You are an artist. If you’ve already acknowledged this about yourself, you’re nodding in agreement, waiting to see why I’ve brought it up. But if you’re one of the majority out there, that doesn’t consider themselves to be artistic, or even creative, you’re probably there with an argument poised on your lips, waiting to launch itself at me.
But hear me out.
Monet didn’t come into the world screaming Giverny. Mozart didn’t frantically wiggle his fingers until someone caught on and placed him at the piano. Name anyone who’s good at something, and I’ll show you someone who’s busted their butt to get where they are. Even the people who found their stride at an early age got lucky. They had the winning combination of someone giving them access to dance/music/art/whatever, and them loving it, or at least not being given the option to quit.
I started lettering two years ago.
And I’m sure it’s very obvious to people who’ve been lettering for decades. But for those who don’t letter, they’ll chance upon a piece I’m proud of, and I hear comments like “you’re so good… I wish I was artistic, but I can’t even draw a stick figure”.
I’m not good. I’m obsessive. Key difference. I can be good. I will be good. But for now, I’m persistent. For every flourish you’re awed by, there’s a good chance that it took me 12 tries to get it right, or that I got supremely lucky on the first take, and I can’t even tell you how I did it. For every lettering piece that I’m actually happy with the layout on, there’s a scattering of crumpled pages at my feet, and a mental note to use them for tinder, so they haven’t gone completely to waste.
So how do I know that you’re an artist? Because I’m an artist too. But 3 years ago, I didn’t know I was. I sat on a very comfy chair in the “I wish I was an artist” camp. I acknowledged being creative… certainly. I sang, I wrote, I dabbled in photography… but I hadn’t found my thing. Y’know… “the” thing. The thing I’d be naturally amazing at, that would prove once and for all, that I was destined for the life of an artist.
But I sucked.
At everything. Crocheting was fun, but slow. Lettering was shaky and gross looking. Watercolors were muddy looking, and unpredictable. Drawing never looked like what was in my head. Photography was okay, but nothing to write home about.
Everything I tried, I was either terrible at, or “okay”. So I resigned myself to merely being “creative”. But then I ran across a Huffpost article about the value of practice, and that’s when I realized that just because I wasn’t good at anything, didn’t mean I couldn’t get good at something.
We have an amazing ability to create restrictions for ourselves. I wasn’t born knowing how to walk, or talk… but I managed to acquire those skills. I couldn’t read when I was born, but I learned that too! But for some reason, when we get older, we create artificial constraints, and we spend our days dreaming of all the things we’d like to learn “some day”.
So that’s where I was 3 years ago…
…dreaming of the day when I’d be able to speak Spanish, French, Russian, Vulcan.. The day I’d be able to play guitar, piano, violin, ocarina, dulcimer… The day I’d know how to knit, crochet, draw, paint in watercolor/acrylic/oils, throw clay…
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow… you’re always a day away.
So there I was on the zillionth year of wanting to learn languages, or paint, or play. And still not know anymore of it than I did the year before. Actually, each year I’d get further behind, because I’d learn about another 2 languages, or another fun instrument, and it would get added to the “someday” list.
So December of 2017, I chose 3 things to learn in the next year.
I chose 3 things that I’d tried before, and not really enjoyed… doodling, watercoloring, lettering. I’d see other lovely doodles on Instagram, but when I tried, it looked like my middle school math homework. Lettering was shaky, awkward, and very unsatisfying. And watercolors looked like I’d turned a little kid loose with my paint brushes.
But I decided I’d give it the whole year. That way, at least if I still hated it by the years end, I could say I gave it a fair shake. I gave it a whole year. So I started with lettering, because it was easy… a package of brush lettering markers, and a notepad. I found some people who had tutorials, and printable practice sheets, and I dove in.
After the 10th night of my husband Phillip coming home to a bed covered in calligraphy drills, I realized that I had fallen in love with it. So what if it wasn’t looking that hot? I was enjoying myself, and that was what mattered. But like the Huffpost article, the more I did it, the better I got. And by September of that year I was hosting a 30 day hand lettering challenge.
So you see… I’m an artist after all. I am an artist.
You are an artist.
Even if you don’t know it yet… So here’s my challenge… give it a year, or a month, or even a week. Pick something to try… and try it. Love the ugly beginning, and look forward to the tiny improvements, because you’ll look back and realize those tiny improvements all added up. So what’s the first thing you’re going to learn?