To Be An Artist by Hunter Myers
Summer breezes often carry a change of people, place, and pace. My summer plans landed me in Portland, OR, three thousand miles away from New England and familiarity. I’m working with an artist for the summer, learning the ropes of the art world and painting/drawing alongside him. When I tell people that I am doing an apprenticeship with a figurative painter many startle and exclaim, “I didn’t know you were an artist!”.
This morning, my first morning working at the studio, I woke-up and rummaged through the clothes hanging (organized and cleaned) in the closet of the room I am renting. It suddenly occurred to me that I don’t have artist clothes, I don’t look like an artist, and (dare I say?) I’m not an artist. What am I doing here?
I can’t say that I fell in love with drawing, but I did love the realization that I could do something I always believed I couldn’t. For some reason teenagers and adults who aren’t “artists” see drawing (and singing for that matter) as an impossible task. One that, if attempted, would no doubt leave a person embarrassed, evoke an “I told you I couldn’t draw” comment, and invoke a fear of blank paper. Contrarily, I have never met a child who couldn’t sing or draw.
Before I took a plunge and tried my hand at drawing, I too thought that my attempt at making an image would undoubtedly end in frustrated eraser marks, an empty page, and embarrassment. With prompting and help from a science teacher I was able to find an ability I didn’t know was there. But what filled my sketch book was more than a hidden ability, or a believing teacher. In fact, it certainly was not about ability; instead it was about the willingness to create something imperfect. The child that draws and sings does so not because they possess a prodigy-like affinity for the arts, but because their standard is not whether the work created or song sung is “good or not”, but whether it makes them happy.
After all, if the purpose of drawing was to make an image identical to that of a photograph, then why not just take a photograph? The time it takes to draw, to enjoy oneself, to create imperfection, is for me, the purpose of drawing. I may not be an artist, but I draw for the love of process, learning, and discovery. In fact, my identity as “not an artist” is what allows me to draw. It gives me the freedom to fail, and surprised joy when I capture what I hope to capture.
To my reader: as you go through your week, pay attention to the opportunities that remain untouched because of the standards you hold, or fears of imperfection. By readjusting your goal from “creating something good” to “enjoying the process of creating” you may find yourself indulging in a craft that is unexpectedly fulfilling.