Updated: May 19, 2019
Am I really an artist? This question has been on my mind a lot lately.
I have an MS in Computer Science and a full-time, interesting and fulfilling career in the field of user experience (UX) design. Nearly all my art and photography skills are self-taught.
I create art in the evenings and on weekends, whenever I find the time. Sometimes I don’t get the chance to work on my art for weeks. Recently, it took me 6 months to complete a labor-intensive mixed media piece!
Often I have wondered if creating part-time made me a hobbyist, someone who didn’t take art seriously enough. If I was part-time, was I truly engaged? Maybe I would evolve into a true artist when I retired and could create artwork full time. Or when I was accepted into a particular gallery. I participate in outdoor shows, indoor exhibits, studio tours, and teach workshops. But all the while, a nagging voice whispered that maybe I was an imposter.
After a lifetime of drawing and painting and about 30 years as a photographer, I finally have the answer. And it's taken way too long for me to acknowledge it.
It’s not based on being accepted into multiple galleries and juried shows and or winning awards. It’s not about the thousands of dollars worth of artwork that I've sold. It’s not about the business tax ID and dutifully reporting NYS sales tax. It’s not even that artists whose work I admire very much have invited me to participate in group exhibits.
That all means something. It means a lot. But...it’s that I’m finally giving myself full recognition for the creative part of my life.
When people used to ask if I had a studio, I would shyly say, “Well, kind of, I share the room with my work office.” Now I simply answer “Yes!”. I have a studio, and this is where I create my art and where I'm immersed in a world that's joyful and calm.
At art shows, when someone would ask what I did, I would evasively respond: “Well, I’m full-time in the technology field and create art when I can.” Now I say “I’m a photographer and mixed media artist who also happens to have a full-time job”. I do have a career in technology. And I’m also an artist. I’m both.
The turning point was being invited to participate in a local artist studio tour, with artists whose work I admire very much. “But I don’t have a real studio!”, I protested. But as I worked through it, I realized that I did, indeed. It doesn’t matter whether you have a beautiful, skylight-lit, dedicated studio space, or a corner of your living room. Your studio is where you create art. And when visitors came to my house, I showed then the sunroom I’ve commandeered with still-life setups, and the room overtaken by art supplies where I print, mat, frame, paint, and follow my inspirations. And I think we all saw the same thing that weekend: an artist’s studio.
It doesn’t matter if you can’t create art all the time. The defining factor is whether you’re passionate about creating art, making art has a high priority in your life, and you dedicate time to make it happen. When I’m not focused on my job, I’m thinking about art. I don’t want to watch TV, or do yard work, or go clothes shopping (and my yard and wardrobe suffer for it). I want to try out all the ideas spinning around in my head for new artwork, and finish up ones in progress. Art is where my soul is happiest.
And that makes me an artist.