I remember when I was in college that I felt like I was trying to fool people into thinking I was an artist.
Sure, I was taking art classes and getting good grades in those classes. And sure I would say with a confident voice, “I’m an artist.”
BUT I DIDN’T REALLY FEEL LIKE ONE.
I had always been creative growing up, but at the heart of it I thought artists had to be able to draw well and I’ll tell you, to this day, drawing is not a skill I have been gifted with nor a skill I have nurtured so that I could get better at it.
I would get asked to draw posters for my sorority, my dorm hall, the various over-achiever organizations I was a part of. And I would always find a way to say no, all while hiding my inability to draw.
BECAUSE THAT WOULD INVALIDATE MY TITLE OF “ARTIST”.
I thought I was the only one hiding from that feeling that I wasn’t worthy of the title and that I was just playing at being an artist…
… until I started consulting with artists on business.
Then I started hearing it from about 50% of my clients, even though we’re not spending a lot of time talking about creativity, confidence, or identity. (I am a business consultant after all.)
Most of them say that they don’t feel like “a real artist” because they are untrained. They maybe took a class or two in school or attended a couple workshops in their adulthood, but otherwise they taught themselves.
AND YET, THEY CREATE BEAUTIFUL ART.
People all over the world fall in love with their art. And people are willing to pay actual cash money in exchange for owning that art.
Unlike many professions, art is not really about the years of experience or education, but about the end result.
It’s not the same as becoming a doctor, where you need to learn a specific set of information and then have a certain amount of monitored experience in order to do your job well.
And because our society teaches us to follow a path of schooling in order to learn how to do your job, we have a hard time realizing that art is pretty different.
Art is more like becoming a news anchor. You can get a degree in journalism (just like you can get a degree in art) but there’s a limited amount you learn while you’re getting that degree, compared to what you learn on the job. And many people go into the field without that degree. There’s a certain amount of natural skill needed to be a good news anchor. And some people have to work very hard to get skilled at it.
If you talk to 10 news anchors, you’re probably going to find at least 3 or 4 ways they got to the news desk.
ART IS VERY SIMILAR.
There are lots of different ways an artist might end up becoming an artist. While some people have a lot of natural talent, take a lot of classes growing up to nurture that talent, go to college for art, and then work their way up in the gallery system to earn the artist title and see the money to prove they’re worthy of that title, many people have a totally different path.
I’ve met artists who had no schooling and became successful.
I’ve met artists who never put their work in a gallery and became successful.
I’ve met artists who had very little natural talent but worked incredibly hard because they wanted to learn, and even they became successful.
IF YOU FEEL LIKE AN IMPOSTER, I’M HERE TODAY TO TELL YOU THAT I HIGHLY DOUBT YOU ARE.
While I might not have seen your art or spoken with you about it. Most artists feel this way. And I can say that most artists I talk to who tell me they feel this way are totally wrong.
You’re not an imposter because you have no training. You’re not an imposter because you had to work really hard to develop your skills. You’re not an imposter because you’ve never been in a gallery or had an art critic talk about you or joined an art society.
ART DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT.
You’re an artist if you make people feel something with your creative work.
I should repeat that one because I think it’s very valuable to those of you going through a bit of emotional turmoil about your artistic passion.
YOU’RE AN ARTIST IF YOU MAKE PEOPLE FEEL SOMETHING WITH YOUR CREATIVE WORK.
So next time you’re stressing about this stuff and feeling like you might need to just pack up your art supplies and get a desk job, take a moment to ask yourself if you’ve been making people feel something with your art.