I have always wanted to be an artist. I've drawn since I was a kid; my mother and grandmother, both incredible artists, instilled a natural talent and love of art from a young age.
I started adding writing in early as well. I was lucky enough to have two remarkable English teachers as my own Aunts—one who taught me formally multiple times throughout my education and the other who was instrumental in inspiring a love of travel writing and getting my work published at 14.
But even after all those years of making art in different forms, it took me until recently to claim my title as an artist. Why?
Good question. Maybe because I didn't think I was good enough for so many years.
Maybe because society's rules for what is art and what isn't and the fears of judgment kept me quiet and in the shadows.
Maybe because I didn't believe that I could be successful as an artist. And maybe because a million other people are doing the same thing, and we're all just trying to find our way through the maze of life.
And even now that I know better (and am beginning to believe it), claiming the title has been hard because there's still so much pressure on artists today—especially women—to "succeed" or make something valuable or meaningful with their work.
But I'm claiming it. And I think you should too. Keep reading, and I'll tell you why.
I always wanted to be an artist.
I have always wanted to be an artist.
Even as a kid, I would draw and paint for hours on end. I would take my grandma's camera and disappear into a field of dandelions for hours.
And then, as digital media began to take off, I was one of those teens who edited everyone's pictures with horribly corny phrases or song lyrics and overprocessed editing. I think that was a foreshadowing of becoming a content creator.
Creating became a release for me. I wanted to be a professional artist so badly that I even contemplated attending art school after high school. However, societal fears that "I wouldn't make it" stopped me from taking the leap. The idea that I was talented but not talented enough to make a living as an artist haunted me.
So, I went to college and majored in Computer Engineering because it seemed like the more practical option at the time.
And instead of following my dreams, I ended up a burnt-out college dropout with student loans and no degree to my name. And in the end, I ended up an artist anyway. It would have been much less expensive to chase my dreams from the get-go.
It took several career changes and starting my own business to finally come into my own as an artist.
I had been creating art for as long as I could remember but still couldn't let myself claim it.
I worked as a paid photographer, capturing friends' graduation photos, weddings, and families, all as a teen. But even then, I didn't consider myself an "artist."
I was a published photographer and travel writer at 14 and even won a few awards, but I still couldn't let myself claim it. I was the kid in high school who wanted to be an artist and told people so but never seemed to get anywhere with it. I dreamed of traveling the world as a writer and photographer, but no one seemed to take me seriously.
For years even though I was creating, I always used a qualifier in front of the term artist when describing myself. Not "great" or "amazing" but "amateur" and "hobby." Afraid if I called myself an Artist, I would be laughed at.
There are many reasons why you might have held yourself back from calling yourself an artist (or anything else) in the past.
Did you think that you weren't good enough? Or maybe your work lacked creativity? Maybe you didn't have the right training or materials, or maybe even skills? And what about those ideas—did they feel too big and daunting for someone like yourself?
Whatever those reasons, I'm here today to tell you that they don't matter anymore. You deserve to call yourself an artist not because of any one thing but rather because of who you are: a creative individual with a desire for expression (and maybe some talent).
I am still figuring out what it means to be an artist. But I am claiming it.
After owning my photography company for over a year, being a digital creator and content creator, and after years of creating for my own joy, I am finally saying I am an Artist.
I don't have a degree in fine art or even art history. I'm not interested in going back to school or getting any credentials that would make me "more" of an artist than anyone else. That said, if you're reading this post, I might be someone who could help you get where you want to go.
I am still figuring out what it means to be an artist. But I am claiming it.
You don't have to be good at everything
You don't have to have a portfolio
You don't have to have a degree from an art school
You don't have to have a job making art (yet)
You don't need a title or awards or even ever be paid for your art. You just need an idea, and then you can do whatever it takes to get that idea into the world.
If you want to be an artist, you are. Full stop.
The only thing that matters is that you want to be an artist. If you want to be an artist, you are. Full stop.
And if you don't want to be an artist? That's OK too! No one is forcing anyone to create anything they don't want to create or share their work with the world if they don't want to. The only thing that matters is that you want to be an artist. If you want to be an artist, you are. Full stop.
But let's say for now, since you've read this far, that you're probably either an artist or someone who loves an artist (Hi, fam), and that "I am an artist" is something that makes sense for both of us: what next? What do we do with that? How does claiming the title change us?
Well, I can't tell you what it will do for you. But I can share what I'm learning and how I'm making a conscious effort to lean into my artistic side. My next post will expand on these topics, so be sure to subscribe if you want to learn more. But for now.
Here are 5 things you can do to lean into your artistic side:
Spend more time in nature: Nature is one of the best ways to get in touch with your creative side and recharge your batteries. It's also a beautiful reminder that you're part of something bigger than yourself, which can help you feel more connected to others. Give yourself permission to daydream.
Find Community with folks who share your core values and appreciate your artistic side: Many wonderful people are interested in the same things you are. Find them and be open to connecting with them. This is one of the most beautiful things about being an artist in this day and age; the isolation and alienation that used to be the norm for artists is no longer the case. We have access to so many beautiful ways to connect online with like-minded communities.
Keep a journal: Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences can help you clear your head and process what's happening inside. It also helps develop your creative voice, which is crucial for sharing your story with others. Get your ideas down and mind-stream so you can return to them later and turn them into something more concrete.
Practice: Practice makes perfect is my least favorite trope. Practice makes practice. Practice makes mistakes. Practice IS mistakes. Practice is failing and doing it wrong and learning. This is something that has taken me almost 28 years to discover. Practice practice practice. You're not going to be good at everything you try. Create just to practice. Not everything is going to be good.
Play More: The truth is. So often, artists get into a rut. We get stuck in the same place, doing the same thing repeatedly. It becomes a routine we fall into and becomes hard to break out of. This is where play comes in. Play is integral to being creative because it helps us be open to new ideas and allows us to make mistakes. So whether you're playing within your art, or you put your brush down and step away for some good ol' fashion fun. Give yourself permission to play every day.
I hope this article has helped you see that stepping into your power as an artist is a process that takes time. I've begun the journey of claiming my power as an artist. However, I still struggle daily to embrace my most authentic self fully. By mindfully noticing these moments of doubt and embracing all of who I am –my strengths and weaknesses, my neurosis and anxiety –instead of trying to hide them or pretend they don't exist, Im becoming more comfortable in my skin as an artist. And I'm so excited about where this journey will take me next!