my background

Why I “Became” an Artist

A lot of times, folks like to ask artists or crafty people some variation of the question, “how did you get into crafting?” or “what made you decide to become an artist?” So I thought I’d take a shot at answering that question here for myself.

I guess you could say that I consciously decided to make art a regular part of my life when I “rescued” a big wooden table from the lobby of our apartment building in Baltimore back in about 2011 (that’s where people put stuff they wanted to get rid of, haha). I used that table solely for art projects: book making and drawing and painting and etc. (I still use that table in my studio today, by the way.) But I’ve been doing art and crafts as far back as I can remember — besides painting and drawing, I’ve done poetry, clay, writing stories, making jewelry and collages, crocheting and knitting, plus more than I can even remember right now. We had a creative writing class in fourth grade which was my absolute favorite, and all through middle school and high school (where we didn’t have creative writing classes, sadly) I took art classes as often as possible (plus some dance classes too).

Aforementioned art table, piled as usual with various projects

I think I’ve always liked the idea of creating something that didn’t exist before, even if I wasn’t necessarily conscious of that when I was a kid. I had an active imagination when it came to making stuff up: games, stories, plays and dances, art projects, etc. In college I did writing and theatre degrees but also took drawing, photography, graphic design, watercolor, playwriting, scene painting, swing dancing… I was certainly not equally good at all of it, but I think I needed those creative outlets, because on the rare occasions that I didn’t have them, I definitely felt the absence — it was like a part of my life was missing, or like I was somehow incomplete.

There’s a quote attributed to Elizabeth Reyes that goes, “I write because I must. It’s not a choice or a pastime, it’s an unyielding calling and my passion.” For myself, I would amend it to say, “I create because I must.” I feel like I’m always getting ideas or finding inspiration for something I want to try, and the more I do the creative stuff, the more new ideas come to me. Watercolor painting is what I do the most of right now, but it’s not the only thing I do. I’ve never stuck to one medium or discipline, and I don’t think I ever will. To be completely honest, it’s kind of incomprehensible to me when people don’t have any kind of creative thing that they like to do.

I think (though I could be wrong) that creating things solely for pleasure or self-expression is a uniquely human endeavor. I also know how much my life is enriched by other people’s art — visual art, music, performances, novels, etc. The occasions that I connect with someone over a painting I’ve done, or someone tells me how much they love a piece of art that I made, are some of my favorite experiences, and it feels so much more personal and meaningful than a compliment on a non-creative project. I don’t know what you’d call the quality in a person that makes them want to create things and show/share them with others (sometimes I think it’s hubris, haha) but I’ve got it.

What about you? Do you think of yourself as “creative” person? (I think most people are, even if you don’t do fine arts like painting; things like music, crafts, cooking, carpentry, and so on — all of that is creative.) What things do you like to make?

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