Ever since I started painting, I have always been plagued by insecurity. Is enjoyment of the painting process enough to call myself an artist, or do I have to take a formal art course before I even dare use that title? Left and right on Instagram, I see people conducting watercolor workshops. I noticed that some of them are just on the same skill level as mine— not masters of the medium yet, but they call themselves artists. Maybe I should start calling myself one too?
Amanda Palmer, the author of this book convinced me to do so:
People working in the arts engage in street combat with The Fraud Police on a daily basis, because much of our work is new and not readily or conventionally categorized. When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.
There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to art school, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.
Everybody out there is winging it to some degree, of this we can be pretty sure.
In both the art and the business worlds, the difference between the amateurs and the professionals is simple: The professionals know they’re winging it. The amateurs pretend they’re not.
While The Art of Asking is concerned mostly with the art of giving and receiving as well as Amanda’s life as an artist, what resonated with me the most is her advice for artists of any form or medium. Many times the Fraud Police made me question the value of my artistic pursuit. It whispers “Your paintings suck. You will never reach the skill level of the artists you look up to” and “Everything you’re doing is wrong, now everyone will see how big of a failure you are”. It hurts but I’ve learned to subdue the Fraud Police by simply creating more artwork. Sure, my painting skills are crude at the moment but if I create enough paintings and read enough art books, eventually I’ll improve. I just have to put in the hard work, just like what the great artists I look up to did. They may be celebrated now but they’d never be there if they let the Fraud Police get the better of them while they’re busily creating their art.