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Calling Yourself an Artist

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

It's not just through dating where you come head to head with having to answer questions about your personal life, rather a pretty standard thing when meeting anyone new. Whether you're smoking a cigarette at a house party, mingling at networking events or meeting your best friends best friend. The question crops up usually 90% of the time - "So, what do you do?" I've always found myself explaining my day job and leaving the 'Artist' response to the latter. It wasn't until my first exhibition that I was able to say confidentially that I am an artist, like it was finally justified because I had something to show for it. Looking back now, it's become more apparent that I didn't need an exhibition to feel at home with my profession, it was more physiological and deep routed - I never quite felt good enough to 'own my title'. I feel as though this comes down to many different factors, prioritising people pleasing, not feeling worthy, not feeling old enough, not feeling experienced enough, not earning a full time salary through my art, working more than one job (artist being one, day job being the other), and to be honest because I didn't think people would take me seriously. If you're an artist too, you might understand that look that *some* people give you when you say you're an artist like, 'Oh another creative type that doesn't want to work and has loads of opinions.' Or at least that is something that has been part of my experience, hence the having to feel justified to say what you are.


With this being said, and through my experience thus far I want to share with you some healthy and essential ways in which you can start feeling like the deserving artist you are.


When can you call yourself an Artist?

- When you are an Artist! Sweet & simple I know. Ways in which you can evolve as an Artist, professionally. - Portfolio. If you took a creative subject you'll relate to the vital need of having a portfolio to pass (or distinct) your course. A portfolio is like your drawn journal, showing progress, skill, technique and artist personality i.e. you. Whether you are applying for jobs in the art world or wanting to submit your work to magazines/competitions/collaborations etc. you will need to have a solid and up to date reel of your work. From my experience you are usually asked for a website and/or your Instagram.


- Instagram. Or any other social media, although I use IG as my main platform. Instagram is a pocket of opportunity, it's free, you have full control of what you post and when you post it and what message you want to portray. It's basically a constant art exhibition. But, it's not all about what you post. You also need to consider the layout of your IG, timings of posts, hashtags to use and what to put on your stories & IGTV. The more you use Instagram the more you start to develop your style with it, because after all it is one of your tools of being an Artist.


-Emails. The ol' life admin situation. Keeping up with your emails when you're already working another job, trying to squeeze in a workout, eating right, socialising, self care, sleeping and living. It can feel like GIANT, never-ending scenario. Sometimes it is giant too - I was so scared of looking at my inbox recently that I became stuck in a loop of not replying to people that I respected greatly, falling behind on deadlines, feeling like a failure and not feeling productive in my field. But, we must bite the bullet and keep up to date, or one step ahead with our inboxes if we want to get work, build relationships and be on the top of our game. I always check mine as part of my morning routine, with a cuppa and an incense burning..it doesn't have to be a horrible and daunting task. Make it part of your process and enjoy it!


-Network. I tend to hibernate in my bedroom with my art a lot of the time - I think if I could I would live in one room where I could draw, sleep & eat. But, that's not healthy for the mind, body or profession. As people who are trying to spread a message, we must become verbal with this through mingling and connecting with like minded people. There are so many wonderful networking events for artists, whether it's an exhibition, meet up, art fairs, museum nights and more! Try and challenge yourself to go to an event once a month, and by yourself. The reason I recommend to do it solo is because when you are with others you tend to feel weirder about going to talk to strangers about what you do... as well as being too comfortable socially to go off by yourself to mingle. It's scary but also so exhilarating and rewarding, especially for opening new doors in your life.


-Submissions. I remember a few years back I spent almost every day submitting my work to magazines online and art competitions - I had no prior experience of having my work anywhere but I knew I had to keep on pushing through with submissions. It's like any job application, you can apply for 100 and only hear back from one, and that one could be a rejection. It can be hard hitting because you expect an instant reply as well as good news, but we have to remember that we aren't the only Artists out there trying to make our way into the world of beautiful brushes and colour charts. Pursue and learn along the way - maybe altering your email, the work you submit and the type of places your are submitting to.


-Time Management. You're probably starting to think, wow this sounds like a job. Well, because it is. It's your job and that involves using and developing skills such as time management. Imagine this scenario: You work 40 hours a week, your commute is long so you get in from work between 7pm-9pm, you have to have dinner, relax, workout if you're into that, complete 3 commissions, and 1 article on top of keeping your IG going. You also need to think if your website up to date and fulfill any orders you've had in. Now, imagine being successful in completing all of those tasks without any planning - I've been there. It's called hectic. It's stressful. It's tiring. It's actually pretty shit. But, there are ways you can avoid feeling shit - learn how you work best, what time suits you, whether you need a project management tool like Trello, Monday or whether you like to make lists in your notebook. Find the TM tool that works for you and become more organised in your tasks...catching up with your favourite series becomes much easier too.


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