Me, An Artist? • by Sarah Meehan
Growing up as an only child, there were two important lessons that I learned very early on – that there are only so many times that a kid can get away with using “the cat did it” as an excuse, and that there is no better way to keep yourself entertained than to indulge your creative side.
Looking back on my childhood, some of my happiest memories revolve around time spent being creative. Both of my parents are incredibly artistic people, and I was lucky enough to have their constant encouragement in everything I decided to dabble in. They were enthusiastic participants in my screenwriting and directorial debut at age 11 (an alien/sci-fi flick). They gave my original, Christmas-themed, one-woman puppet show nothing but favorable reviews. They even decoupaged a second-hand sewing machine for me as a Valentine’s Day gift. I mean, really ... how cool is that?!
Fast forward 20-ish years and sprinkle in a healthy dose of “responsibilities” – things like school, work, and bills – and my spare time for creativity had all but disappeared. After I finished college, I managed to find my way into a job within the art world, spending my days and nights surrounded by amazing art (and the equally amazing people who made it).
Getting acquainted with real live artists was inspiring to say the least, but it was also somewhat confusing. I couldn't paint like they could. I didn't make jewelry or mixed-media works. I had no book deals or gallery showings to my name. And the things that I enjoyed doing in my free time, like sewing, baking, and writing, surely didn't count as “art.” Internally, I struggled to find my place within this group of wonderfully-talented artists. I wanted to fit in, but where exactly could I fit?
For a number of years, the place that I “fit” was behind the scenes. I helped artists build websites and market themselves, but I didn’t consider myself to be on the same level as they were. At the time, I thought it was because I didn’t have the artistic talent to stand alongside them in the spotlight, but I now know that it was because I lacked confidence in my own abilities. Like so many other artists who have shared their stories here on CRESCENDOh, I was in need of a major “a-ha” moment.
My epiphany came somewhat more recently, courtesy of one of my bona fide artist friends. As we were chatting one day, she casually used the word “artist” to describe me. Me! Here was a working artist, one who had attended art school and everything, using the “a” word in reference to what I do. Imagine that!
In all honesty, I didn't know how to feel about her comment at first. I wanted to proudly wear the “artist” badge that I had just been handed, but I simply couldn't reconcile her words with those of my nagging inner-critic. Clearly, something had made her choose that word for me, but I couldn't seem to figure out what it was.
The more time that I spent thinking about it, the more I came to an understanding about what art really is. Being an artist can mean excelling at painting or drawing or sculpting or music, but it also means bringing your own unique perspective to just about anything else. A computer programmer who can mold letters and numbers into code to build software is an artist. A mechanic who can diagnose and repair complicated machinery with thousands of moving parts is an artist. And a person who can whip up a really mean batch of cupcakes is an artist, too.
My friend, as it turned out, was right. I just hadn't allowed myself to see it until then.
Armed with this new-found creative confidence, I started to really embrace my artistic side. I took ownership of the skills that I possessed, and worked on developing them further to truly make them my own. Giving myself that gift – the gift of acknowledgement – was one of the most freeing things I've ever done. It was the catalyst for so much growth, both as a person and as an artist. It allowed me to launch a blog to share my crafty endeavors, kitchen experiments, and day-to-day adventures with the world. It encouraged me to expand my consulting business, so that I could help even more fabulous artists to grow their own businesses. Most of all, it gave me the strength to stand in the spotlight and finally say, “I am an artist.” An artist who can, amongst other things, make a really mean cupcake.
To learn more about Sarah Meehan, visit yup.typepad.com.