Who deems one to be an Artist?

Long Point Beach Copyright: Raine Eller www.realignphotography.com

This is a weighty subject for me. I have long reflected on this label or title. Who decides whether you are an artist or not? Is there an initiation period of some sort?! Of having to accomplish a certain amount of work first? Is is necessary to initially create for years on end unbenownst to others before sharing your pieces? What about accepting payment for your work? Do you weather the stormy chaos of crowds at markets and trade shows, promoting yourself til you are hoarse; jumping through the hoops on the carpet at a gallery; standing til your legs feel numb, on a cobblestone road, painting portraits of any interested soul for next to nothing? Ok, I got carried away there! (and into another section of the timeline apparently).

Seriously, I wonder is it when one sells their first piece of work for money? Or after one hundred pieces?! Who decides? There are likely a thousand different perspectives and opinions ‘out there’ on the subject. At this point in my journey, I need to be concerned with my own. I believe artists are those who absolutely need to share a message, or inner interpretation — visually, olfactorally or viscerally to the world, which satiates a creative longing within them (which, in essence is truly a Soul calling, I feel).

I remember sorting through my parents’ basement years ago. I was pulling out old boxes that they had asked me to please take before the sale of the house. These boxes were filled with memorabilia from my elementary, highschool and college days! (ugh)

SO…through the boxes I foraged, remembered and experienced the accompanying feelings that nostalgia lane brings. Then, while rummaging in one cupboard, I came across a skinny long box underneath some bins. Curious, I opened it to discover–mouth suddenly hanging open–BEAUTIFUL sketches of women and men and fruit. Separate subject sketches, not all together (!) They were done by my mother. I knew she was exceptionally creative and talented….yet not to this degree.

Sadness seeped through….to think she had hidden them away like this. I felt so many feelings all at once. I immediately marched upstairs to get her to account for her actions. I said ” You’re an Artist!!!” ” WHY are these HIDDEN away like this?–they should be in frames somewhere for others to see!!!” I was very passionate–perhaps a bit too emphatic in that moment. She got a little teary eyed (or perhaps it was my eyes that were misting so hers looked the same…) She hemmed and hawwed and declared she did not feel they were good enough. Wow. My heart sank like an anchor off the boat of self esteem.

Can self-doubt be inherited??! Seriously.

In recent years, I’ve had countless discussions with two very dear friends–both whom are artists. Each of them has sold their work and had formal education. They are each quite matter of fact and humble about their work….and disciplined when creatively in their flow–at creating and creating and creating! These are the mentors I have chosen to emulate.

One of them taught me that ‘releasing’ (sharing/showing/selling) the finished work is not so much about ego’s need for attention, yet rather the completion of the process. It certainly feels vulnerable and almost sad yet also jubilant, in my experience, to do so. I trust it’ll get easier…

And so, four years after seriously beginning (again) my photography, I can say the word “artist” in the same sentence as “I am” and, although still cringing somewhat inside, it is feeling more integrated each time I do.

May you embrace your inner creator today…

“Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite — getting something down.”
― Julia Cameron

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