Confessions of A Struggling Artist

Today, I sat down to write a description about myself. And god, was it difficult. It opened up a whole can of worms. It opened up all kinds of insecurities, and questions, and dilemmas. How do I describe myself? How in the world do I bottle up this self-proclaimed mutt (I have roughly 27 hobbies, and 1,563 interests) into a few measly sentences? Ugh.


It made me realize something. Before I even began, I was already back-peddling. For example: I’m a graphic designer, BUT it’s my side-hustle. I have a full time job that I think of as my true job. I discovered that when describing myself, I immediately down-play the role of art in my life. I’m a calligrapher and a painter, BUT I graduated from college as an English major. For some reason, I feel the need to explain away my art as a secondary part of my life – as a hobby.   

It led to me to a realization.

I have a really hard time calling myself an artist. It’s a title that I don’t quite feel fit to wear. And when I hear other people call themselves artists, I am impressed. And a bit jealous. {Yep. Definitely jealous.}

I struggle. I find advocating for my work & talking about my work with confidence, well, difficult. And outside of my comfort zone.  

And I hear a lot of people talking about how social media and ‘comparing ourselves to others’ burden us with self-doubt. You’ve heard it – “Comparison is the thief of joy.” But that’s not necessarily true for me. Yes, sometimes those perfect little squares can lead me down a spiral of self-doubt. But, most often, they don’t. There are so many incredibly talented and hard-working people on social media that I draw confidence and inspiration from. I see women embracing their imperfections, and mocking the desire to be perfect. And I appreciate it. But what I’m really talking about are those incredible girl-bosses and go-getters and artists embracing their individual talents & style on a daily basis. Calling themselves artists. Embracing their unique gifts. Showing off what makes them an individual. Having a token style and displaying it proudly. Working their butts off, and showing us what they've created.   

I recently listened to a podcast in which a calligrapher talked about her struggle with comparing herself to others - how she always felt inadequate. It crippled her desire to continue being a calligrapher. And I get it. Hullo, there are too many talented and inspiring calligraphers, hand-letterers, painters, photographers & leather-tooling goddesses out there for me to count. I am in awe of their talent on a daily basis. It would be so easy to see their skill and immediately think, “I can’t do that. I can not compete with that.” And that speaks directly to who I am. I am a self-doubting, self-conscious, unwilling-to-call-myself-artist, artist. But what I have realized is, I don’t have to do it just like them. I don’t have to compete with them. It took me a while to recognize the truth of that. All I have to do is embrace what makes me, me. I see artists I admire embracing their imperfections. Embracing their messy care-free style, or their bad-habits, or the unique techniques that make their work so approachable. I see them embracing what sets their work apart from everyone else.

This confession serves two purposes. One, it advocates for the artists, the creators & the self-taught professionals that, like me, are learning as they go. I am right there with you. I feel you. It is refreshing to admit you don’t have to be perfect, or incredibly experienced, or have accolades or merit to describe yourself as an artist or a professional. You just have to create art. You just have to run your own creative empire, however small. You just have to recognize that your unique perspective is valuable. Secondly, I want to recognize and appreciate all the women & creatives that inspire me. I see you. I so appreciate you. I am so fan-girling all over you.  And I hope each time I simply like one of your Instagram posts, or comment with a heart-eyed emoji, you see it for so much more than what it seems – it is me thanking you for your inspiration and applauding your skill. That little red heart notification is a testament from one artist to another – that I would not have the confidence or desire to put myself out there without your shining example and inspiration. Thank you. Your little square boxes mean so much more to me than you will ever know. Please keep doing what you’re doing. I adore it. It motivates me to keep going.

So if you’re like me – if you have a hard time putting your artwork out into the world and calling it art, if you have a hard time acknowledging your skills as valuable and need a confidence-boost – here it is. Please keep creating. Please recognize your value. Please keep sharing.

So maybe this is a confession, or maybe it’s simply a letter to myself. Either way, repeat after me: I am worthy. I can still make mistakes. I am learning. I am giving myself the space to be imperfect, and unprepared, and unexpected. I’m allowing myself to learn as I go. I will embrace my inabilities, and try for new skills anyway. It’s a process. It's progress. I am becoming a more efficient, more confident artist. There’s that word. But yes, it’s about time I used it proudly. I am an artist. An ARTIST.


Looking for podcast recommendations?

If you, like me, are addicted to podcasts, here are a few that you may enjoy. Conveniently enough - these all speak to the above conversation. A little inspiration, if you will...