I was asked this question recently on Instagram:
Here was my response:
My need to call myself an artist started in 2004-2005. I was about 3 years into it when I hit a roadblock that involved my Christian faith. So I feel like my book was a much-needed detour in my artist journey. Namely the roadblock was I wanted creative control of my life and believed I was a great artist instead of believing I must run everything past the Head Creative because I am too flawed to trust or act on my own behalf. My book was my timid attempt at saying "what if." I wrote it in 2010-11 and it was published in 2013.
In the next couple years I went through another detour because my book didn't "make it" like I had believed it would. So on the tails of my spiritual crisis I had an artist crisis as well. What if I'm not as great as I think? What if I gained creative control of my life and now can't do anything with it? What if I now lost everything - my faith and my artistic dreams? This was my darkest hour yet and I don't think I'll ever hit that low again. That was roughly 3 years ago.
An unbelievable amount of growth and putting myself back together again took place in those 3 years to get me to now. I tell you all this because I think it is vital to know just how long claiming the name artist has taken me.
No, you won't find the solution in my book. You'll find hints of it, but those are breadcrumbs from a much longer journey. Only this year have I started to feel like I am back to where I left off in 2008 when I hit that spiritual roadblock. An 8 year detour that now leaves me still questioning daily what my artist voice will express, but I have won an awareness of myself that leaves me so satisfied I could die today and feel like I accomplished everything I came for. Everything else I get to live, from this point on, is icing on my cake. I have creative control. I have the freedom of creative expression. I have myself. This makes me the sort of artist and person I once longed to be. The rest is just playing and fun and enjoyment and exploration and curiosity and celebration. So, maybe I say it took me 13 years to claim Artist or maybe I say it will take a lifetime.
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I think this goes well with the Robert Henri quote, because I knew, before I could really commit to settling into my artist's journey, I needed to go in and find a few thing out. I was personally tied to a creed that didn't afford me the luxury of knowing what things were worth to ME. I had always wanted to look things squarely in the face, but believed side glances were my only option. I had always wanted to investigate in all directions, but believed there was only one true way to go. My 8 year detour was to not only break personal ties with a creed, but to also begin understanding how to respect the truths in people, no matter what creeds they have joined.
For me to be an artist meant I wanted to take responsibility for my own future to the best of my ability, and that began with determining what I was going to be about. It turns out, at the outset, this had less to do with art mediums and techniques and more to do with values and integrity. (I'm only now working my way back to art mediums and techniques.) I had to be able to look myself in the mirror and know my beliefs were rooted in me, not some place outside of me. What I love about art is the melding of imagination and reality. Imagination pulls from within. If I didn't trust what was within, I was never going to be able to express myself outwardly. Without personal expression, an artist ceases to be an individual.
I liken my 8 year detour to getting up in the morning and cleaning up the kitchen before I start to make breakfast. I operate better when everything is tidied up first. I know it is a joke (a joke I have told a few times myself) that my spiritual crisis and my thrashing ways actually made things more messy rather than cleaning things up. And for awhile, yes, this was true. But I am so excited to say I continued moving forward long enough, that now I see with hindsight how much simpler and enjoyable and stronger and complete I am as a person. In other words, what I had a hunch about at the outset (in 2008), I was completely right about. Three cheers!
Three Amazon reviews of my book said this:
And I smile, think of Robert Henri fondly, and know I went in and found out! That is what an artist does. I did what I set out to do. My "kitchen" is cleaned up and I have a whole lot of life left to express myself in a variety of ways. Now that I make my own creeds I feel freed up to pursue my art in whatever way that plays out. I can follow the white rabbit wherever it goes. At the end of the day, the sweetest celebrations are those you celebrate alone. No one knows how big the parties for one have been and will continue to be.
Would you "give up" 8 years of your life to stew to soul search to pursue most every direction? Is it a shame to not live your life because you're examining it? Or is this, as Henri suggests, a worthy consideration of the student? For me, it has all paid off (especially mentally and emotionally and bodily and spiritually and sexually and and and) and I am thrilled I took the chance. I am learning to be patient with the long game. The phrase, "If they could see me now" is like soul caffeine.
Then there is this portion of an Amazon review that says:
It was from a dear high school friend, so he's partial, but oh yeah, I'm just getting started as an artist.
You take as long as you need, Artist. You take as long as you need. You have a VERY different role here to play and you want to be strong enough for the job.