When I began learning to draw in June 2015, I was anything but an artist. At that point, I didn’t really consider myself a beginning artist, or even an aspiring artist. Any title with the word artist attached was too far-fetched to apply to me.
I did all right with the first exercises — drawing straight lines and making squiggles — and I thought if I tried really hard I might be able to do the first simple outline drawings in my how-to-draw book, but beyond that, I had no hope. I had no talent, I could never learn to draw, and I would never be an artist.
Of course, I bought an inexpensive set of drawing pencils and picked up a small sketchbook. I had the materials I needed, but did that make me an artist? Absolutely not. At best I was a pretender, and I felt so out-of-place there in the art supplies aisle of Wal-Mart, I cringed.
When I finally revealed to my husband that I was trying to learn to draw — that’s how I phrased it back then, because I still didn’t believe I could do it — he immediately began calling me his artist wife. His support and encouragement were wonderful, but did his belief in me make me an artist? Nope. Not by a long shot.
Little by little, I began sharing my drawings — I was working mostly with graphite but had also branched out a bit with charcoal and colored pencils — first with family, and then with close friends. Needless to say, I enjoyed their positive comments, but their praise certainly didn’t make me an artist.
A few months later I began taking my sketchbook along on appointments. As I waited at the dentist’s office one morning, I sketched a tree. “Oh, you’re an artist,” exclaimed the hygienist. No, not really, but I was starting to wish I could be an artist.
Pictured above you’ll see the first pages from my sketchbook that I showed my husband, the tree that made me an artist at the dentist’s office, and two of the first sketches I shared with my family.
Other milestones came along. I started this blog. It’s an art blog. Did that make me an artist? It did make me a student of the arts, someone who wanted to learn, but I was definitely not an artist. With a lot of kind words and compliments from readers here, I gradually saw myself as someone in the process of becoming an artist. I never really thought I’d get there, though.
In one post, I laughed about the sticker I’d received when I placed an order at Cheap Joe’s Art Supplies. I joked about being a real artist then, but I wasn’t. Not really.
Over the years, I’ve bought a lot of art supplies, from Cheap Joe and other art suppliers. I love my art supplies, and while it’s true that artists do own art supplies, the fact that I owned a lot of them didn’t make me an artist any more than having an art blog did.
I once won Grumbacher’s weekly Monday Mystery Box drawing and received lots of goodies. I even took part in one of their themed artist trading card events, so I was doing a lot of things that artists do. But was I really an artist? I didn’t think so.
I kept drawing, started painting, too, and soon family members were asking for art works. I began giving a few as gifts, still surprised that anyone would want them. I was even more surprised when people began asking if my paintings were for sale! Even so, I wasn’t a real artist… was I? No, of course not.
When I was invited to join a local art group, I was excited. At the same time, I was a little apprehensive. After all, I wasn’t a true artist, just someone who loved art and who had to work very, very hard to create it. But maybe I could learn something from the experience, so I joined.
Now I’m a member of three different art associations. Does that make me an artist? I’ve participated in a number of art shows. I have a lovely green ribbon proclaiming me to be an “Exhibiting Artist” at one of those shows. Even better, I now have three judge merit awards hanging on my wall. As my husband reminds me often, I’m not just an artist now. I am an award-winning artist. Who? Me? How did that happen?
Of course those ribbons have boosted my confidence and have helped me start seeing myself as an artist of sorts. But it’s not the ribbons. It’s not my club memberships. It’s not this blog, or having paintings on display that makes me feel like I really have become an artist.
What is it, then?
It’s knowledge, and most of all, it’s experience. Over these last four-and-a-half years, I’ve learned a lot — from basic elements of art to specific techniques for drawing and painting. That knowledge has been combined with practical, hands-on experiences as I’ve tried this and that. I’ve used different pencils, different brushes, different papers. And I’ve developed my own personal preferences.
I love my Tombow pencils, my Pitt Artist pens, using gray toned paper for portraits, and painting on canvas panels. When I sit down with my drawing paper each morning or when I go to my easel to paint, I can make choices now about what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it.
Essentially, what it comes down to is that although I still have a lot to learn, I’ve gained enough experience to more or less know what I’m doing as an artist. And that’s what it takes. I’m seeing as an artist. I’m thinking as an artist. I must actually be one, and how about that!