The Artist: Reluctance and Creativity Bias

For the longest time I’ve been reluctant to call myself an artist. The closest I could get is my artist temperament. Jk. It’s to accept compliments when people tell me I’m a creative person. I’ve always needed some form of external validation that what I was doing was somewhere close to being an artist. And if I wasn’t getting it, I just wasn’t that. I had the notion that to be considered an artist, one had to reach a certain level of renown and expertise.

Growing up I wasn’t the best at anything but I was reliable. I wasn’t the soloist in the school choir but I was the senior who guided the newbies to sing in tune. I wasn’t the striker on the soccer team, but I was the one who stayed behind for support as the defender. In theater, I  wasn’t the main character but I was constantly the mover. I wasn’t the writer who got sent out for competitions but I was the back-up.

Aside from my reluctance to use the word artist for myself, I also had assumptions and bias over what constituted creativity.  I didn’t realize that I was measuring or placing acts of creativity in hierarchies. Painting and sketching would be at the top, meanwhile cooking and gardening- often seen as domestic tasks were  lower tier. I didn’t necessarily think of them as creativity. Even writing.

If there was one place that I thought I could potentially be an artist, it would be my photography. It was the only art form that I was confident enough to admit to myself that I was really good at. However, outwardly it was a struggle to claim my being a photographer. I didn’t always do it professionally. Do I stop being a photographer when it’s not my current job title? Why do I need to attach monetary value to consider myself an artist? Why do I need to profit from my art just to value my creativity? Here is where I repeat to myself about capitalism invading every inch of our being!

In the last year however, I’ve gradually learned to become kinder to myself. I am an artist! Whether I professionally pursue art as a career or not, what I was doing – expressing my ideas, concepts and skills through a body of work, was art.

When I think about it, becoming true to yourself is an act of creativity. You start to express what reflects the inner most you and you slowly do away with all the unnecessary distractions. This is most evident in how I now dress myself and how I decorate my space. The trends are there for guidance. I consider them a glossary for things I didn’t have the words for- nordic, mid century, minimalist etc.

Choosing pieces that speak to me and express how I feel become easier every day. When this happens, my sense of style emerges. I don’t have to try hard to look like I have depth, substance and character. The clothes don’t wear me, the space doesn’t feel contrived. Every day I am practicing art. Every day, I am an artist. Such affirming thoughts don’t always stick right away. It helps to get reminded every now and then. Here’s one I got in my inbox when I most needed it:

“Really, the experience of creativity is an entry into the mysterious. Technique, expertise and knowledge are just tools; the key is to abandon oneself to the energy that fuels the birth of all things. This energy has no form or structure, yet all the forms and structures come out of it. It makes no difference what particular form your creativity takes–it can be painting or singing, planting a garden or making a meal. The important thing is to be open to what wants to be expressed through you.”

When I thought about changing my instagram username to Milk, Home & Honey and focusing on my “home studio” or the creation of it, I felt wary. What exactly is it at this point? Is it even a studio when the content is mostly food, plants, and redecorating? The closest to it being an art studio was my photography and prop styling posts which were now far and in between. But now it makes sense. I was doing creative work every day. It didn’t matter what form it took.  So here’s a list of all the creative things that happen in my home studio:

  • writing
  • cooking
  • woodworking
  • decorating room/ interiors
  • styling outfits
  • gardening, picking out plants
  • floral arrangements
  • arranging a charcuterie board
  • organizing

I think the list could go on! Lying, making up stories, creating narratives, marketing, fake news… there’s also a dark side to it. Hahahaha! For anyone reading this and for anyone caring to comment, I’m genuinely curious: What creativity bias have you had? What acts of creativity do you do that you never considered as art? Have you ever experienced the same reluctance in calling yourself an artist?

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