Are You Waiting for Permission to be an Artist?

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This might seem like a weird question, but let me explain.

In my last post, I wrote about excuses artists make to avoid creating, and the first excuse *spoiler alert* was “I’m not an artist.” I wanted to expand on this excuse a little further, because I think it’s a huge obstacle for a lot of artists, and aspiring artists.

Right now, you might look at my website, social media accounts, and online store and think “Yeah, she’s clearly an artist,” but it took a lot of internal convincing that I had the authority to wander down this path. It might seem obvious now that I can and should be an artist, but few of us start out that way.

I’ve struggled with allowing myself to be an artist in the past, and I’ve witnessed this struggle with so many other artists.

I taught an art class for senior citizens 7 years ago, and watched a few of my students stare at the art supplies I laid out and declare they couldn’t make art. They weren’t artists in their eyes and this prevented them even attempting to create. Thankfully, they listened to my encouragement and after a few weeks they were able to stare at their own creations hanging on the walls. They were happily wrong in their initial assessment.

When we wait for permission to be an artist, we then wait for permission to even make art at all. My students were in their 70s and 80s, and were finally believing in their own ability to create. So think about my question again. Are you waiting for permission to be an artist? How long will you keep yourself from doing art?

It’s time to stop waiting and give yourself permission right now. You are the only person that gets to decide if you should make art, but I will very enthusiastically say right now that you CAN make art. Since you might not believe that right away, let’s go over a few reasons why anyone, at any level, at any point in their life can be an artist.

1. You don’t have to be good At It.

A lot of people think that you can only be an artist if you are good at art. I mean, you should only be a doctor if you study and pass all of your exams and prove you know what you’re doing, so naturally you should only be an artist if you prove your knowledge and skill in a similar fashion. Right?

Nope. Art is one of those things where anything goes. You don’t need to prove you are good at it. There really is no such thing as ‘good’ art, you don’t need to have technical skill, and you don’t need to pass a test to get certified that you are ‘good’ at art. You can make art right now and be an artist no matter your background or skill level.

Toddlers do it all the time. Take after them!

2. You don’t need others to Approve of your art.

Everyone has their own taste in art. One person may absolutely love the art you make (keep them in your life!), but others may hate your art. If the first person you show you work to happens to be a hater, it’s possible you could decide to never do art again. I’ve heard stories like this.

You do not need anyone to tell you if you should continue creating. Only your opinion matters. If you like your art, then make more. If you don’t like it, then try other things or practice more often. But, make a promise to yourself right now that if creating brings you joy you will continue to do it regardless of how others feel about your work.

3. You don’t have to sell your work.

Claiming the title of “Artist” does not mean that you need to be a professional and make it into a career. You do not need to make sales in order to prove you are an artist. You can keep your work to yourself. You can give it away as gifts. You can practice your artistry for pure enjoyment.

You are an artist well before your first work of art is even completed. Making or not making a sale does not define your identity.

4. You don’t have to go to school for art.

Like I said before, you don’t need any sort of proof that you can practice art. That means art school is 100% optional in your journey as an artist. The best source of education when it comes to making art is to just get your hands on the supplies.

No person can teach you how a brush feels when it spreads paint across a canvas. Someone can describe it to you of course, but experience is the best teacher. When I scroll through Instagram and look at other artist’s work, the last thing I’m thinking about is what art degree they have. My first thought is “how long did they have to practice to develop these skills?”

5. Your art doesn’t have to Have a Message.

When I was in art school, I felt like I wasn’t an artist because I didn’t have a desire to make a statement with my art. I wanted to make beautiful things. I didn’t want to disturb my audience. I didn’t want to create social commentary. I didn’t have a message that was accepted by the community I was in. Thus, I felt like an outsider.

You will encounter differing opinions all along your journey, but your art only needs to speak to you. And it doesn’t even have to say anything in particular.

6. Your art doesn’t need to follow any rules.

Seriously. You don’t need to adhere to any set of rules out there. Every area of the art world has its own guidelines for how to thrive in that space, but following them is optional.

Honestly, I find it’s too exhausting to try to conform. It’s easier to make up my own rules and just do my own thing. If the rules of others prevent you from making art, then ignore what you’ve learned and pave your own artistic path. Boldly be you and make the art that you crave to see. You just might pioneer a new genre of art or a new space to thrive in.

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Now, if you read all of the points above–what’s stopping you from creating or calling yourself an artist? You have the freedom and the authority to make any kind of art you want to right now. You don’t need my permission, but you get my encouragement.

Go make art, and give yourself permission to be the artist you want to be.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

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