Being an Artist

(Lindsborg – Part Two)

Being an artist is hard. Mentally, emotionally, physically, financially… all of those issues are hurdles an artist must address in one way or another. And do you really have a choice? Basically, no. If you are an artist —painter, writer, maker, musician, whatever your medium of choice — that is who you are to the core. Being an artist is who you are and what you do. And probably the biggest hurdle for most artists is that we are the worst at self-promotion. You hate to brag and put yourself out there for criticism but if you don’t, who sees your work? Is your work only art if someone sees the final product, approves of what you made, and then they call your creation art? When do you start to call yourself an artist?

All artists struggle with this balance of self, self-promotion, self-awareness, and self-preservation. We work at finding that balance of caring too much or not caring at all about having our artwork appreciated. And then there is the big elephant of creation versus sales. Do sales determine the value of your work? And, therefore, your worth?

For the first third of my life I considered myself a photographer above all else. I struggled between wanting to only do “art” and real life and ended up doing mostly weddings, portraits, and corporate work. Still, work that I was proud to share. I did stained glass for many years. I tried hard to elevate my creations to the status of “art,” although almost everyone else thought of it as “just a craft.” Not a lot of respect or support but still a satisfying and creative outlet for me.

For a big section of my life I went corporate. Maybe some art here and there but work and school and life got in the way. When I decided all of those other things had infringed for far too long, I became a musician. Life got significantly better. Add a few other things to the mix and… a much better life!

For the last several years, with the help of an extraordinarily benevolent spouse, I have been a full time musician. Along the way, I did a few random art projects, added an editor hat, and somehow all of this led to my current (and terminal) obsession of making books and pop-ups. Is this craft or art? Who decides?

Late last year I got to go off to Kansas to be an artist-in-residence. (If you missed the how/why, catch up here.) I had the best time! We had a blizzard. The blizzard was bad because we didn’t get to have the harp concert we planned but the storm was beautiful and impressive to watch from the safety of my warm room. I taught a class on bookbinding and worked with some enthusiastic students. Left to my own devises (without a hubby to provide needed balance and sanity) I spent crazy long hours working in the studio. I played my harp a TON. I went into the residency with a clear plan for my harp but not for the art work that I wanted to do. I hoped to find a direction in the place and it did indeed provide a phenomenal amount of inspiration and a bountiful trove of bits and pieces to scavenge for further creation. I barely left the studio but I still met a lot of wonderful people in this small arty town. The morning of December 2nd, we had a breakfast party. Among the twelve people in the group, we had six people with Sagittarius birthdays—December 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12th. Seriously. SERIOUSLY! Mine is the 8th, by the way, so is it any wonder I felt right at home? No.

Over the many past years, I’ve done a lot of things, called myself many things, and had a lot of titles. Right now, I sport a few different titles. For a while I’ve known that I’m in the right place, doing the right things. I have luxuries in my life that I do sincerely acknowledge and appreciate. But the luxury that I have never allowed myself to fully embrace is to just call myself an artist and not qualify that in some way. Or apologize. Or minimize. Or… So did I make any art work in Lindsborg that will change the world? No. But I was changed. Even though as I look back I think my core has been pretty unwavering and determined through the whole process, waiting for me to catch up. What all this means to me going forward is yet to be determined. But for now, I can simply say, I am an artist. And that is enough.

The inside of the Dala horse card that I made in Lindsborg. The Dala horse is the Swedish mascot of the town.
This is a Jacob’s Ladder that I made from a couple of posters of Raymond Lester’s work. He loved acrobats and harlequins so they were just crying out to be doing something active and mobile!
My harp felt loved by all the other creatures in the studio space.