growing up

Growing Pains: My journey to becoming an Artist

It has only been 14 months since I decided to pursue a career as an Artist. At first, I didn’t realize how much work went into being one, especially the part where you had to promote your own work. I am a naturally shy person. There are times where I get plagued with social anxiety. Talking and revealing myself to others can be a daunting task to overcome. But over time it has gotten a little bit easier after each attempt.

The first time that I admitted to being a Painter to another person was at an Open Studios event at my favorite local art store. There were a few artists presenting their work and even demonstrating what they do. I was so nervous but I managed to have a great conversation with Carol Aaron, an artist who specializes in encaustics. You guys should look her up, I thought her work was so cool! I even asked for her advice in how to get into the industry. She told me to be “stupid brave”, which still sticks to me today and motivates me to put myself out there.  

I think the problem with being an Artist is that you have periods where you are a total recluse, completely inspired by whatever you’re working on. Slaving away at your craft in the space that is your studio. But then you have to eventually come out into the world and shout “I’m an Artist! Here is my work!” Those are polar opposites that become extremely difficult to balance.

Standing in front of my painting "Stairway to Heaven" at the Pacific Art League

Standing in front of my painting "Stairway to Heaven" at the Pacific Art League

It is 2017 and we are inundated with the ease and accessibility of data sharing. Due to the progress of technology, we can reach millions of people through social media through applications like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Where once a website was considered a novel idea now is deemed a necessity. Where artists post videos on YouTube or make blog posts like this one. I guess what I’m saying is that I didn’t know that I had to be a painter, a people person and a computer guru all at the same time! Through a bunch of trial and error and consistently tweaking my website, I finally have something to show for it! I’m gradually building up my portfolio and hopefully letting more people into my world.

I think all this effort is definitely worth it. My problem is that I’m terribly impatient. I’ve grown up so motivated to achieve at the most efficient rate. Slow was not in my vocabulary. But that is what is necessary for me to hone my craft. It is extremely unrealistic for me to expect to gain hundreds or thousands of followers on Instagram overnight. As paintings take time to create, so does my career.

Scrolling through Instagram can be a mood buster for me sometimes. I follow so many wonderful artists and I sometimes get the green eye of envy. I end up comparing myself to their work and wonder about my achievements. But then I pinch myself because I am hindering myself by comparing whatever I do to some person I’ve never met. So then I resign myself to admiring those artists I follow and to work and be the Artist that makes me happy. I don’t expect to become a Master Painter or get famous and have a brand of paints named after me like Bob Ross, but I do want to make a mark on this world and show how I see things in my unique way. 

“So what do you do?” Owning up to being an Artist.

You know when you are introduced to someone and the first thing they ask is "So what do you do?" It wasn’t until I quit my job that I started contemplating that question. My old response was, “Oh, I’m a C.P.A. (Certified Public Accountant)”. There would be comments about taxes (which I didn’t work on), some forced laughter and then the conversation would move on. But once I quit my job I didn’t know what to say anymore. Retired Accountant? Housewife-in-training? Unemployed and confused? I then realized that the question being asked was pure crap.

The question itself is super general. It implies that you are defined by your job. If you are a doctor that is your identity. Justin, my husband, would therefore be known as Justin the doctor. Instead of all the other pursuits and interests that he has, his choice of occupation is something that becomes all encompassing. I especially think that with the Internet and social media, there is a fixation on labels and compartmentalizing.  

I sat with this sense of dread when introduced to a new person. Do I explain that I’m looking into new opportunities? “Oh, it wasn’t the right direction for me. Right now I’m focused on making sure that my household is running smoothly and that my husband is happy.” I would give this long winded answer and the recipient would just nod their head out of politeness. I had anxiety that I would be judged as lazy and not living up to my potential, whatever that was.

And then it clicked. After many hours of self-reflection, I was like, screw it. Nobody is going to define me. I will define myself. I am a wife, a former corporate drone, a great cook, a dog mom and finally an Artist. At first I was reluctant to admit to being an Artist. I hadn’t sold a painting yet, I didn’t have a website, I literally just started getting back into the groove. I didn’t think I had the credentials of calling myself one. But once I embraced the idea and admitted to myself that I was an Artist, I ultimately got the confidence to admit it to the rest of the world. With that confession, I owned what I identified as. 

Justin, myself and our pup Chewie at our wedding.

Justin, myself and our pup Chewie at our wedding.

I see painting as my chosen profession. It is something that I love and I think about every day. It is something that inspires me from ordinary things and experiences. And it is something that is a huge part of me. But I am so much more than that.

So I finally have an answer to that age old question of “So what do you do?” I can write on the blank line under 'Occupation', so everybody asking can rest assured. And besides that clearly refined answer, I know that I am not solely categorized as that and I am everything and anything that I set out to be.