Seeing Myself as an Artist student sketch

Student Stories: When I Started Seeing Myself as an Artist


A few weeks ago, we asked a question: Do you see yourself as an artist?

The blog post that focused on this was meant to let you know that you are an artist—that you have what it takes within you to be creative, to make art, and to think of yourself as an artist. Sketchbook Skool co-founder Koosje Koene talks more about this in her klass in our Seeing kourse this week. As part of her lessons on drawing self-portraits (this is the one she did today, from a series), Koosje discusses the ways we see ourselves, in the mirror, on the sketchbook page, and in our minds.

This subject struck a chord among Sketchbook Skool students, and we got these great thoughts on it from members of the group.

Robin: Yes, I am an artist. I am an artist who has a lot to learn, but I am an artist. This is not something that I say to others, nor is it how I introduce myself. I mostly say it to myself. I think that how we define ourselves and the words that we say to ourselves have power, and it’s important to purposely say positive words to counteract the negative ones that come from the monkey. I have a lot of interests and maybe that makes it easier to claim the noun that belongs to the activity. I am also a gardener, a juggler, a cook, a knitter, and many other things. The noun artist is a label that helps define how I spend my time and what I do.

Paula: I’m definitely not there yet. I can’t call myself an artist, but I could call myself artistic.

Lawrence: Anyone who makes art is an artist.

Linda: Maybe it’s step 1 of a 12 step program? “I am Linda and I am an artist!”

Jasmin: I only call myself an artist when I’m by myself. Probably because I was taught that an artist is someone who makes art to earn a living. But last weekend I was at a party and someone who works in advertising asked, “Are you still doing illustrations?” For a moment I felt quite overwhelmed, because it felt like being treated seriously as somebody who has an artistic skill. It was weird, but in a good way.

Susanna: I am an artist. I’ve used the term about myself off and on since I was a child. It’s what “stood out” about an otherwise shy little girl with glasses. Then it was my label as I went into college and got my BFA in studio. Now I had a degree to prove it. Then I stopped associating myself with it for 20 years. I had been an artist. Until Sketchbook Skool! Then a new concept of “I am an artist” arrived. I took a sketchbook with me every time I left the house, but didn’t always use it. The day I didn’t have it with me, I knew. Photos of past events and adventures triggered, “I wish I had sketched then the way I do now.” I knew. I AM an artist.

Teresa: Sometime in the last year and a half, I’m not sure exactly when I started calling myself an artist, in part due to Sketchbook Skool, and in part due to being out in public sketching every week for Drink & Draw and in part because I sketch/doodle every day. These things have moved me into calling myself an artist.

Eve: I’m more comfortable with the term “maker.” Perhaps because making art is only one thing I do. I draw and paint a lot but I also do printmaking, dressmaking, picture framing, cooking, woodwork, knitting, and a whole host of other things. Being creative is just who I am. It’s my identity, so it probably doesn’t need a label.

Nathalie: Today I went to the theater. I was tired, the play was a little boring, so I took out my sketchbook and drew and took notes to keep myself awake and pay more attention. It doesn’t matter to me, thinking of myself as an artist or being called one, but I like to think I’m a person who tries to pay attention.

Evie: I just returned from having note cards made from a sketch I drew. A lady at the counter asked if I was an artist. I replied “sort of.” I’m working on claiming the title.

Janice: It’s funny to me that when I was going to the opera, some folks would decide I was a singer just by my looks and the way I talked. And when I went into art galleries, they would ask me if I was an artist. Nobody ever guessed I was in science after decades in that profession! Maybe I was always supposed to be an artist and it showed. Now I love being around other Artists at Sketchbook Skool.

Lynn: I do think of myself as an artist, and I think it happened sometime into the second year of sketchbook Skool. It was all that encouragement and feedback and seeing my art along side that of others art I admired.

Kimberly: The first time I was called an artist was when my six year old niece said she wanted to be just like me when she grew up, to teach skiing and be an artist! It made me tear up at the time. She died at an early age in an accident, so to this day, when I draw, I think of her and those words.

Jayelle: To me an artist is someone who does art for a living, and so I don’t consider myself an artist in that way. But I do produce art! Art, like life, is a path, and I love that it’s mysterious and has many bends and forks.

Jo: I am finally starting to say this. I drew all through childhood, had a career that involved using drawing pens, and then I stopped. About 10 years ago I started again by joining a class, which escalated to summer schools and urban sketching. Drawing in public is what finally made me realize that I can call myself an artist. However…. it comes out with a bit of coyness and a squirm. I draw all the time, because I think I may suddenly lose the ability, as well as being compelled to. And yes, at the expense of household activities! What finally made it clear to me was when I thought it was important that I resolve an art task I set myself in some way or other, even if I draw something many times. That doesn’t mean the drawing is photographically correct, it means I am happy with how I tackled the subject and the result is something interesting to me, and hopefully to others.

Susanne: Within a year of joining SBS I was drawing obsessively seven days a week. I kept forgetting to cook dinner and got lazy on my grown-up responsibilities so I could draw. I knew without a doubt that I was an artist. I’ve been supported by the instructors and klassmates who helped create me!

The best way we know of to feel like an artist is to make art. Get lessons and the encouragement of a community of artists (yes, we think of you all that way!)

5 mins

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