Monday, April 20, 2009

An artist in black and white

I spent some time yesterday with one of the most interesting artists I know, and I was surprised to hear her say during our conversation that sometimes she doesn't believe she's a "real" artist.

Being an artist is a way of seeing, a way of living your life guided by your senses and your intuitive impulses. It has nothing to do with "talent," or what gallery represents you, or how many pieces you've sold. It's the way you are; you can't help yourself.

When I am among folks who are historians, say, or librarians, I can see that I have a lot in common with them as far as interests and ways of thinking, but I'm not quite a natural member of their group. But visual artists ... I ALWAYS feel totally at home with them (writers and teachers, too). Even if I don't share all of their opinions and experiences, there is something inside that we share.

I remember an event in graduate school that helped to certify in my mind that I was an artist. Although I had been making art seriously for years by then, and had been an intensely visual and tactile person since childhood, I hadn't really accepted that I was an artist.

One day, tired of having to scribble down my phone number on a scrap of paper whenever I met someone I wanted to keep in touch with, I decided to have business cards made up for myself. It wasn't even a self-promotional thing (at that point), just a time-saving measure. At the last minute at the printer's, I decided to have the occupation "artist" printed under my name. "Catherine Carter: Artist."

And somehow that simple act made it official! Whenever I felt doubt about what I was up to in the studio, I pulled out one of those business cards and read my occupation. Seeing it in black and white made it real and true! Eventually, the doubts faded away completely, never to return.

If you believe you are an artist, you are an artist.

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