Why I’m an Artist

I took my first art class when I was six years old. I always kind of liked art, but I wasn’t invested in it. Are six-year-olds really invested in anything? I have this memory of sitting in the library after school for what had to be my third or fourth art club meeting. The teacher was younger, probably a newer teacher. She was explaining warm and cool colors and I couldn’t for the life of me understand what she meant. 

Now, I have trouble with language comprehension and hearing in general. It’s something that’s gotten more pronounced the older I’ve gotten, but it’s always been prevalent. But this was something else entirely. My tiny six-year-old self just couldn’t wrap their head around the concept of colors having a temperature. Had someone taken the time to explain it to me, I could have eventually picked it up. I remember actually touching the tip of a marker to see if there was something I was missing.

The teacher did not care for that. Maybe she thought I was mocking her lesson, or maybe she was just having a bad day. Nevertheless, her response was to tell me that if I couldn’t understand something as simple as warm and cool colors, I was never going to be any good at art. I was never going to be an artist. 

Mama didn’t raise a quitter, but she sure did raise one spiteful kid.

To say I became invested after that is an understatement. I checked out every book I could about drawing, even those terrible “How to Draw” books that just gave basic shapes of one perspective without teaching anatomy. I waited every week for Friday art class. In middle and high school, I took every art class I was able, which ended up being just about all of them. 

When it came time for college, I knew I wanted to go into art, but I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do. By then, despite being so heavily involved in art for years, I had internalized the idea of the starving artist. I didn’t think there was anything I could actually do to make money as an artist, at least not the art I cared about. So instead, I went into graphic design. 

Now that’s not to say graphic design isn’t a creative field. I spent nearly three years studying, but I was miserable. I got to be creative, but I was missing the art I did before. Illustration. 

It seems silly, but spending just a year and a half in illustration changed how I saw art, and my art in particular. I learned so much about myself and what I wanted to create. During a final for a painting course, we were all hanging our pieces in the exhibit sections. Seeing my work like that, it felt out of place. Someone made a snarky comment that it looked like it belonged more on a coffee table than a gallery. 

They were right.

So I dragged a table over from the break area, stole a stool from around the corner, drained my coffee, and set myself up a little coffee table display. It felt right. It felt approachable. That’s what I want from the things I create. I want them to be approachable. More than that, I want people to use them, to destroy them, to love them. Because when you can approach things, you can get something out of them.