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I have never called myself an artist. Usually, I just say I’m someone who loves art. And that’s true, I do love looking at art, but I also love making it. I don’t remember a sliver of my childhood when I wasn’t drawing with Crayola markers or painting with watercolors. My life as a youngster was constantly consumed by art, and I really loved every second of it. I grew up in a household that embraced creativity, so no matter how terrible my kindergarten drawings were, I was never told they were bad.
When I started taking art classes in middle school, I automatically compared myself to my peers. Making art kind of took a downhill turn from there, as I felt embarrassed to practice in front of other people. While I had a few art classes in high school, making art just wasn’t fun for me anymore. I easily associated my artistic worth with the grade I was making in class. And, being a busy high schooler, I never had the time to make art on my own.
Now, three years into my college career, I’m starting to pick art back up. I felt like I was stretching myself when I became an art history major, if I’m being honest. Feeling a bit of imposter syndrome, I thought, “Who am I to talk about art? I don’t know anything.”
As I slowly get more and more comfortable with my major, I am trying to see art and art making in a new light. I know that I can write academic essays about artwork, so what is stopping me from making my own? Well, I don’t think other people would call me an artist, so I don’t call myself one. I don’t have an audience rooting me on, so I assume that I’m simply not an artist. Lately, though, I’ve come to realize you don’t need anyone to tell you who or what you are.
Being famous is not what makes you an artist, even though it may seem like it. I never had anyone in middle or high school tell me I could be an artist just for myself; my artistic skills were solely based on what grade my art teacher gave me. So for those of you questioning your abilities as artists, I am here to tell you that you can be what you want for yourself. As cliché as it sounds, you don’t need to prove to anyone that you’re an artist. You can just be one.
As much as I hate to tell other people out of fear of judgment, I really like photography. Taking photos truly brings me joy and is one of the only things I get excited about time and time again. Taking this into account, I think my love for photography is a good enough reason to start thinking of myself as an artist. While I may never make money from my photos, I at least experience something positive creating them. As I struggle between thinking of myself as an artist telling people this is “just a hobby of mine,” I remind you that you don’t need to always shoot yourself down. You don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you like something. If I like photography and I want to call myself an artist, I am going to do it even if no one ever sees my photos.
This is a mindset I continue to explore, and I’m not always as confident as I seem in this article. I constantly doubt if my art is “good enough” as I reshape my thoughts about who can be an artist, and while I still experience setbacks (because I am a human being), I can at least say it feels nice when I do believe in myself.
I find it so ironic that I question my art skills as an art history major. Through my studies, I have come to respect and appreciate artists, even if I don’t necessarily find their work aesthetically pleasing. I believe with my whole heart that my friends are artists. I, and I think all of us, need to start showing up for ourselves the way we believe in other people. I am allowed to enjoy photography. I am allowed to call myself an artist. I am allowed to believe in my abilities. You are, too.
Whether hundreds of thousands of people see, hear or experience your artwork, or you save it only for yourself, know that your creative senses are endless. Call yourself what you want. Be an artist.