Are you a “REAL” Artist? (and what is a “REAL” artist anyway?)



“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”- Pablo Picasso

I just love this quote so much. It is at once depressing and full of possibility. I agree whole-heartedly with Mr. Picasso. In my experience, there exist a rare few of us that had parents and teachers that consistently reminded us to remain an artist. There are even a rarer few who knew innately that we must do so with or without our parents support. I am always envious of either group. I am equally grateful, however, for my own path.

When I found art, or should I say, when art found me, I became complete. It wasn’t pretty at first, no sir. I made some seriously cheesy (aka: safe) stuff trying to find my way. It was a reflection of my inner turmoil and the notion that I had to “fit” and do what I thought others expected of me. Therefore the art of that time was cutesy and clean. It was happy and sweet. It was my toe in the water of what was really possible. It was the door to my soul barely cracking open. It was safe and contained. I still was driven to keep creating, however, despite the fact that I knew this somehow wasn’t my true voice.

It wasn’t until I took a “journaling with images”class about 2 years later, that I really felt what a power had been unleashed. The class was taught by one of my mentors and now dear friends, Deb Jones. This is when I knew that art had moved in for good. Through my explorations in this class, I started to learn to tap into the deepest parts of myself through the creative process. The feeling of my 1st full journal in my hands was as visceral as the process of filling her pages with my guts. From that point forward I have filled more books than I can count: a visual record of the twisty turny journey of my life. I was unstoppable. I took every class I could find over many years, and as a result found my true teachers, who remain my mentors today: Deb Jones and Laurie Doctor.

Anyhow, I digress….back to being a “real” artist. I have been accused of being an imposter, both by myself and by another artist. I have witnessed my beloved friends and students experience the same tragic belittling by self and other. It is heart breaking, and I want to tell you that I am making a stand. All art is REAL ART!

After 20+ years of making art regularly, I now can say that with confidence, both because of my own experience and my witnessing of others’ experiences. I have taught many process painting classes where women arrived chanting their disclaimers: “I am not creative” or “I am not really an artist”. I also witnessed as they promptly shattered that myth just by jumping in and doing the work. By work, I mean showing up. I mean allowing themselves to play and to feel their way into colors, textures and marks that were an expression of their souls. I have witnessed my dear friend who is a gifted and experienced artist get belittled

by a person who went to art school yet, no longer makes art. “You aren’t a real artist because you have no training”. PHOOOEY, I say! Making art every day because you have to IS the training. It is having the courage to come to the page, or the canvas (or whatever you choose) that makes one an artist. Even if you feel called one day and create something meaningful to you, then never touch an art supply again…YOU are a real artist. It is brave to try, brave to bare your soul in this way. I also agree with Julia Cameron in that “art is a spiritual transaction”. It is a sacred experience, and as such it is REAL.  It is the process that transforms. It is the moment in which, with extreme excitement, I make my first mark on a blank page unleashing an image that could never have been pre-conceived. It becomes an image that informs and transforms. It is REAL. Every image I have created from a kitschy greeting card to a raunchy page filled with razor blades and red paint is REAL. Every image brings me closer to myself and therefore to God.

 I want to shout from the mountaintops for everyone to grab a brush, a crayon, a pencil and make some art. It is ALL valid and it is ALL real. It will change your life forever, especially if you let it!