Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Art of Being An Artist

By Karin Gillespie

Painters, musicians, sculptors, actors and writers. They’re not like regular folk or at least that’s what we often believe.  Some people revere them and called them artistes; others are more suspicious and say, “I don’t care much for artsy fartsy types.”  (A statement often punctuated with the pop of a Pabts Blue Ribbon can.)

Moms and dads often freak out if their kids say they want to be artists.  They blame each other (You’re the one who gave him that Etch-A-Sketch! It’s a harmless toy. It’s a gateway drug!) For many parents the word artist is synonymous with deadbeat. They urge their children to do something more practical. They say, “Who told you the color of your parachute was fuchsia. Looks pinstripe to me.  Get thee to a law school.”

Sometimes it’s hard for parents to believe their children are true artists. They might believe the Creator only picked certain special people to be artists and the rest of us are supposed to be content as system analysts, accountants and peanut shellers.

In fact, if you’re at a cocktail party and dare to declare, “I’m an artist” you’re opening yourself to a host of snarky comments:  Have I heard of you? Has your work been displayed at the MOMA? Did you paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? No? Well, then I guess you’re just a dilettante.

Those elitist attitudes usually come from people who have squelched their artistic tendencies at an early age.  In my mind, the Creator didn’t pick only certain people to be artists, it picked us all:  Leonardo, Michelangelo, Mozart, and yes, even Bubba I-Brake-for-PBR Jones.

After all, we’re talking about a deity who came up with not one, but 40,000 species of spiders. (I’d have been perfectly happy with zero species but no one consulted me.). And since many believe that man is created in God’s image, it makes sense that every baby coming down the chute is an artist.

Sometimes our artistic tendencies are drummed out of us. (Trees are supposed to be green, not polka-dot.) Some of us are afraid of being artists. (Who wants to drink themselves to death like Hemmingway?) Some of are reluctant to be beginners. (If I can’t sing like Pavarotti the first time I open my mouth, I don’t want to sing at all.)

 But trust me, the inner artist is inside of you just waiting to be released so it can paint a watercolor, decorate a birthday cake or even make a sculpture out of beer cans. (I’m talking to you, Bubba.) It’s not artsy-fartsy; it’s artsy-smartsy, and we are all members of the same crazy, creative tribe.

P.S. If you’re having problems embracing your inner artist, read the Artists’ Way by Julia Cameron and do everything she says. You won’t regret it.   


  1. What a perfect inspirational post for a Monday morning!! Karin, this is such a great way to start the week. Thank you for this reminder to go out an paint some polka dot trees.

  2. Ha! As the mother of a poet, I love this!

  3. As always, spot on, funny and poignant, Karin. I'm emailing it to Mother.

  4. thank you Karin for the reminder we're still writers, artists, singers...even when no one has read our work, seen our paintings or heard our songs...yet :-)
    Kim Blum-Hyclak

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