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.