I remember the exact moment that I truly believed I was an artist. It wasn’t the day I picked up my camera, or the day I made myself a website, or even the day I quit my job and decided to write “Photographer” on my Facebook page in the “Occupation” section. It was sometime in between there, on a day roughly in June of 2009. Someone looked at my photos, then so new and unpolished, and said, “You could be an artist”.
And suddenly, by the time the sentence was out of her mouth, I was.
Nothing actually changed in that moment. Nothing qualified me to be an artist. But suddenly, I was, simply because I believed.
I feel like I have some elusive secret hiding inside when in fact it is the most obvious thing I can think of. There is nothing qualifying me, no piece of paper stating a fact about a college degree, and certainly no merits that somehow make what I do “art” instead of an alternative. The only truth is what I believe.
All of this seemed particularly poignant when recently I was filling out a piece of paper for a lecture I was preparing to give. On the piece of paper, it asked, “Tell us about your educational experience (to get the crowd excited):” to which I responded, “I fail all the time, and so I learn”. I feel fairly certain that was not the answer anyone was looking for, but it was the only answer I could think to give. A lot of formal training will not prepare someone half as well as the inevitable trying and failing of your art. In fact, trying and failing is what makes what we do an art.
So, what makes you qualified to be an artist? Everything and nothing, and this is the truest thing I know. You may not have formal training. You may not have prestigious awards recognizing your talent. But the moment you take time to recognize your own talent, the world will catch up. When you believe in what you do, others will follow. When you let everyone know that your art is worth creating, it becomes relevant.
There does not exist, in my experience, a power so great as the power we hold within.
Networking and socializing and an endless rambling of achievements does not so much as come close enough to tickle the power of kindness, confidence, and creation. The more we create for ourselves, the more others will appreciate what we create. Our art has no merit based on the amount of people that think it is great. Our art has merit simply when we believe it does. If others follow, our art is not built up or diminished but simply accepted personally into the hearts and minds of those who would identify with our stories.
I ask for no greater power than to share a story with a stranger. I want no greater responsibility than to spread kindness and I want no greater gift than to receive it in return.
The next time you find yourself pondering if you yourself are an artist, answer boldly and bravely that you are. Because in that moment when you whisper to the artist within, the Artist will answer out loud.
Margherita Introna - Brooke, I love how you always managed to use the most perfect image to post with your blog thoughts 😉
I believe we are all artists and all hold that magic within ourselves… Our mediums and methods of expression are just different… and not everybody will understand your form of art. That does not make one less of an artist… but instead, fills the world with magic and wonder. It would have less meaning if all our art was the same and understood in the same way… <3
Wonderful post Brooke <3 xx
brookeshaden - I agree completely. Everyone is filled with magic, and I only wish everyone could see that <3
Sacha S. - You are truly an inspiration! You have a beautiful soul and a huge heart, thank you for being you and doing what you do. Hugs to you
brookeshaden - Oh Sacha, you are always so kind to me and I wish I could repay it!!
Alana - So true. Wonderful post.
brookeshaden - Thank you for being here Alana!
Alex McCombie - Repetition doesnt make me an artist. Nor does my degree in Art.
Success (financially or logistically) doesnt make me an artist.
The network of people or the exposure I get doesnt do it.
The need to create does. The desire to express something that has never been expressed in exactly the same way … ever… does.
If we only make one expression, one creation, one …
we are artists.
for a time.
Some of us, are incredibly talented in not only creating what we see inside our minds eye, but causing others to see it as well.
Those exceptional artists I appreciate immensely. Not because they are ‘successful’ but because they are honest in their expression, in their vulnerabilities, their failures (to them) and their dedication to their own desires to create.
Artist is yet another label in a world defined by labels. But without them we would have a hard time communicating and understanding each other. They certainly serve a purpose… but we should all be wary of allowing that purpose to grow beyond it’s usefulness and original intention.
Creation is self fulfilling. Or at least I think it should be 🙂
Timely me for me today as well.
brookeshaden - Honesty in expression – I couldn’t agree more. Whether you depict real life or not, there is still something to be said about creating from within.
Alex McCombie - Exactly.
I often envied people who can paint or sculpt because there is far less confinement in expression.
You see it… inside.. you bring it to life – outside.
Only the artist knows how truthful their art is and quite frankly that’s enough, in my opinion.
But I believe, that if you look…. really look at art in any and all forms, we can feel when it is more or less truthful. Instinctively.
And quite frankly… that’s why I keep coming back to this blog, your art. As your abilities with the tools grow, your art will only become more and more truthful, personal, expressive.
It’s a wonderful evolution to watch any artist meander along that path.
At least to me. 🙂
Denise Neale Jensen - Beautifully said Brooke. Love that you don’t fall in the small inadvertent pits others place along the path and explain your own course in the Fine Art World … and all with an open heart. ‘Sharing a story, spreading kindness’ such a fulfilling and giving mindset!
brookeshaden - If there is one lesson that I’ve been learning that never changes, it is that kindness is the most fulfilling way to live, and sharing stories is the most powerful way to connect. Thank you so much for showing me such kindness!
Heather - THIS is what I needed to read today. YES I am an artist.
brookeshaden - YOU are AMAZING!
RaphaelleM. - Brooke,
Thank you for all your inspired words, it’s like an awareness in each post you share, you help me to understand and comprehend the vision of my own art and how to manage my artist life
Being graduated doesn’t mean you are an artist, the important is how to feel and beeing in confidence with our vision
We are all an artist, the important is to find the way to discover who we are
brookeshaden - I so agree – our personal truths mean so much more.
miu vermillion - Inspiring and insightful as always. Thanks for sharing this.
brookeshaden - Aww thank you!
Cliff - Your story sounds familiar.
Except I’m a bit more stubborn – a friend had to beat me over the head with the words 10 or 15 times before I believed it.
brookeshaden - Good friend 🙂
robin spalding - wow brooke wow. everything you say is soo motivational but this post . . . had me in tears (all your fault lol) with how true it is. you are what you believe you are. good or bad. artist. teacher. . .etc and you comment about failing so you learn. . . seriously that is a mindblown moment for me reading that. i am so scared to fail at everything failing in art failing myself failing my marriage my life i am so caught up in the worry of failing i believe the worse and it ruins me. yet if i can shift my perspective to yours . . u fail then you learn and grow. . how that would change everything. failure wouldn’t be such a scary thing. i could quickly pick myself up and head in a better direction i could be free from worry and i can allow myself to do what i love to do. thank you. its always so inspirational reading your blog and sometimes like a giant AHA moment where im like omg DuH! this is exactly how i should approach things. thank you you are truly a mentor. i love your posts brooke!
brookeshaden - Robin, you are one of my favorite people. My world is better because I know you. Never be afraid to learn and grow…and in fact, that very spirit is what I sense in you and why I think you’re so great.
Mary Angelini - I love the dark duality to this image Brooke – it is both sad and beautiful!! I have always known I am an artist from the time I first perfectly drew that image of a rabbit from my father’s how-to art book. My problem is not in admitting I am an artist, but from being raised pragmatically to believe that although I was very talented no one could ever subsist as an artist. When presented with the proverbial fork in the road I, in true pragmatic fashion, opted for paralegal school, telling myself at the time I could always go to art school afterwards since feeding myself and putting a roof over my head was more important. Now, 25 years down the road, I have yet to go to art school and the artist within continues to burn with the same passion. My daughter, who is also an artist, was told from a very early age to follow her passion and that somehow the universe would provide, advice (and support) I wished I’d received at her age. The moral of the story: be what you are regardless of what is practical and you will ultimately find your happiness and peace, much the way you appear to be doing it Brooke 🙂
brookeshaden - Oh Mary I love what you say – and love how you raise your daughter. It is so often true, that the more you follow your passion the more you will create opportunities for yourself.
Mary Angelini - I may be a little late to the party, but it is totally true what they say – you do reap what you sow!!
andrea - Great read Brooke <3
brookeshaden - Thanks dear!
Mike Alegado - I love reading your words Brooke, it lifts my spirits up and I can really relate to everything that you say. You give confidence to everyone you have inspired and I think it is a wonderful thing. Thank You!
brookeshaden - Mike, thank you so much for being so kind. You’ve brightened my day!
Lu - So well said and so inspiring. Now I need to believe 🙂 . Thanks for all your words and worlds!
brookeshaden - Yes indeed, believe it because it’s true!
lovelyn - Fancy degrees don’t make you an artist. Taking the time to make an image in your head come to life does. I’ve only realized that recently and I’m so glad I have. Thanks for the inspirational words.
brookeshaden - Thank you so much for reading Lovelyn!
Thea - Oh Brooke, I wish to join in to what everybody says:
Thank you! Thank you so much for being so honest and pure and for allowing us to peek into your heart and soul… And thank you for creating such a beautiful space where everyone wants to do the same because we know it is appreciated… I very much enjoy following your posts as well as the comments – so thank you to everyone for sharing a piece of their heart!
Have a wonderful day!
Claire - Hey Brooke, I’m a french girl, and I’m maybe not really good in English but I wanted to tell you that you inspire me. Your post is wonderfull. Really. It’s the kind of post that makes you smile and believe in the beauty of the world. I follow your work since a whyle now and every day, I’m a little more inpressed. I admire you for your courage: you do want you want, and you truly love it. Furthermore, you share all of it with strangers, it creates a bond between us, it’s fantastic :).
So I wanted to thank you, like a lot of people before me (but I had to tell you anyway). Thank you to share your beautiful world with us; thank you for your words, they were perfect. And: Never stop doing it. You’re really good at it ;).
To conclude; I wish you to spend a nice day ! :D.
jo - Brooke, I have been following you quietly with curiosity for several months. This post touched my soul, and as others have said is very timely. Clearly you are on the right path and are convincing me that I am as well.
passion, spirit, courage – and thank you
Elisabeth on Earth - LOVE LOVE LOVE. I feel it most when I’m working on an image in post. This is when my whole body embraces the creative process, and I’m being drawn into the picture. Thank you so much for this post, and for this blog.
natascha van niekerk - Thank you Brooke! your posts always seem to align with whatever struggles I go through on a personal level and as an artist! i needed to hear this today, something i so totally believe in and encourage others to believe, and the very same thing that trips me up completely sometimes… Thank you for helping us all to believe in ourselves and our art, you are a jewel!
Jomar Padilla - You know what you wrote struck a chord. I really thought I was going to go nowhere with photography I thought maybe its a halfhearted hobby. Learning from you opened the door to many things changed the way I looked at things, the way I thought of a situation. I either conform like everyone else or I can go out there and discover myself. There are so many superficial truths out there and just realizing that you are what you sought out to be and truly believing shatters every single one of those illusions. I believe I finally discovered a style so natural to me it feels amazing finishing something that feels like its been there all along. Brooke remember the tarot cards? remember your question? I believe in those cards whether it’s a placebo or divination and I personally believe that you spread inspiration every where like a bee and pollen. Cheers!
Nicole Snook - I have always found it hard to believe in myself, sometimes I feel like a fraud but then someone like you comes along, with your kindness and willingness to share and inspire all, and my self-doubt fades. My work is dark and sometimes that worries me then I look at your work and read your posts and I remind myself that the images I create are the stories of my life and although my life has been full of bad experiences, full of darkness, photography is my light, my voice and in a way therapy releasing me of those demons and allowing me to move on. I know I am not alone in what I have experienced and that is why it is important for me do my photography, to let it be seen, because it lets others know they are not alone and that my voice is their voice letting the truth be told.