People often ask me how long I’ve been an artist. My standard answer is to say “7 years”, since that was how long ago I picked up my camera. Before that I was creating films in college. Before that I was writing short stories in high school. Before that I was writing poetry in middle school. On and on it goes.
The truth is that how we create is not what makes us artists. Being an artist is about the journey we take to express our personal truth. That journey meanders. It is not a predictable path, nor should it be. It is too easy to wax philosophical about the unknown, winding future and the beauty it holds. The truth is that most of us are scared of that path. We think it will be an adventure until we start down it, and out of fear we quit and find the easier way.
Being an artist is about doing what you know you should do despite the fear. Being an artist is not about being fearless but instead about being brave. Being an artist is about listening to yourself, even when you don’t see yourself clearly. It is recognizing that even a blurred vision of yourself is better than someone else’s version of yourself. It is creating despite not knowing how; it is finding your story when you think everyone else is more interesting.
An artist’s palette will ebb and it will flow. It will become grand and it will diminish. It will carry the weight of the artist’s soul and it will wash it back out to sea to be claimed by another sunset. That is the beauty of the artist’s adventure. So many people set sail for a destination, while others of us simply go. We let the emotion of the experience translate into an indescribable yet brilliantly articulate masterpiece. This is what we call our muse. This is what we call our genius. This is what we call ourselves.
The etymology of the word “art” goes back to mean “human workmanship”. I identify with this root insofar as most of the artists I know embody what it means to dedicate oneself to a craft. To do the work of what it means to be human – is this not the most pure form of art? To question what it means to be alive. To give yourself the most visceral human experiences. To work for a more meaningful life.
Our images, words, paintings – our greatest creations and even our lesser ones – flow from an intimate place. My images are so rarely related to my current situation, but when they are, they come from a place of understanding. When my emotion clicks with logic I am able to create with honesty like never before. This image is just such a time for me, when my world has been shaken, where I have been searching, and here it has come together perfectly.
For perhaps the first time in my art I have looked at a piece I created, which was done on a whim with the very last of the light outside my bedroom window, and I said “this is me”. Catharsis. Release. Understanding. I relish leaving myself behind. I fall in love with the possibility of who I will be. In this image I see so much of me. I see my insecurities and my doubts. I see my strength and my soul. I see my artist’s sensibilities coming out in their creepy way that defines me so deeply.
For three weeks I’ve had this image pulled up on my computer and my phone, looking at it many times every day, wondering why, out of all my images, I am so drawn to this particular one. The photographer in me wondered if it was the light, or the compositing, or the colors. The storyteller in me wondered if it was the use of symbolism or the character I had created. But the real me, the one that combines each of those people and so many more, knew the truth. I saw myself, pure as day, sitting right in front of me, raw and exposed in a way I had never witnessed before.
To see yourself clearly. To let yourself be known. This is my definition of Artist.
What piece of art have you created
that represents who you are or want to be?
“Catharsis”, June 2016, self-portrait
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