On Being an Artist

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Being an artist seems like both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I feel really talented and amazing, like I know who I am and I’m doing what’s important to me no matter what anyone thinks. Other times, I get discouraged with my lack of sales, I feel like no one appreciates my work (which is probably unfair to my friends & family who think it’s awesome, but hey, self doubt comes with the territory) or I don’t even like it myself and wonder if I’m a “real” artist at all.

This contradiction seems to be true of many things in life. As a sensitive person, I can sympathize with others, but I also get emotionally overwhelmed. As an introvert, I know how to enjoy my alone time, but socializing seriously wears me out. I’m sure people with all different personality types have equal, if opposite, struggles.

But back to being an artist. When I look at my Etsy statistics over the last few years since I opened up shop, my business is steadily growing. I’m selling more jewelry every year, especially during the holidays. But that’s easy to forget on a day-to-day or even month-to-month basis. And when it comes to my paintings, selling even one is a rare accomplishment.

I understand, these days most people can’t afford that stuff. I could just be realistic and go back to my day job. Some days it really bothers me that my husband wakes up at the crack of dawn 5 days a week to do whatever the Army tells him to do, and I am not contributing anything because my depressive introverted self can’t even handle a retail job, and I don’t know if I’m qualified to do anything else.

(My husband does not feel the same way. Amazingly, he is supportive of my craft business, understanding of my struggle with depression and, old fashioned young couple that we are, he is happy with my contributions of cooking and sometimes cleaning the house and supporting his crazy dreams too).

But I had a sort of revelation the other night, as I sat on the floor blasting angry music and painting and crying. Lately I don’t seem to need much of a reason to hate everything, so there I was, a “beautiful mess,” as he called me.

Painting suddenly seemed like a very painful endeavor. It looked like a pretty landscape, but it felt like I was literally pouring my soul onto the canvas. Everything I love and hate about myself, everything I’ve been told about who I am and who I’m not and what I can or can’t do, all the loss and hurt and anguish of living in a broken world.

I thought about how God asks each one of us to give ourselves to Him in different ways. He wants to know us, and He wants to make us more like him, and sometimes that means suffering and sacrifice. Maybe for me it means giving myself through my art, not knowing what God might do with it in the future. I might become successful in the world’s eyes, or find a cause to support, or teach, or just inspire people.

Paul instructs us in Romans “to present you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (12:1). I am not trying to twist Scripture to justify what makes me happy. But perhaps this verse applies not only to our bodies but our hearts and minds, and maybe we are giving ourselves to God when we use the gifts He’s given us without holding back. Maybe this is part of how we worship God, how we know Him (and ourselves), and how we trust Him.

(Not that I don’t have issues with “holding back.” I am quite attached to my comfort zone, and my art seems to be confined to my perfectionism. I am a realist, and I have no desire to be abstract or modern, but my favorite works have always been impressionistic, the ones that seem to combine the characteristics of both the subject and the medium. Not saying God has a preference, but it probably wouldn’t hurt me to let loose a little).

Maybe you don’t believe in God and this sounds crazy or stupid. But maybe you do have something you’re passionate about, something you can’t seem to walk away from, no matter how unrealistic it might seem. I am encouraging you to pursue it.

Of course, some of you have responsibilities that you can’t blow off to follow your dreams. I just hope you won’t give up on your thing, the thing that makes you feel like yourself, because of haters or the fear of failure. Even if it’s just a hobby, even if no one else understands.

Because maybe that dream is inside of you for a reason, and if nothing else, maybe you will learn more about yourself as you pursue it. And what an awesome thing to learn. It might be painful or scary. You might have things about you that you don’t want the world to know; I do too. But there is no one else in the world just like you.

So what’s your thing? And how do you make room in your life to do it?

Image from YouQueen

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