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Tuesday
Nov152011

On Becoming an Artist

I have never thought of myself as an artist.  A creative, yes.  But perhaps more of a creative technician, taking other people's visions and breathing life into them.  I remember talking to my father years ago about what artists are (he knows a lot of them) and he said, well, I know this: an artist is somebody who creates because they can't not create.

Hmmm...  Seems true, I thought.  But it doesn't sound like me.

Part of doing creative work that's client-based, which is what I do professionally, is that you learn not to get too attached to it.  There comes a point in every project where you have to let your vision go in support of their vision.  They're the client.  It's their baby at the end of the day.

But this idea of being an artist still tugged at me.  Do you think of yourself as an artist? I asked a colleague I love and respect, on a work trip one night at a hotel bar in suburban Houston.  I was surprised when he said yes.  I felt so far away from that.

I started taking pictures and, at some point, began to think of myself as someone who takes pictures.  The word photographer still got stuck in my throat.  But something happened as I neared the end of my 365 project, and as I was putting together my video and looking back through the pictures I thought huh, it looks like a photographer made this.

I didn't have time to take any pictures last week, and by the time the weekend rolled around I felt like a caged animal.  I just needed to take my camera and go on a walk.  Maybe that's a sign.  I told Kim Klassen that I'm tip-toeing up to permission to think of myself as an artist.  She got very excited, and pointed me to this post in which she writes about her experience of becoming an artist.  She says that being an artist introduced her to a world in which anything was possible.  I thought yeah, I want that to be me!

I talked to my friend Kelly, an artist in Austin, yesterdayI said, I think I might be becoming an artist.

WHAT??? she said. You are already an artist.  I have known this forever.  I am the creator and president of the Corinna-is-an-amazing-artist fan club!  I'm SO GLAD you've finally decided to join us.

I don't know if Kelly is creating membership cards for this club, but if she does, I imagine they'll look something like this:Jen Lemen gave us these at Camp, but I didn't know what to ask permission for yet.I don't know how my life will change when I cross over into being an artist, but I feel like I'm right there, oh so close and I can almost taste it.

----

Any of you guys want to give me a hint?  If you're an artist, what does it mean to you?  Is it important to see yourself that way?  What happens when you claim that identity? 

Reader Comments (13)

Where do I begin.. WoW. Such thoughts to ponder. I have been told time and time again that it's ok to call myself poet, writer, artist but I still struggle. I would love to know if it ever gets easier to accept the title.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRambling Heather

Corinna I was smiling along as I read this and then my breath caught when I saw the permission card. It's so exciting to see this happening for you. I recognize so much of what you're saying, though I'm somewhat "behind" in that I'm still trying to claim "creative" and "photographer" for myself. I hate to use the overused "journey" but, you know...

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebra

Corinna dear, how wonderful to read your posts. I have lots to say but I have not thought long enough about them although I do wish to be in the same place you are soon. I feel like there is too much for me to do in my daily life that I do not have time to think, ponder and put those thoughts on paper. so kudos to you for giving yourself permission and yes you are an artist. I would describe myself and a 'creative' although yes maybe I am an artist. Keep these wonderful thoughts coming as they are feeding me and making me think about wonderful thoughts. thank you.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamar

My first thoughts echoed your friend Kelly's - I already thought of you as an artist. But I appreciate your sharing the thought process and the internal process that you're going through. When I was really starting to take pictures some years ago and making decisions about my then-life (which looked very different from my now-life) I went out on a limb and told my mom on the phone one day, "I can't help it, I'm an artist." Putting my toe into those waters was scary (and today I'm still only one toe in, mind you.) My mom's response was amazing to me: "I've always known that about you," she said. She never told me, never hinted that she ever thought so or even "got" me at all. Sometimes, I think we are the last ones to catch up to what others see in us all along. Maybe that's because of the internal process - the one you're going through and talking about here. Thank you for sharing it. In doing so, you have made me look more closely at my own, and I am grateful for that as well.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSiobhan Wolf

Try as I might I don't think I'm there--I'm not sure my wiring allows it. Then again I do have long bouts of depression where I think everything I create is absolute crap...so maybe? I love where you're taking us lately Corinna--great stuff.

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher

I love this post! I just recently finished my 365 project too, and I've had these same feeling (http://www.chasinghugo.com/blog/2011/9/27/i-have-a-camera.html), although you describe them much better. :) I do feel compelled to create in some way...I always have, so I guess...I'm an artist! Hooray!

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkelly

I watched my father transform from a six day-a-week hard-workin' guy to an artist upon retirement. It is a natural line in the sand, but the transformation is amazing. As an outside observer, here's what I see:
1. He created a space for himself where he conducts artistic endeavors in solitude.
2. When he is frustrated, bored, angry, amused or happy with outside life, he retreats to that space.
3. He became integrally involved with a gallery and treats it as his job to contribute time and energy there.
4. If he is not in either space for a period of time, he goes batty.
5. He attends "first month as self-supporting artist" parties.
6. Conversations don't always come back to his work, but he's so happy doing it, you can't help but ask him what he's working on lately.
7. Sometimes, he will seem like he is staring at dirt, but then he'll do something like walk over, pick up a stick, go to his studio, bronze it, and make a piece around it.

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBurwell General Store

Oh, I have such a hard time with labels for myself. I didn't realize how much I needed to take pictures until I decided to take a break. Obviously the break did not last long. lol. I didn't realize that made me an a...., ar......, art..... ok, still having a problem with that!

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbusymomma66

Oh, girl. I HEAR you. I've written and reflected and journaled on this very same issue. You ARE an artist. And...I AM an artist. xoxo

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan @ Life Refocused

Thanks for sharing here ladies and gents. A friend today told me that she thought I was putting "art" in too small a box, and that art is everywhere. I agree with her whole-heartedly. I think the struggle for me, and it sounds like for some of you too, is in the space of being far more generous with others on this one than I am with myself. I look around me and see SO MANY artists, not just with paint or words or images, but with science and medicine and movement and teaching and on and on, each bringing a special kind of magic to their work.

I think I can cross over into the place of seeing myself that way too, especially now that I notice how much room there is out there for us, you know, artists.

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCorinna

Those of us who have known you forever have always known you were an artist. It's just that your vehicle for expression and method of creating continues to morph and grow. Great post-you are on the right track!

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLarisa

Your writing makes my cry...in a good soulful, you crawled right inside me kind of way.

November 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmber Antonelli

Corinna,
I'm late to this party but have been having a really hard time knowing what to say to your brave, honest, heart-felt, emotional writings of late. Hitting too close to home, perhaps? Perhaps. But I am here, reading along, oftentimes with a lump in my throat - touched each day by your musings, your searching, your journey. Waiting to see where this goes next. Knowing that it will be beautiful. And true.

November 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

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