Friday, April 07, 2006
I Am an Artist Because I Say I Am an Artist.
I've thought about this a bit, and decided what makes someone an artist is basically two things.
1: Self Identification. You have to believe yourself an artist. It's not about what other people say or how many people say it, it's about believing it. It's not about how many other things you have to do in a day or who you owe your time and energy to. It's not about selling your art and making money or being published or performing infront of an audience. It's not about how good you are and how much talent you have--I've known plenty of people with lots of talent who never considered themselves artists and so never were. It is about trusting your vision and living an artistic life and creating art because you ARE an artist.
2: Commitment. Commitment to your art and your craft. Commitment to exploring. Commitment to giving your time and energy to create. Commitment to a project. Commitment to an idea.
I would say it's the first one that is most important, because it's really about believing you have the right and the potential to create. It's nearly impossible to put all that energy into something that you don't believe you have a right to do.
I think that may be why it's easier for young people to be artists and writers and musician and actors and all that-- they really BELIEVE they have a right to do all this. OFCOURSE they are artists! But as life ticks on and they learn everything that goes into being an artist, and they confront all the people who say no, and the difficulty of the craft itself, and struggle with their own creativity, and all the other things in life they have to commit to, and doubts about their abilities and so on-- they come to believe that they may not have as much of a right to be an artist as they thought they did. Maybe that's when people start giving up their poetry or their paintbrush for "real life."
It's perfectly rational to put making a living or taking care of your family above painting a picture. Perfectly rational and adult. I think you really have to believe that being creative is vital to your identity, your happiness, even your sanity, in order to put it above those adult things.
I carve time out of my day with Gabriel, out of my (pitiful) housekeeping, because I am an artist, down to my toes. It is a vital part of my identity, and without it, I start to shrink in on myself.
I am not saying-- I didn't say it anywhere here-- that being an artist is a good and wonderful thing. I certainly didn't say it's an easy thing. Sometimes I think it would be nice to live a simple life that consists of a career and a family, without the constant need to be creative and productive and innovative and go searching in my head and heart for more emotional depth so I can put it on paper. I'd still be teaching if it weren't for my belief that I am an artist. My house would be cleaner and I'd have a garden and dinner on the table every night.
I am an artist because I say I am an artist and am willing to make sacrifices to BE that artist.
Which leads us to #2: Commitment.
Yes, I should be committed, because being an artist is often a crazy thing to be. It's like leaping off of a high building sometimes, because you really believe that you can fly. Of course, when you're an artist... there is the chance that you actually can sprout wings and take off into the sky.
I'm only half kidding.