Are you an artist?
"Are you an artist?" asked the interviewer during a phone conversation yesterday afternoon.
I found myself tripping over my tongue, formulating a response on the spot, but stumbling over my words (and thoughts) trying to do so. It is a question that has caused me consternation for much of my adult life.
The term "artist" is one to which I ascribe tremendous value, admiration and even reverence. I think of people I know who are truly artists, in every nuance and applicability of the word, like Erin Schwab, Garry Berteig, Lucas Seaward, Frederick McDonald, Sonia Burke-Smith, and Carol Breen, to name but a few. They are professionals who produce work that challenges, provokes, excites and scintillates.
Then there are the other "artists" who surround me: actors, directors, writers, musicians, dancers, filmmakers, woodworkers, designers, and myriad others whose acquired skills and natural talents make them outstanding in their discipline.
"Are you an artist?" she asked.
I know I'm an arts champion; this I know for certain. I celebrate, support and encourage the arts as part of what I do and have done for many years. I've written about the arts more times than I can possibly can count, shared stories, promoted arts and cultural opportunities, and captured some of the history of arts in our community.
But, am I an artist myself?
The timing of the question was rather ironic, because last weekend I pulled out my paint set for the first time in almost two years and spent 8-10 hours doing a crazy portrait of Malcolm Gladwell. I had done a one-minute sketch in my black book a few days earlier which signalled to my brain that it might be time to pick up the brush again.
Lou Reed died. I posted this picture on Facebook
Then I sketched it.
Now I'm working on a watercolour portrait. I have several more hours of work to do before it's done.
Does this make me an artist?
How about my acting or my writing or my photography? Does do those creative pursuits count?
I ran outside in my bare feet last night to capture the sunset. I couldn't help myself.
"Yes, I'm an artist," I told the writer. "I don't make money at it, but I create every day. I would die if I didn't."
If you've met me in person in the last year, you might have been asked this question, after I pulled a pile of business cards out of my pocket: "Pick a card, any card - whichever one calls to you."
What you will have picked from are a series of watercolour portraits on one side of my business card, portraits that I did during a 2-3 week period in late 2011, early 2012. I was in "the zone" for that brief time and produced a series of crazy portraits that turned out pretty good.
With more time on my hands, it's nice to be doing this again. I never really know if the portraits I attempt will work. Some don't. But, it's fun going through the process to find out. I almost gave up on the Malcolm Gladwell painting above. Then I went at it again on the second day, taking a more playful approach.
Hanging up on my wall in my home study is list of five answers to the question: When my life is ideal, I am....
Number one on that list is "creating every day". So, in that sense, an artist I am, an artist I will always be.