I am an artist…. Right? The question of whether one thought of him/herself as an artist was asked of every art major completing their senior thesis. At least that is what happened the year I was a senior. All of the seniors sat in a circle with the professors interspersed so it was more of a round table discussion instead of a drilling session. The professors wanted us to feel more like their equals as they asked questions about our senior theses : artist to artist.
When it was my turn to answer that question I remember my reply gave everyone pause. If I was not the first one to answer I knew I had to be second. How unsure I was of the statement that I was an artist came out. Did receiving a college degree truly make me an artist? Was someone without a degree therefore not an artist?
After all the art history classes I knew what art was. That there was a difference between high art (legitimate art) and hobby or craft art. So I begged the question if what made me an artist. No one n n had a real answer fir me, neither teacher nor student. The moment of contemplation past when another student boldly proclaimed that she was indeed an artist but she never backed up how she knew.
At that time I wasn’t sure that I really was an artist I mean at least not an artist like Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci. I might have felt like an artist but not one of that caliber. Since graduating, I have not gone on to make and sell lots of pieces of artwork. The bulk of my productivity has been that of a crafter, a hobbyist, or a mixed media/textile artist. Ten years ago none of that was considered to be on par with painting or sculpting. I was not a consistent creator of high end art.
I have been a seamstress and an artist with thread. Even for my senior thesis I created mixed media art. My entire senior thesis was based on painting clouds on fabric that I then turned into quilts utilizing both hand sewing and machine sewing techniques. The title of my senior art show was cumulus.
Ten plus years later I still don’t think I am a da Vinci or a Michelangelo but I am an artist. I say all this to then come back to the present. This morning as I was trying to do some finishing touches on the underside of a bunk board for one of my nephews.
I had shown both my nephews several types of clouds that I painted in the past that are displayed in paintings and quilts around my house. Then I showed them a picture of some Toy Story clouds someone painted for their child, never once referencing the movie. I wanted them to tell which type of clouds they wanted painted on the bunk board.
And what would you think they picked?
Yep you’re right they picked the Toy Story clouds.
And so I sat there wondering as I was making a stencil, to then make “perfect” Toy Story clouds, what would da Vinci or Michelangelo be thinking to themselves if they were asked to do something similar for a child that they loved? Would they be muttering to themselves “I painted the Mona Lisa” or “I painted the Sistine Chapel” and “but now I am reduced to stenciled clouds”. That train of thought made me smile.
Yes, I have an art degree (actually art/art history and business) and I have been reduced to making a cloud stencil to paint perfect clouds on a bunk board. That is my life and I’m happy with that.
I could have a kind of a weird outlook on it and be very upset but I’m not. Truth is the kids see my clouds that I paint displayed all around the house. The kids don’t need more of my clouds. They need their own.
I still enjoyed thinking back to that discussion, remembering how my insecurities of that time left even the professors in silence, and having a good chuckle over how I was at that moment painting stenciled clouds.