The Courage to Call Yourself an Artist
In America, for right or wrong, we are often judged by what we do "for a living". Your job is who you are. One of the first things people ask when meeting someone new is, what do you do, meaning what do you get paid to do? Along with the job title come sterotypical assumptions and judgements. positive and negative. The same is true of artists.
At parties and meetings, I came to dread the "what do you do" questions. Depending on the crowd, often when I responded, "I am an artist", eyes glazed over, people skittered away, conversations halted. Worse yet, my revelation led to predictable questions like,"you make a living at that?" Along with the title artist, I felt like I had to wear the labels of nonconformist, starving, eccentric among others.
After a while, I realized it might not be what I was saying but how I was saying it. I did not have confidence and conviction behind my words. The listener could sense the fraud - the fact that I did not believe that i had the pwer to fill my role. I said it like I was a little girl making crayon skretches at her bedroom desk, not like someone with the courage to build a custom art and mural business with a solid client base. Changing the way I believed in my title and my role and purpose in life made it possible for me to grow from someone selling art at craft fairs for $35 to a professional who painted large scale murals in five differnet daycares and went on to create an art instruction business.
One day someone asked me an unexpected question, "when did you start to call yourself an artist?" They clearly understood the courage it took to make this leap, to label myself in a way that carried connotations and expectations. Being an artist is simply having a special way of seeing the world and wanting to share this vision. The next time someone aks you, look at them in the eye and proudly say you are an artist.