Sometimes I have a little laugh to myself about all the debate around what it means to be an artist, whether or not you are one, and how claiming it can bring up feelings of being a fraud or fear of seeming arrogant and so on.

{And yes, I’m extremely familiar with these kinds of thoughts and feelings; this isn’t a superiority rant.}

Sometimes I just want to put all of that on the side and say, if only to myself;

“Look, you lovely human being ~ you make marks on paper or canvas or something with some kind of material; you make things with your hands; you love it; it brings you joy; do you really need to give yourself another label for it to be true? Does that label make it any more valid, really? And who is defining the word here anyway?”

As far as I’m concerned, if you are human, you’re an artist, but that’s a debate for another time.

Recently I was in my studio noodling about, doing a bit of painting, washing brushes, enjoying the late afternoon sunlight slanting through the skylights. I started thinking about some of those little experiences that come with making art, or being an artist, or whatever you want to call it, that people don’t always know about, if they don’t make art, or talk about if they do.

And how I’ve noticed that some of those little experiences can be what hold people back and cripple their confidence to the point where they do nothing, and so lose out on a genuine path to joy.

Sometimes people look at me and what I do and think I always know what I’m doing, or that I’m heaped with a confidence they don’t have access to.

That depends what day you catch me on, but if you’re thinking I’m somehow different from you because I’m not scared to make art {or a mess!}, or because I have a dedicated studio, or whatever your reasoning might be, here are some things that might surprise you:

  • Sometimes I will sit down to paint, or stand in front of my easel with everything ready to go, and 100% feel like I’ve forgotten how to make art. I’m literally not even sure how to make a mark.
  • It’s surprisingly easy to get into ruts of painting the same way, making the same kind of marks, using the same colours. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it can lead to stagnation which in turn leads to frustration. And that is a great way to dry up, lose confidence and create nothing.
  • I have cried tears of frustration in the studio before.
  • Some paintings are never finished and I don’t know what to do with them. {I usually paint over them.}
  • I can get tangled up in envy over the work of another artist to the point where I don’t want to do it myself because ‘it’s bound to be shit and I’ll never be as good as they are’.
  • I can start a painting all fired up by inspiration and that particular rush that comes with it, go back the next day and find I’ve lost it. I’ve forgotten what that feeling was and I don’t know how to get it back, which then feels like I don’t know how to continue with the painting. It feels like something’s been lost.
  • Days and even weeks can go by with no painting or drawing. I’d love to say I am constantly inspired and endlessly prolific, but the fact is I am not; for me it comes in intense and unpredictable bursts. I might wish it were different, but forcing it doesn’t work for me, and I’m ok with that. {That said, I am looking into bringing a bit more structure into my art making, but it’s based around ease, not forcing.}

People don’t always talk about these tiny truths, about what really happens. Or they gloss over them with handy solutions, as if applying them once is always enough. {And if it isn’t for you, then what? Does that mean you’ve failed?}

And I’ll tell you one more truth: it’s all ok.

Here’s what I know.

If you can reach a point where whatever happens, you can be ok with it {and ultimately if you want any kind of peace with it you will have to keep making that choice}, then it doesn’t matter what your inner critical voice says, or what judgements and throwaway comments others make about what you do.

They are empty air, just an energy frequency with nowhere to go unless we give them value.

Everything that happens in the studio {or on the dining table} is ok. There will be triumphs and traumas and everything in between, exactly like in day to day life, and in the end, you can learn to choose {yes, over and over and over} to approach it with curiosity and amusement, and know that every step is a step forward, even when it doesn’t look or feel like it.

Practice makes progress, not perfect!

{I don’t know who said that, but I like it.}

Please don’t let a single word, with all its inherent possible meanings, stop you from doing what you most desire to do.

I know that lots of you who read this blog make art in one form or another. What are your tiny truths? How do you find ways to pursue what your heart wants, in spite of the fears and doubts? How do you make peace with the icky parts? Go on, I’ve shown you mine, you show me yours. ;)

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