Art: Mattias Adolfsson, this week’s teacher in Sketchbook Skool’s Polishing kourse.

Sketchbook Skool’s Seeing kourse starts March 6. It teaches you how to look at the world through the eyes of an artist. But how do you see yourself? Even if you draw every day, do you see yourself as an artist?

Children don’t think about this. They’re completely creative, all the time, never letting things like titles get in the way. When you were a kid, you probably drew with everything you could get your hands on. Maybe you wrote and performed plays or sang made-up songs throughout your day. Maybe you surrounded yourself with cardboard and glue, swimming in a sea of your own inventions.

Then, somewhere along the way — you stopped.

As Sketchbook Skool co-founder Danny Gregory says, creativity is something we are all born with. But eventually we convince ourselves we don’t have the right to call ourselves “artists.” Somewhere between the time you couldn’t stop making things and now, you developed this nagging feeling that you needed a sensible title for yourself; something more substantial and less scary.

So you hid your feelings about being creative for a very long time and took the sensible path, whether it was through law or medical school, teaching or a trade. Or maybe you loved drawing and even pursued it, but an art teacher said your work was awful and you had no talent whatsoever (you wouldn’t believe how often that happens).

Whether it was a change of heart, a change in confidence, or life simply got in the way, your art supplies began to gather dust. Your sketchbooks and notepads got buried under more “important” and legitimate things.

Now, years later, you are allowing yourself to sketch, draw, and paint in your free time. You might be a Sketchbook Skool student, or you might be attending a paint-and-sip night in your own neighborhood. But perhaps, each time you make art, you feel it’s unfinished or rusty. You think it’s not good enough. So, when asked, you tell people that you dabble around a bit with sketching n’ such. But you don’t call yourself an artist.

In the Sketchbook Skool Kommunity, plenty of people have had the experiences described above. A lot of students say that at first they don’t feel they can claim the title artist because making art is not their profession, or their work is not in a gallery or for sale, or they didn’t graduate from art college.

Then, one day, something changed, and you just said, “I’m an artist.”

What happened? You might feel like an artist when:

  • Someone hangs your work on the wall.
  • You introduce yourself and the person replies: "Ah, you’re the artist! My friend told me about you.”
  • Your drawings get likes and comments on social media by people you admire.
  • Your kid says: "You're a pretty good artist. I want to be like that too, when I'm older."
  • A complete stranger looks over your shoulder and strikes up a conversation about something you're drawing.

These moments are external, but what about how you see yourself? What will let you see yourself as an artist, and own it? In an assignment as part of the Sketchbook Skool kourse Seeing, students have to look at themselves in a new way by making a series of self-portraits, or “selfies.” After creating various versions of themselves, students begin discussing how they see themselves. This discussion leads to an even larger conversation about seeing yourself as an artist. Their conclusion:

The moment you feel like an artist can simply be a shift in your attitude or the way you see (or draw!) yourself.

What happens if you take the plunge and start calling yourself an artist? At first it may feel a little strange, but it can grow on you quickly. Once you start doing that, things will shift. In time, you’ll start feeling comfortable with the label and start introducing yourself as an artist.

You might start to do things you see other artists doing: setting up studio space, drawing in public, doing commissioned portraits, dressing more colorfully, even teaching others to draw or coaching them on being more creative. You could enter a gallery show, self-publish a book of your drawings, do illustration for a local paper. (You’ll also get to talk about being rejected—which is actually bragging a little, since in order to be rejected, you have to enter and submit your artwork!) You could start to take new risks, seek new adventures, look for other new ways to define yourself — chef, pianist, storyteller, explorer, wizard… Creative director of your own life.

What if you’re not quite there yet? Some of our students have used other titles that are more comfortable at first, at least until you have a few selfies under your belt:

  • A Creative.
  • Artist In Training
  • Aspiring Artist
  • Creator
  • Creator Extraordinaire
  • Recorder of places and things
  • Art Supplies Addict
  • Experimenter of art
  • Artistic
  • Mastering art skills
  • Apprentice Artist

Use these, and make up your own on the road to calling yourself an artist. And seeing yourself that way, and truly owning it. Or go back to being like the creative child you were and just draw. In the end it doesn’t matter what you call yourself. It’s what you do, what you make, what you create. And this time, you can keep creating.

Sketchbook Skool’s next community kourse Seeing starts March 6. Click here for a preview and to enroll.

Filed under categories: Community, Inspiration, Klasses