Friday, November 12, 2010

Are you an "Artist?"

"One of our chief needs as creative beings is support", writes Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist's Way. Are you an artist that never got the encouragement necessary to pursue your dream? That's what happened to me. I didn't realize that I had the makings of an artist until I got into graphic design and marketing in high school. I won numerous awards for my advertising layout and design, winning 1st place in the state DECA competition, and was the first student in my high school to earn a trip to Nationals in Miami. I thought my future was made, so I enrolled in college to earn a B.A. in Marketing & Management with a Minor in Graphic Communication (art). When I graduated, I was going to get a job as an Account Executive in an advertising agency.

Or so I thought. The perfect storm of negative people/situations smacked me right in the face (or should I say, infiltrated my mind). In the Artist's Way, Julia encourages people to write about these negative influences, or "Monsters" and turn the negatives into positives.

In my case, it was my college graphics art teacher. She said to me at one critique, "Your drawings have a child-like quality " (meaning they looked like they were drawn by a 6 year old). Gee, thanks. Add to that we had a very talented artist in that class that did make my work look like it was done by a child. No matter what grades I got in my other art classes (mostly A's to my surprise, since I really still didn't think I was an artist), that negative comment really stuck with me, as did my personal comparison against "Joe" the REAL artist.

Graduating in the midst of the recession of the mid-1980's was another negative blow to my art career. Every job outlook I looked at for Advertising Execs stated how highly competitive the hiring situation was. I would be competing for jobs against REAL artists. I didn't have a chance. Due to the bad economy, I couldn't even get a graphics job in the local copy shop without any work experience. Eventually I ended up in retail management and other career pursuits and gave up completely on creating art.

It was 20 long years before I considered being an artist again. But in the meantime, I was a shadow artist. I would watch TV commercials or look at art in galleries and say, "I could do better than that!" "How did they get a job in some prestigious ad agency, only to turn out those boring, non-creative commercials?" Even worse, some company was paying that ad agency for those crappy commercials and passing the costs on to me, the consumer! It was a double insult.

Eventually, the anger turned into action. I went back to art. I started taking lessons and workshops to build up my skills. I recently ran into several positive and supportive people, who encourage my painting and jewelry making endeavors. I no longer want to be an ad exec, just an artist who makes attractive art that other people can enjoy and possibly purchase.

Who were some of the people who discouraged your growth as an artist? Write about it and mentally rid yourself of those "monsters" so you can focus on creating art NOW. Sharing your stories with other artists can help others in the same boat, so please leave a comment and become a part of this support network.

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