Friday, January 28, 2011

What Makes An Artist An Artist?

After reading Brandigirl's blog today, which talks about what makes a person an artist, I felt the need to piggy back onto that subject.

When I was going to college, I had an instructor who was also a well-known sculptor. I looked up to him, as he seemed to be an artist as well as a success. He taught art, received commissions and actually made money enough to live in the Santa Cruz Mountains. One week, we had a project to do to create a 3D work using our shadows as the subject matter. Now, I had never worked in three dimensions before... I was always doing photography, drawing in pencils, charcoals, pastels... some painting, too, but it was all in two dimensions. This shadow project was one of my first. Also, I hadn't yet taken any color classes, so I was really young & naive to what ways I could express myself artistically. 

I had to work with what I had, as I was struggling with school, work and living on my own. I was able to get some plywood from my mom's garage, traced the designs I wanted onto the sheets of plywood, and had my boyfriend at the time help me to cut the designs out. I had to use spray paint that was already in the garage for color, and they were only red, green and blue. Hideous colors, to be sure! The resulting piece was two of my shadow forms, which I had notched to fit together in the middle, so that they would stand up like a statue. I thought it was kind of cool, and it took me days to complete. When my instructor critiqued it, his only comment was, "It's very pedestrian." And then he moved on to the next person's piece.


I was devastated, and very certain that I was NOT an artist, and if I were, I was a BAD artist. I cried that night, and maybe a couple more times, whenever the shame of his assessment would wash over me.

It took me many, many years to shake that torn and dirty shawl off my shoulders. I believed my old instructor. I let his horrible and unthinking words have their way with my psyche. I should have ignored him completely, but I wasn't as strong then as I am now.

BaBAM!

Then take my sister. She went to school for business. She was always told by our mom that she was very good at business and money matters, but that she had no creativity in her. Now, my mom was always pretty supportive of my love of the arts, and had told me that I was good at drawing, etc. But with my sister, she felt that her strengths were definitely NOT in the arts.


But my sister was not cowed, or thrown off her personal vision, which started after she graduated. She moved down to L.A., and promptly got into fashion, doing textile designs for a big clothing design company. (I own tons of their clothes!) Then she decided that she wanted to design clothes herself, and moved to a different company, getting closer to her goal. However, she changed goals later, when she decided to become a fashion photographer. Mind you, she never went to art or design school. She never immersed herself in photography back in school. Yet, she threw herself into it, and called herself a photographer, and she became VERY GOOD. In fact, people pay her to do photo shoots of them because she's so good. Check out the link to her photos...


You are what you believe you are. You are the maker of your Life. You design your place in the Universe. Believe in yourself, and you can become whatever you want! Don't let labels, yours or other people's, stop you from pursuing your dreams. Follow your bliss!! 






6 comments:

Terriaw said...

Thank you SO much for sharing this Shari! What an amazing story both you and your sister have. I always find it interesting the path we set out to take and then the other paths we find ourselves on later in life. I can relate! I was encouraged to go the business route too so I could support myself. But I never liked it. And I always had a feeling I was creative. I hope to one day feel comfortable calling myself an "artist." For now, I'm happy to be learning... and on the right path!

Brandi said...

Shari, this was beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story, and a glimpse into your sister's choices - I loved it. Thank you also for being a part of the conversation! I'm glad to see we aren't alone.

shari said...

You're both welcome, Terri & Brandi. When I read Brandi's blog this morning, it really spoke to me. I pretty much had this bottled up in me, too. I'm glad we're open to the discussion!

We each make our own path, whether it's straight or very crooked (like mine!) and we can only ever walk our own path! Make it a fun one!

MichelleW said...

You are so right Shari - we are what we believe we are. I am not an artist and will probably never think of myself as such but I enjoy making my mark on whatever I am doing. I'm uncomfortable with labels (and boxes in particular) - what one person sees as 'pedestrian' another will see as 'amazing and inspired' - it's all just one persons opinion at the end of the day. It's a shame we can't tell our younger selves this - to be happy to be unique and listen to your own heart.

Julia said...

What a wonderful post! I came over here after reading the post on Brandi's blog.

Reading about your sister was inspiring! I love stories like these, they show that anything (well, almost) is possible! I'm sorry to hear that you took your instructor's words for the truth (I would likely have done the same). A critique that is as short as that and nothing but opinion-based isn't a good critique. But yeah, tell your young self that...

Great post!

shari said...

Shell, I'm with you. I'm not into labels. I think they can be restricting, and are loaded with preconceptions.

Thanks, Julia! I'm glad you felt inspired by my sister's story. She amazes me! I have come to realize that the only truth about ourselves comes from our selves. I've let the past go, finally! :-)

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