I have always had artistic or creative inclinations since I was a small child. It seems about as natural and easy as breathing... The funny thing is- I actually have some issues with breathing...so maybe it hasn't been all that easy or natural.
Anyway, I studied art in college and I would work on my art for deadlines, critiques, and special projects and the like but I always questioned myself. I wasn't an artist back then. I was simply someone who could do art and I thought at the time it was an easy route for me to actually make it through college.
I would question my loyalty to the subject, my passion and drive. I saw people artfully dressed carrying their sketchbooks, drawing furiously in the corner of the coffee house. It seemed like no one else existed to them. I saw the guy on the corner with his easel, painting all day in the summer sun. I saw the cool crafty artist who worked at making social statements on t- shirts with xerox transfers.
There were the artists that read about other artists and knew all the contemporary masters by name and could talk about their styles with ease. It seemed like so many people ate, drank, and breathed art. I was simply someone who had been doing it all my life but pretty quietly. I knew the old master's work that is popular with the print market set, and I didn't have a sketch book, in fact I don't even doodle when I am on the phone. I felt that I lacked the intensity. I thought that to be a real artist I must stay up all night, eat nothing and think big thoughts with other starving and passionate artists.
So, what changed? How can I confidently tell people I am an artist with a straight face and not feel like I am lying...
It happened gradually, and it was a bit uncomfortable at first. So, the statement "Fake it till ya make it" became my mantra. I would write notes to myself as proof that I was an artist. I had a studio - check!I had supplies(even if half of the canvases were from dumpsters, or estate sales and hand me down paint) Check! I painted occasionally- check! I felt some sort of kinship with Edward Munch and loved to spend time in Museums when I got the rare chance- Check! Oh yeah and I did have that 5 year studio degree in Painting from a University Check!
I kept a record of every show I had been in; small group shows, community college shows, whoa! even some juried shows, and then as the list grew, I saw that this wasn't totally a fluke- I had some credibility as an ARTIST- Check!
I also decided that calling myself a Personal Assistant, Reader, AmeriCorps Worker, Guided Literacy Aide and Survey Giver felt less true than when I called myself an artist. Around this time I read a book that really helped me, Art Marketing 101: A Handbook for the Fine Artist (Paperback) by Constance Smith. I checked it out from the library a few times and then I bought it and I still refer back to it. I highly recommend this book.
The author does a great job of talking about some of the psychology involved with being an artist as well good nuts and bolts business advice that I was never taught in school.
So, even when I was still working those outside jobs, I started calling myself an Artist and when you put that out there, you don't want to be a liar so I started painting more than occasionally. I got a sink put in the little back porch room so it became an even better studio. I checked out more books on the arts and art business and began identifying with newer artists than Munch, and I put my work up all over my house, and I then I created a tiny little group called the Rebel Artist Collective of other folks that were starting to want to take their art to another level.
When I put my name out there as an artist people came to me, since I must be an artist to have started a collective and that was enough for them. I was offered an opportunity to start writing articles for an online version of the paper about local art and art events around town. It was great! I was even getting paid. I felt I was on my way, and the momentum carried me to where I am now.
So, call yourself an artist if you feel like you might be one. Put yourself out there.You don't have to dress in black, chain smoke, sketch all the time, or even be starving.
Someone is going to believe you when you say it, and then you may start believing it yourself.