How (not) to be an Artist

When I was back in high school, I had the opportunity to speak to an artist whose work I had admired since childhood. During our short conversation, this artist had seen my work on my cellphone and and seen my eager smile. At the time, I was an IB (International Baccalaureate) student, which was a trying endeavor, but well worth it. Pretty much, the last two years of my high school education revolved around learning why people made certain choices in history and discussing the theory of knowledge (I’m not kidding) as opposed to just memorizing the dates. Additionally, I was part of around five clubs and I took up an independent art study (because I was obviously cuckoo for coco puffs). There were times when I went without sleep for three days in a row because I had so much work to do. However, my heart  was broken when that artist told me that I didn’t really want to be an artist.This artist told me that I did not really want to be an artist because I did not sketch everyday. How could I? I was focused on trying not to fall asleep while completing essays with a minimum of 1,000 words after coming home from strenuous (but worth it) volunteer opportunities. I was already in an art class, which was basically my laboratory where I could experiment with my visual communication skills. Really, it was the best time to work because it was my assigned time for art and I tried my best to work outside of class, but I wasn’t logging five hours a day on my work. However, the artist that I spoke to didn’t seem to care about that as the artist told me that I would need to spend less time “hanging with my girls at the mall.” Needless to say, I was crushed and when I got home, I cried in my room. You know what? Those words still haunt me.—- I had never been so talked down to in all my life, mind you I’m giving the short and sweet version. To this day, impostor syndrome creeps up on me even though I know that I am making art and consciously striving towards my artistic goals. I have a few reasons for telling this story:

how to be artist
1. Stop Crushing People and Lift them UP!

This incident nearly blew out my flame for at least four years. I was doing some art, but part of me thought “what’s the point? I’m a failure anyway.” My family was always in my ear, particularly my mother, trying to lift me out of my funk. Looking back, I realize that the artist was trying to size me up and see what it would take to kill my spirit. However, we don’t need to be like that. It’s one thing to provide criticism. It’s whole other avenue when you attack one’s character and make any kind of assumption about them. There’s already enough people in this world who will make it their life’s work to tear others down. Do yourself a favor and don’t be one of those people. Be one of those encouraging people. Provide criticism to help people become better, but don’t be nasty just for the sake of being nasty.

2. Don’t be discouraged

Maybe you have had an experience like mine. Maybe it wasn’t a seasoned award winning artist who dissed you. Perhaps, it was a classmate or even your teacher. Just breathe. I know it stings. You have an idea, a vision that drives your work. Don’t let anyone crush that in you. Trust me. You will lose precious time wondering if you’re good enough and thinking you should just quit. Listen, I still have flares of doubt, but I keep making my work in spite of my doubt. That’s the thing about courage. It doesn’t mean an absence of fear. It means moving forward in spite of it.

3. Withhold your Assumptions

Listen, I was told that I needed to stop being such a street party girl if I wanted to be an artist. I didn’t provide any rebuttal (I wasn’t able to get those words into the conversation). I was far from being focused on stuff outside of school. I couldn’t even spell ‘party’ in my Senior year. My friends and I were usually busy and didn’t get to hang out that much unless it was lunch period. Also, if you like to hang out with your friends, that is nothing to be ashamed of and you should do that if you have the time (keeps you sane). You know who you are and you know that you are still figuring things out. Keep that in mind for yourself and others. Let people explain themselves or withhold themselves and discard your judgment. It will help you not only become a better creator but a better person.How not to be an artist1.2.3.
The person who told me that I didn’t want to be an artist and I are on civil terms now. I have shared my artwork with them over the years and we still speak from time to time, but even though I did not give up I don’t think that person will ever realize how deeply I was wounded or that the idea still pops up like a phantom pain or scar. We can all make it and we can all work to create something WE each believe to be amazing. Spend more time building yourself up as well building others up. The only reason that these negative themes in being an artist continues are because we let it continue. You. Person reading this. Be different.

Leave a Reply