Roman Sunset, 22x28
Most of you know that I am a professional, full-time, working artist who uses oil as my primary medium. That's a long title to put on a business card. I remember the first time I got up the guts to actually call myself an artist. It felt so strange. I had been a graphic artist for years, but just "artist" with no other explanation seemed arrogant. Did I need to say, "visual artist," "professional artist," "working artist," or maybe skip that word altogether and say "painter?" After all, everyone calls themselves artists these days. Sculptors, decorative artists, potters, glassblowers, jewelry makers, anything with aesthetic value, certainly have that right. Musicians and entertainers all over Nashville claim to be artists. Additionally, does it matter whether you make art as a hobbyist, an amateur, or a professional? So many of us spend time apologizing for being an artist in the first place. Do we also need to explain to what extent we make our livings at it?
As an artist, sometimes I am called upon to play other, less comfortable, roles as well. At an art reception, I must also be a "people" person and chat merrily about my work without ever once allowing my expression to read "buy my art." At public demonstrations I am an entertainer, juggling paint and brush and talking and answering questions and teaching and everything all at once. (By the way, I actually enjoy this for some sick reason.) When I used to do fundraiser "booth-style" shows, I always felt like a clown. (That dawned on me once as I actually caught myself humming "Send in the Clowns" as I was setting up a display. Maybe what I needed to make those work for me was someone standing just outside my booth announcing, "Step right up. See the bearded lady who paints lovely little pictures.") During plein air festival Quick Draw (those timed events where you start, finish, and frame in a specified time period), they sound the start horn and I swear, I hear, "And they're off." What has this to do with being an artist or making art? I don't enjoy making a spectacle of myself. If I did, I would have continued chasing a music career. As a friend once said about our work, "This is not a team sport."
Nevertheless, I still make art solely because I have a passion for it. Yes, it is the only way I make my living; but that is not my point. It is why I am living. God gave me a gift and I am to be a good steward of it, learning and growing and sharing every day, for as long as I am allowed on this earth. So, I suppose, if anyone feels the same about what he or she does every day, they have the right to be called an artist. It is the passion (and burden) of the gift, the living for it, that makes it so.
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