In art school a professor said to me one day, he said,  “Jaimie, if you’re an artist and you stop making art, you’re not an artist anymore.” And I know I didn’t say anything because I was shy and tried not to say much. So he went on to say, “You’re going to graduate, and you’re going to go out and get some kind of job, and you’re going to think that you’ll make art on your off days or in the evenings, but you won’t. You’ll be too tired. You’ll do other things with your time and you won’t make art anymore and you won’t be an artist.”

Unfortunately, I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? I was young. He was a “real artist.” I just figured he knew what’s what.

And it’s a shame because what he said came true. I’ve worked several jobs that allowed me to use my creative skills, but there’s been some years that I haven’t had that. And he was right, I was too tired. And I didn’t stand at my easel and make a single thing. I would think of his words every so often and feel tremendous guilt. I would hate myself and think what a waste of time art school was. I should have gone to business school or trade school to learn how to fix air conditioners.

The thing is, I knew I was an artist. But I had this lie in my head that said, “No, it’s been 32 months since you’ve painted anything. Face it, you’re done. Now go do something useful.” And I hated art. I hated it for a very long time.

If some old dude told me today the same idiotic thing my professor told me then about being an artist I’d probably very eloquently reply, “Well, that’s like, your opinion, man.” and on the inside I’d be thinking, “Who in hell made you Keeper of the Rules by Which We Use the Word Artist, ass?” But that’s the beauty of age, you learn what’s a good piece of business and what isn’t.

So on the off-chance that we had the same professor (or one like him) and he told you some stupid bullshit, I’d like to tell you something very important:

You are an artist. Yes, you.

I know, you haven’t painted in forever. You haven’t cracked open a sketch book in so long that you don’t even remember where it is. Your rubber cement is all dried up. You’ve commandeered your best scissors for unmentionable kitchen stuff now. The closest thing to an art pen you have is a janky Sharpie marker that you used to use for labeling burned CDs… and when was the last time you did that? (If you’re my pal Laura you probably burned a CD yesterday. But she’s the exception.)

You are an artist. Because you just are. Because you see the whole world at once and it comes into your brain through an artist’s filter and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s who you are. You’re an artist because you process everything through multiple senses at once and you may not even know you did that until just now, but you do, because you’re an artist. And maybe you haven’t made “fine art” in a long time. But I bet you’ve been creative as hell. I bet you bend the bread twist-ties into little stick men or dinosaurs. You know the perfect amount of lime to add to the awesome guacamole you make. I bet when you go outside at night in winter you know, without looking up, which constellations you’ll see, because you’ve looked at them before, and you love the quiet of a winter night, and you love the crazy insect hum of a summer night. You notice everything, because you’re an artist.

You might not be ready to make your art again yet, but you will make it again. It might be different this time, something new. It might be the same, a familiar tune.

And I want the first art you make to be for you. And I hope that you are brave enough to show somebody what you’ve made. And I’d be honored if you shared it with me.

 

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