’m an Author (Artist, Singer, Poet. Actor – you get the idea). I’m not talking about a line that implies that you’ve always dreamed of being an artist (along with a fireman, an astronaut and a millionaire), but one that states: I AM, or I am seriously working on it. Pretty hard, isn’t it?

We don’t acknowledge that label, because we know for a certainty that they won’t believe it. They will discover that we are a faker, a fraud, and a charlatan! It’s sort of like proclaiming yourself a beauty queen – as soon as people take one look, they will double over with laughter, and then it is “hiding under the rock” time.

The flaw here is in equating our need and desire to produce art with some exterior, objectively quantifying physical attribute. Please remember, being a dancer means that you will move, relate to, and express yourself through movement, usually in accompaniment to music. That may not make you a GOOD dancer, but it does make you a dancer. Good comes through practice.

We are fearful of owning our desire, because we are afraid that the measure of art is quality and exterior, objective standards, but in that area, we are wrong. Certainly, the public proclaims beauty queens, and the public grants fame. The chosen are voted upon, by judges, box office receipts, or fan club postings and are anointed. None of us is quite sure what Paris Hilton and her ilk do to be worthy of fame, but they have won the ballot, they have been elevated. Even if she has no quantifying observable skill or talent, she has become famous for just being famous.

The good news is, an artist does not have to be voted into the club, you don’t have to know anybody, nor can you be blackballed. All you really need to do is to be willing to self-proclaim “I am.” It is the singular act of bravery of “coming out!”

In future essays, a theme that will arise several times is the difference between desire and skill. You may want to be a writer, painter etc, but are you good enough? Classes, schools and personal instructors, who offer instruction in the arts, concentrate upon skill and technique. They offer proficiency and expertise, but those traits by themselves do not aid or encourage the act of spontaneous creativity that is the starting point of artistic expression. They can assist in making your creation more satisfying, but they are not a pathway but a follow-up. They come later.

The next essay will perhaps make this clearer and develop a framework for understanding. Please comment.


gypsywoman said...

LOVE this post! it rings of TRUTH in and out! great!

Sarahlah said...

Excellent. I have certainly not mentioned blogging to anyone...well, I did mention blogging a few times but only in the company of very self-absorbed people, those I can trust to not be listening to a thing I say because they are safely tucked inside their craniums, rehearsing their next verbal salvo of wisdom!

artquest1 said...

Hi Gypsy and Sarah,
There certainly in a poignancy attached to our fear in proclaiming certain truths - especially a truth so deeply rooted. I;m not sure just what it is, but it seems so difficult to let others know that we long to create and exalt.
Sarah, I love your "safely tucked etc" line. Perhaps you are a writer, ready to leap forth? Just asking.

Lisa Brown said...

too true... I say I'm a student if I'm asked. Also, I suppose because I'm still studying maybe feel like I'm not yet qualified to say I'm an artist! Years ago I had a boyfriend who, in the middle of his BA, started telling people he was an artist if they asked. He was...and still is. I never had the confidence to say I was too.

It's taken me a long time to start to feel worthy of calling myself an artist.

But think once you do.. it's a massive confidence boost.. it's 'coming out' to ourselves as much as the outside world.

artquest1 said...

OK, Lisa, the ball is now in your court - your "Homework Assignment" (I was a teacher for a million years) is as follows:
From now on, you are never allowed to self describe as "student", but rather must use the word artist. Of course you are allowed, should the conversation continue, to also indicate that you are still taking classes, but first and foremost, it's time to be an artist and not a student.
If it works, and those wonderful new vistas open up for you, don't thank me, just send me one of your art pieces - I love work from real artists!