Artist's Way Blog
|Posted by Kate Gavigan on May 16, 2012 at 11:15 AM|
There are few things that get my blood a boilin’ and my heart a racin’ more than one particular phrase.
“I am not an artist.”
Usually delivered in a wilting voice, shrunken shoulders all while scurrying away. Recently, I saw one person declare it in a group and then another said "me too" and then another one: "I'm the same". They then ran to each other, embraced and formed what looked like an amoeba like pod almost to say “don’t ATTACK us you-artist-professing-person-you.”
My sense that they seemed to anticipate an "attack" might give me a clue to what they might be feeling.
Somewhere down the line someone or some thing might, just might, have given them the message that they were not an artist.
When I facilitate our Artist's Way classes, I think of "artist" and "artistry" in the broadest of terms. One of the many definitions of “artist” includes this nugget: "Someone who is a creative person (a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination)."
I have seen people who display true artistry in doing accounting, in their gardening, in how they parent, in how they tell a story, to how they put together an outfit. It is an incredibly beautiful thing to see the artist in every single one of my students and it is often very individual and unique.
The origins of the "I'm not an artist" mantra seem to vary. I’ve heard from some students how they were shamed by others or they shamed themselves when they couldn’t match up their art with someone else’s vision of REAL art.
Who hasn’t had that experience in school of trying to draw something and seeing some art savant wiz kid next to you draw a perfect tree while yours in comparison shouted to you: “Charlie Brown tree anyone?!”
And then it begins.
The mantra begins to seep in “He’s an artist, I’m not.”
Or maybe someone looked at your painting and sneered and we thought “yup, not going to experience THAT again”. Thus the no artist tattoo got burned into our brain.
Maybe we bought into the cultural definition that “artists” are solely those select few other folks who draw, act, sing, or dance. Maybe we didn’t get seen for the amazing artistry we bring in the gifts we were bestowed with or have developed (thank goodness for others who can recognize those gems in us!).
But I’ve learned how to respond.
Not always perfectly.
My first inclination? To want to pounce on the clump of the 3 professing “non-artistry” pod and exclaim “YES, YOU ARE!!!!”
Yeah, that’s definitely going to help.
Not so much.
Instead, I try to remember what might be behind it and instead smile and reflect on when I used to feel the same way, because I did. Heck, there were things I claimed not to be even when I hadn’t tried them. For example, “I’m not a dancer.” Mind you, I had never even TRIED to dance apart from the trauma-inducing 9th grade dances at my high school.
Confession: Stairway to Heaven still causes me to break out in a cold sweat.
But then a friend gently introduced me to swing dancing and now I’m a swing dancing enthusiast (albeit a constantly learning and imperfect one which I am learning to embrace.).
Now after remembering how it felt to not see myself as artistic, I now reply: “Boy, can I relate. I used to say that about myself a lot. Now? Not so much.”
Then I can let it go … mostly. Instead of needing to hit them over the head with “you are too an artist” baton, I make a point of seeing the artistry in them and maybe even take a minute and name their gifts (because BOY are they!).
“WOW, you are a great story teller.”
“I LOVE that you moved your door in your house so that it faces the street. Fantastic!”
“That is one STYLIN' dress.”
Gifted, every single one of ‘em.
Now, THAT can really get my heart a racin’.