I still wonder who I am speaking of when I describe myself as an artist. I ask myself if I am being the boastful hobbyist, exaggerating my actual abilities, to make my point-of-view seem valuable and my opinions material. This voice of my deep seated self-doubt may have a point. I mean who am I to call myself an artist?
As I noted previously I have been drawing all of my life. My earliest creations were two-dimensional scenes inspired by Godzilla and Ultraman television shows of battles between rocket and laser armed soldiers and incredible beasts from other worlds or mutants spawned from nuclear tests. My mother saw my creativity as "my thing" and generally supported my efforts with supplies and even lessons. As a child I drew comic book characters and eventually graduated to more an more challenging subjects like portraits and landscapes. My art stayed "my thing" through high school and eventually paid for my college education in St. Louis. But it is about now that I begin to get sidetracked.
The voices in my head begin to nag me about what the practical outcome of a college career and ultimately a life dedicated to art could possible be. While I created as an art student I also began to acquire a separate set of practical design skills for "my future". I need to stress that this is not anyone else but me undermining my own wants and desires. This drove me toward a more practical and applied form or creativity: design and advertising. I walked away from creating conceptual sculptures and experiences in college to communications and graphic design, I became a designer, then an art director and eventually a creative director. I enjoyed success and was lucky enough to be inspired by and collaborate with several of the most creative people I have ever known. I met illustrators and photographers who themselves were masterful in their expressions. All the while I was feeling jealous of their creative outlet and judging my own creativity as somehow not up their their lofty standards.
Over the years I did occasionally find creative outlets from artwork to murals but these efforts were always in service to a specific outcome. Portraits or paintings were gifts. Murals were commissions or decorations for the walls of my sons' bedroom. There was none of the creating just to create that I had done so naturally and prolifically as a child. During this time I regularly purchased art supplies in the hope they would be put to good use. More often than not they ended up simply being tossed as the tubes dried up or the paper was damaged. It's so strange to think about that.
What changed? I think I did. I began to care less about what others thought of my artwork. I built myself a studio in an unused garage in our home on Bainbridge. It was a purpose-built space that I think told my inner critic that creativity mattered. In this time I became familiar with the 12-steps and that made a huge difference. The program allowed me to see my own addiction to perfectionism, self-sabotage and the resulting unrealistic sense of control of the world. It also gave me tools to recognize when I am deep in my own stuff, how that distorts my world and the need to live in the present. I still have the annoying voices but their influence has diminished quite a bit. Over the years, like most of us in our modern world, I have periodically worked on myself, read books, attempted self-care and seen counselors. I am no stranger to self-work. Something about the steps, the letting go and knowing clearly what was in and out of my control, made the space for the artist to rise. It made room for inspiration and risk-taking.
For the past 7 years I have been doing the most creative work I have even done in my life. All of the work here is the result. It have been a lifetime journey. Whether or not the examples meet your bar for being a work of art, I cannot say. I hope it does. But that is your business not mine. To me these are my artistic expressions therefore I am an artist. They come from me my inspiration. They are mine. And to the voice at the back of my head,,, sit down. You have had the floor for way too long.