A funny, little (mild understatement) unexpected thing happened to me on my way to my forties. No, I don't mean the third baby, first house, first engaging ( cough) teenager, move to Japan or return from the U.K. Not the momentous, amazing events or quiet little ones that fill our lives and seem to define us to the observer. This was more subtle, a little thing really and totally unexpected. I became an artist. OMG Bro.
For those sadly lacking a teenager, (God knows I never am) this translates to Oh My God Brother.) Yes I know, I am no ones brother being a women and all but I digress. How did this wondrous event occur you may ask? Or not! Bad luck, I'll explain anyway. Even better, I'll explain how I didn't become an artist. ( you might want coffee or wine for this part, it's ok, I'll wait........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ok, finger getting sore.
I didn't become an artist by going to art school, according to my year 8 teacher, I lacked interest, motivation and manners. So did all his students, the man tried to teach us parquetry for art. Wood cutting or something. He managed to put me off art for at least seven years. Unplanned motherhood gave me an interest in the gentler arts, knitting, patchwork and preserves. Well, eating them. Marriage encouraged me to find my inner artist.......how do I sneak another pet into the house without husband noticing and making him think it was his idea in the first place to buy a dog more expensive than a car and bigger than a truck? How to make veggies more attractive to my children? This became my 'impressionist with food phase'. You know, broccoli as trees, little trees stuck in mash potato as hill with sauce for a road and beans for a fence. Not unlike Monet's Water Lilies really, but in sculptural form. I think I was ahead of my time, it was under appreciated by the young critics at the table. Mmmm, there was the textile course I started in the U.K with Val Cambell Harding. That was NOT the defining moment. Val told me later that initially she had thought I ended up in her classroom by accident on my way to blacksmithing or gardening or something. I was still potato stamping while the other students had graduated to Lino cutting. I would go home in tears, my potato had
smudged, why doesn't orange and green make purple? And what the hec was design anyway? I would sob my little heart out declaring I was not going back, husband would insist on a refund for the course if I gave up, so I would show up again for more humiliation the following week. Another tutor took over, Janet Edmonds. Suddenly it was as if a light bulb came on in my head. Janet explained things using small words, not a lot of syllables and showed me lot s of examples of what she was trying to get across. Turns out I am a visual learner. I need to SEE what you mean, not hear about it. This was pivotal moment.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't suddenly become competent or amazing. Nup. No come to Jesus moment for me. Just a light at the end of the tunnel. If I stuck at it, accepted mistakes, asked questions and sought out other people I could learn from, I felt I could get there. Back in Oz, I started sending mixed media pieces to a little gallery in Red Hill, Mornington Peninsular. I was too embarrassed to offer them locally. Anyway, pieces began to sell. The first I thought may have been a fluke, the second didn't count since I have seen this one on the wall at my Mother- In- Laws house, the next one though was pretty big. So big in fact, it never occurred to me that not all people have four wheel drive cars to move large framed pieces between gallery and home in. Still someone liked it enough to strap it to the roof of their car and pay real money for it. So I figured, if someone is willing to part with real dollars for a piece created and conceptualized my ME, does that
make me an artist?
NO, my brilliant and handsome husband says. Because one man's art is another man's dust catcher. (I was going to write 'junk' but can't now since this poor word has been appropriated for a new, more rude meaning, warning do not google it)
So how then did I become an artist? When did I start to write this word under the heading 'occupation'?
It was funny, little and unexpected. I figured it out one day. If I work like an artist, talk like an artist, show up on the school run covered in
paint and dye, dream art, read art, turn every room in the house (and shed) into one large studio, stop buying clothes in favor of paint, ignore food in favor of art books, gain an income from teaching art to children and adults, and most significantly, find profound peace in the process of creating- well I guess that's what I am. (notice I write AM, not DO) Being an artist is a state of mind. Not a vocation, job, or tax description. A three year old can be an artist if they declare themselves so. The title cannot be bestowed on you at graduation, or be earn t
by starving in a garret somewhere. (not sure what that is, clearly not a cafe) . Graduation from art school simply indicates a level of competency achieved. For every art school graduate who has become a working artist, there is another successful, self taught artist to inspire us. Sure we need a level of skill, but even without it I am still an artist. Skill and technique can be learnt and practiced. I find drawing a drag but painting an amazing and beautiful pastime. Just because I don't draw does not mean I am not a real artist. It means simply, that my art I live and breathe is expressed though my love of colour, texture, light and dark, the funny, quirky and unexpected. Not my competency with a pencil. So there is my journey if you like, what happened to me on my way to my forties. Love to say that this quietly achieved understanding has given me infinite peace and joy but like all things in life, it comes with both bitter and sweet. Sweet when I'm in the flow, in the zone, it's all working, looking great, so close to complete, bitter when life comes crashing in and I listen to that inner voice that chips
away at my confidence and joy. When that happens, (if you are on the same winding, potted stone ridden track as me) find another voice to build yourself back up, kids, husband, wife, friend, and your own inner artist voice all help to overcome and get you on your feet.
My advice for all those closet artists out there waiting to burst out, seek out opportunities to be an artist, give yourself time and encouragement, give yourself the support you would give your closest friend or family member to be what they wanted to be. Be your own tutor and best friend. Acknowledge you can do it, because you can. It isn't talent that creates the artist, it's the passion.
If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
~Vincent Van Gogh
Or even better!
Go to your studio and make stuff.
Or my favorite!
You can't be it if you don't do it.