You are an artist.
Despite having always been an artist, I haven’t always felt secure in that facet of my identity. With art so closely tied to capitalism, I spent years looking externally for permission to take my creative practice seriously. As a result of this way of checking for my artistic value, the only times when felt like a real artist was when there was money involved in my making.
Whether that was me paying large sums to attend art school or me being paid in small amounts to make something involving one of my creative skills, I felt as if the mantle of artist could be taken away from me at any moment. Fearing this, I responded to my anxiety by turning my life on its head in the hopes of giving myself more of an artistic edge.
It didn’t work, of course. Instead, the first two decades of my life as an artist were swallowed up by emotional volatility and an obsession with my identity. I was too busy feeding the drama I was creating to get around to making the art I wanted to make. What’s more, any validation I did receive about my identity as an artist never felt like enough.
Finally, after numerous blow-ups and failed projects, I ended up being given the tools I needed to see myself clearly for the first time. Which was both extremely painful as well as extremely relieving. No longer trapped in a manic cycle of anxiety and inspiration, I could finally get out of my own way and make the art I’ve been longing to make.
With this shift, I also discovered that my reference points for what makes me an artist have changed. While I am not opposed to being paid for my creative work, money does not need to be present in order for what I’m creating to feel like it matters. What’s more, I am not as willing to compromise my creative vision for money.
As an artist, one of the most beneficial and radical things you can do is become aware of your creative reference points. To map out how the world wants to validate your art and identity and how you want to validate your art and identity. With an understanding of these multitudes, you’ll be more able to decide what’s in support of your creative practice and what isn’t.
So, what are you checking for to affirm your identity as an artist?