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My biggest insecurity as an artist

My biggest insecurity as an artist is my (perceived) utter lack of imagination. Many aspects of this topic came up in conversations lately and I thought I’d take a minute and write a few lines on it.

Let’s go back a little bit to when I just started painting. I was always creative, drew and painted a lot as a child. I was one of those kids you couldn’t get out of the art room in kindergarten. However, when I think of what I do today, that started when I first learned painting with acrylics, I was 12. Back then, I had strong ideals of what I wanted to be as an artist. I’d roam DeviantArt and see a bunch of original works, mostly fantasy and fan art and think “that’s what I’ll do someday.” I wanted to have these epic images in my mind and be able to bring them onto paper just the way I saw them in my head.

What I was good at, however, was painting from photographs or from nature. I was good at copying, and I always thought I’d get past it, eventually. I’d have a voice in my head always saying, “copy now, to get the skills, and later you’ll be able to do original work.”

There are two fallacies in that logic. First, what I was doing was original work. Second, I wasn’t actually training to do what my ideal was dictating.

I was doing what I enjoyed doing, I did it a lot, and felt it was out of laziness. I did what I wanted but never forced myself to acquire the skills I needed to achieve this "thing" I had envisioned. In the end, I’m glad I spent my time just enjoying the activity, rather than forcing myself into the box I thought I belonged in. I think I would have been miserable had I decided to go to art school, by being self-taught, I had the liberty to do exactly what I felt like doing in the moment.

I am not saying being a classically trained artist is not a good thing. I am just saying I don’t think it would have done me any good. Maybe I choose to believe it so that I might justify my lack of traditional skills, maybe it is true. I don’t even know myself. I just know it makes me happier to believe I went down the right road for me, rather than wallow in regret over the things I did not do or do not have.

Back to today, I’ve decided to let go of that ideal artist I thought I ought to be and just be me instead. I don’t want to make it sound cheesy or overly simplified, I still have a bunch of insecurities, but I have learned to not take them too seriously, otherwise I know they will start controlling my life. I can’t think up epic scenes and bring them to life, so what? I do other stuff, it might not be my ideal, but I have fun in the process. As long as some people like it and see value in what I do, I am happy.

“Wait a second, validation from others? You should be doing it for yourself only!” That’s what some people would tell me, I also chose to get over that logic. Outside validation helps me seeing the value in my own work when I am not able to do it by myself. There is a lot of my own art I do not like when I first finish it, always seeing all of the little problems here and there, never satisfied. I first learn to appreciate them when I see them through the eyes of others, it’s an important dynamic for me to continue painting at all.

I am not the best at any skill, so what? I am better than most at many. I used to think I had to choose one skill and stick to it, but I find the space in between skills to be so much more interesting. I am the best I can be at my combination of skills, and that’s okay. I don’t like the fact that I can’t speak any of my languages perfectly (not even my mother tongue), but hey, I speak four, and really, who can speak any language perfectly anyways? I do not like that I do not master any specific painting skill, but I like that I have tried everything. I like that I can bring many other perspectives to my art, and to my life in general, because I haven’t spent too much time mastering anything.

So, I am not a classically trained artist, now what?

I am another kind of creative, I am a holistic problem solver. This comes to light more in other parts of my life, I am the kind of person who will think up solutions to practical problems and implement them in ways other people might not even think of. I thrive in limitations. It is most obvious when I write academic papers and do research, always coming up with the most outrageous theses and finding ways to defend them. I use everything I know and can in everything I do, always exploring the in-between.

It might sometines seem like I have original ideas, the foxes, the jazz animals… Mostly they are just inspired by the art of others, I find one thing I like and run with it until I suck it dry. It happens at most once a year, the rest of the time I just do whatever I feel like doing. I don’t get to draw or paint every day, even though I think I ought to if I’m going to call myself an artist. However, I do get to do something creative every day. Creating a new training split, cooking by using whatever I have on hand, making stuff out of scraps, thinking up solutions to practical problems in my living space, finding an elegant argumentation for a paper I’m writing, having fun with languages, telling jokes, making mistakes and embracing them as part of the creative process.

Here’s the thing:

I am not what I would typically think an artist should be.

I am not what I typically think an academic should be.

I am not what I typically think a woman should be.

I am not what I typically think an adult should be.

Yet I have called myself all of these things, so maybe there’s more to it. Maybe the problem is on the side of the neat boxes and not of the people trying to fit into them. I am still going to be insecure from time to time, but I can at least choose to live authentically, choose to be the person I want to be and not the [fill in the blank] I have been told I ought to be.

It’s nothing new, but it’s my two cents of wisdom on how I keep sane when I feel everything I do is worthless.

Thank you for reading, if nothing else, I hope this did not bore you to death. If you liked it, let me know and I might write this kind of posts more often. Questions? Comment, I’ll gladly answer them!