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Labeling an artist

A short essay I wrote a decade ago studying Fine Arts:

I don't like the label. "Artist" is not what I am striving for in any eventuality.  I  do feel an attachment to what is observed as art in the world today, though I'm not attached to the movements, breakthroughs, and sentiments thereof.  I have no use for the large black box or the ideas and ambitions behind it.  I have no reason to think that a vast amount of paint dripped on a canvas with nails and footprints is of any significance to myself.

I have the desire to work with my hands and create physical things.

My drawings are something I have a sentiment for because of the time, effort, and emotion I've put into them.  If others appreciate them for one reason or another, then they are successful on another level.  I do yearn for that level of success, however.  It is as though I'm unsure of what I've done until someone else has told me at times.

At the same time that I feel contempt for the language of artists and all the exclusions it creates, I am frustrated when people criticize aspects of my art that they know nothing about.  For examples sake, let's say that I have done a contour line drawing and they suggest that it does not look realistic, because it lacks shading.  They have defeated the purpose of the task I set out to do.  There are yet others that I can only compare to being artist groupies that will praise anything that is created and labeled art for that exact reason.  These civilians may be more dangerous yet than the former.  If in contact with an artist they can build up the the artist's confidence to a non-challenging standard, at which point it becomes more of a job than a passion.  Without criticism, and by that I mean educated criticism, there is no contest to reach a higher level of perfection. 

My reason for creating is in the process that leads to a result.  I don't create things that are all about the process, or the form if you will over the content.  The things that I make and want to make in the future are objects, drawings, or other things that have an appeal to me personally on some level of emotion.  I do this because the process of making something, resulting in something physical, is a satisfying one for me.  I love to be able to see a physical result to the effort I have put in, and art is my outlet for this.  This is not the say that I do not appreciate or value the work of other artists of the present or past, but that I do not enjoy thorough analysis and discussion that is vital to many artists in their relationships and understanding of their art.

*Fast forward to today:

I am growing comfortable with calling myself an artist. I think I used to feel that it would be pretentious to call myself one, or maybe I just wanted to leave that conclusion to other people, but more likely than that, I felt unworthy of the title. 

My ideas have changed a lot since then.  I no longer think that you have to have the highest skill level and make a comfortable living from your work to call yourself an artist.  Anyone can be an artist if only they dare to believe it of themselves.  I want for everyone to possess creative confidence, but it has been taught out of us.  We are taught that failure is a negative thing, when the truth is that failure is the inception of innovation.

Without persevering through frustration and mistakes I would have never gotten my drivers license, discovered some of my favorite hairstyles, or learned how to carve worth a lick.  Just this past weekend after numerous failed attempts previous years at sharpening my carving gouges, I was successful!  I cannot tell you the amount of pride I feel about it. You might understand if you were there while I wept over them in my prior attempts.

Instead of quitting carving because I couldn't sharpened my tools, I persisted.  After trying many methods I've seen online and watched on Youtube, I decided I needed to do it in a way that made sense to ME.  Like an artist, I solved my problem creatively so I can continue to do the work I love.

If at first you fail, know you're in good company. You are worthy of what you want, but you're going to have to work for it.  Persist a little past being pissed off and you might just end up with an inflated sense of pride in what you can accomplish.

Amy KrahnComment