It's rare, I think, for there to be an actual moment when you know your life has changed - not outwardly, but inside yourself, in your understanding of you and you in the world and the world itself. In January of 2010, I had one of those.
Ok so this may come as a surprise to you, whoever you are, reader of my blog, that I have had in the past a hard time calling myself an "artist".
So perhaps a little background -here's a quick(?) history of me and art:
I've always drawn well, as long as I can remember. Both my brother an I have a natural talent for art, as does our father, where we probably inherited that gene.
So I always wanted to be an artist, or rather, as a child it just seemed a given that that's what I would do with my life: art. Or a librarian. But as I grew older, a combination of self doubt and "reality" altered that "given" into what I should do that would be practical, and make my parents feel justified in spending large amounts of money on my education. They never said I couldn't be an artist, but of course worried about their daughter being able to support herself. My own father gave up any dreams of being an artist for the practical choice of becoming an architect, which could (and did) support his family.
So I chose illustration/graphic design for my degree, which seemed like a fair compromise. I had also stopped believing I was good enough to be an "artist", and was afraid of that lifestyle anyway - all that black clothing and smoking and talking about art - I was most definitely not that cool. It took a far greater degree of confidence than I, at the time, had.
However. I didn't seem to have enough confidence/talent to succeed as an illustrator/designer either. I half-heartedly pursued it, while supporting myself with a myriad of pay-the-bills jobs, without really committing to it, over a period of - ok, a really long time. And it wasn't linear: I'd give up the idea of being an illustrator or a graphic designer and look into other career choices (culinary arts, alternative health, psychology, education, retail business owner, wife and mother - still have the last two), and then swing back to spotty illustration jobs or design work within whatever other job I was doing.
Around 1997, there was a little shift back towards plain ole' art for art's sake: I started doing pastel paintings and fell in love with the medium. At the time I was working a couple of waitress jobs, and both restaurants let me hang my art in them. It was crazy, all of a sudden I had art hanging in a public space like I was an artist or something!
But I still didn't believe it, and had to justify it in some way - for example, one of the pieces was of my ex-boyfriend's dog, Nesta. I drew her as an angel, and it turned out really well. This elicited many requests for dog portraits, and I enthusiastically latched onto this: I was supposed to be a pet portrait illustrator! Until.... I could not bear to paint ANOTHER DOG. EVER. (Except my own. Those turned out super good)
That had been a recurring theme: I did a piece of artwork that was "successful", and then I would decide that THAT was the route I must go! And I would reign in my creative juices and try to funnel them down that one river, where it would quickly dry up into a trickle and then I once again would doubt that I was an artist at all....
So I continued this way, sort of having jobs, sort of doing design and illustration, sort of being an artist, and not committing to any. If I did commit to any of them over the other, I looked for signs of success, which would tell me that I chose correctly. But it didn't happen. Success.
So I decided to pursue design AGAIN as a freelancer...I had finally gained enough confidence in that skill area of my life. So I made a business card and started working on design projects for friends and family. I discovered a real pleasure in designing websites after collaborating on an online boutique with a good friend of mine, and wandered down that path for awhile. Meanwhile, I was still painting, and displaying my artwork at local cafes.
Then I had to give it all up, because Lulu was born. Oh I didn't mention that I had gotten married and pregnant? Yah that happened around that time too.
For a brief moment, I thought perhaps, this is what I am for: motherhood. I don't have to keep wondering what I am going to "be" when I grow up; here it is, my most wonderful beautiful perfect daughter. All else pales besides this visitor, this luminescent being, this all consuming relentless user of all my energy and time. And that is true: that is my number one priority, my biggest most important role of all, Lulu's mommy.
But if I'm going to be a good mommy, I have to do my own stuff. So I continued with some design jobs, and some painting, when I had a spare moment. Then this happened: a stupid, stupid dispute with a printer of a job I was working on. I had no time to paint; arguing with these chuckleheads was what I was working on. And it pissed me off. I wanted to paint. Lightbulb. I wanted to paint!
My daughter had provided me, by limiting my time, with the one thing I never could give myself: permission to give art priority over all else. (That and my husband having a well paid job. Thanks honey!!)
Perhaps you think that is the end to my story: girl decides to be ONLY an artist, finally. But that wasn't the revelation; rather that was the precursor to the revelation.
You see, I still found myself looking for life, people, the world to give me success to prove that I made the right choice. That I am "supposed" to be an artist. I was looking for validation.
I chose illustration/design in order to gain validation from my parents/family, and I looked for validation from the public in all of my other career/life choices. I would tentatively try something and look for confirmation outside myself.
So with art. I kept waiting for the sales and accolades to prove I AM AN ARTIST. When that isn't what defines being an artist. I define it. I am an artist, whether or not these things happen. Realizing that gave me permission to love my art and give it the time and nourishment it deserved.
I finally gave my art the respect it deserved: first I decided on giving it the TIME, and then behind it I gave it the FAITH.
(Cue George Michael singing "I gotta have FAITH FAITH FAITH. Man I love that guy)