This question was asked by my Art History Professor and I believe we never came up with an answer that satisfied her and all the class. “What is Art?” and “What is an Artist?” are two questions that can be polarizing and in today’s world with so much division it is not necessary or helpful to create yet more divisions. Let’s agree that there are many opinions and they range from academic scholars with numerous letters after their names to the heartfelt opinion of an individual just wanting to express appreciation for an object created that is pleasing to them.
I create art and I have added the label “artist” to my business card because I believe it is a truth. As a child I was always fascinated with the idea that I could create something that gave me satisfaction not only in the process of creating it but also find pleasure in viewing the finished creation.
My inspiration was objects around me that I could spend hours staring at and patiently rendering on paper with pencil, crayon or paint. As time went on I developed my own “signature” of application style and of course it has and will always evolve in alignment with my growth as an artist.
As an adult my position as a self described artist is one of a business owner and also as just a human creating as I was created to do. We all create, period. Why do I call myself an artist, why do say I create art? I can’t separate the creating process from my belief that I was created by God and that the act of creating is spiritual in it’s purest form. I call myself an artist because I am a painter and I create paintings to the best of my ability and am aware that the label “artist” is self appointed.
I believe that although I am capable of pursuing various other careers I was made with the passion to make things of beauty and my chosen form of expression is with paint. I look back over my life and now see that when I wasn’t able to express myself with my materials then there was an anxiety and sense of loss.
I, like most people, have experienced losses both emotional and physical and they have impacted me in such a way that I was either not available to paint or I was not capable. These were dark times for me and I felt I didn’t recognize who I was.
What are the steps that I took initially to become someone that aligns themselves with the title of artist and what are the steps I took after suffering severe injuries and other traumas? The answers are fairly similar due to the extreme loss and sense of starting over after the events.
First, to anyone that is interested in pursuing the act of creating I believe that we are gifted with the passion to create and to honor that we are to trust that we are capable and teachable. Yes, I said teachable because I believe that we are not necessarily gifted in the knowledge of how to create but simply the desire to. We can all learn the “craft” of painting or your chosen form of expression but the passion keeps us going and tells us we are right where we belong. We have to spend time learning how to express ourselves either in a classroom, with a mentor, by self exploration or a combination of these. The journey of learning and growing in your abilities as a creator is filled with joy and sometimes deep frustration but yet we feel alive when pursuing and lost when absent from our tools. Constantly working to improve our work and to push ourselves to best express our intention is part of the process as an artist. As an artist our internal growth is viewed by our outward expression and as a painter I find it interesting to look back over the years and view my growth and reflect on where I was during those years and look forward to new growth in the future.
Having to re-learn how to paint after a few injuries and traumas was very difficult and even depressing at times. I had no way of knowing if I would ever be able to paint again but what started the process of coming back was the unstoppable passion to paint that was planted in me. That passion pushed me to slowly take the baby steps needed to either remember how I used to paint or teach my brain new paths to use. Anyone that has experienced loss understands. I have not given up and I prefer to look at the times of struggle as a gift that pushed me harder and taught me to appreciate the passion for creating that lives in me.
Identify what method you would like to use to express your need to bring something into existence that wasn’t there before. There are many forms such as gardening, engineering, writing, singing, etc. and I am very happy that painting fills my soul and is my choice for expression. I have been able to surround myself with my paints, brushes, canvas and watch paintings appear. There are stories and inspiration behind each painting and I leave it to it’s new owner to find the inspiration and/or add their own life experience to it’s meaning. The pleasure to paint is amplified when a painting I make finds a new home and is enjoyed by it’s new owner. We all win!
I encourage anyone that has a curiosity about painting to look into learning the basics of painting and not give up. The method of painting that suits you will appear and will fill you with such satisfaction! I am so very grateful to live as a painter and to also be able to work as a teacher and thus give back by helping others find their creative voice!
Holly Hunter Berry