31 – Do you consider yourself an artist?
Do you call yourself an artist?

In this week’s episode, Laura and Nikki discuss the loaded topic of whether or not you consider yourself an artist.

When someone asks you what you do, how do you respond? Do you feel imposter syndrome if you tell them you’re an artist? Or do you describe yourself as something else?  Nikki and Laura share their own stories on how they answer this question.

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Topics discussed

  • How Nikki responds to the question, “What do you do?”  (0:55)
  • Titles that give Nikki imposter syndrome (2:14)
  • Whether or not Laura calls herself an artist (3:43)
  • The line between art & craft (4:22)
  • Getting the confidence to call herself an artist (5:26)
  • How Laura brands her business (6:58)
  • Do we need permission?  (9:55)
  • Takeaways (13:11)

Laura

0:07
Hi, this is Laura.

Nikki

0:08
And this is Nikki, with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:17
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination, that keep you stuck.

Nikki

0:31
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Laura

0:39
So Nikki, what are we talking about today?

Nikki

0:42
Today we’re talking about whether or not you consider yourself an artist.

Laura

0:47
So let’s just pretend that you’re at a dinner party…we’re doing this again, right?

Nikki

0:52
God, I hope so.

Laura

0:55
And someone asks you, Nikki, what do you do? How do you answer that question? What title do you give yourself? Do you call yourself an artist, an illustrator, a maker, a graphic, surface or web designer? And do you feel any imposter syndrome creep in as you answer them?

Nikki

1:14
So I would probably answer that I am an artist and web designer. Sometimes I’ll say I’m an artist, and I also build websites.

Laura

1:24
Okay.

Nikki

1:24
My quote official title, meaning what’s on my business cards, my website, LinkedIn, Instagram bio, etc, is artist and designer. I feel that it encompasses all the different things that I do.

Laura

1:38
Okay.

Nikki

1:39
So I personally don’t feel imposter syndrome calling myself an artist because I’ve been making art since I was a kid. And selling art since college.

Laura

1:49
Wow.

Nikki

1:50
I’ve exhibited my art in national and international juried shows. I’ve had a few small solo shows, and I continue to show and sell my work through my own studio, my website and a few local shops and galleries around town.

Laura

2:04
Cool.

Nikki

2:05
And I also feel confident calling myself a designer because I’ve been working as a graphic and web designer since I got out of grad school in the early 90s.

Laura

2:14
Okay, so are there any titles that actually make you uncomfortable, that you’re not willing to call yourself?

Nikki

2:20
Yeah, there kind of are. So even though I’ve been building websites for 25 years, I kind of feel a bit like a fraud if I say I’m a web developer because to me, that implies a much more serious programmer than I’ll ever be. So I can code HTML and CSS. And I can fake my way through a tiny bit of PHP, but I am definitely not a programmer. But I do build and launch websites all the time. So technically, I can call myself a web designer and developer.

Laura

2:54
All right.

Nikki

2:54
I also feel a bit of imposter syndrome if I call myself an illustrator or surface designer, although I have done and I continue to do both, just not as much for clients and companies as for my own products.

Laura

3:08
Okay, so why do you feel that imposter syndrome?

Nikki

3:11
Well, even though my very first job out of grad school was working for an apparel company, where I designed and illustrated t-shirts, sweatshirts and other various apparel for the National Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited, I guess I kind of feel like I need a significant and more recent licensing deal to feel comfortable with those titles, you know?

Laura

3:37
Right.

Nikki

3:37
So okay, so that was a lot. What about you, Laura, do you call yourself an artist?

Laura

3:43
Well, for me, I come from a background where I designed projects for manufacturers and publications in the craft industry, largely stamp and clay companies. I was basically using their products to design greeting cards and polymer clay projects. So I was a designer member of the Craft and Hobby Association, and I largely saw myself as a designer and a crafter rather than an artist.

Nikki

4:09
Oh, and that brings up a loaded, long standing discussion about the difference between art and craft.

Laura

4:16
Yeah, right.

Nikki

4:17
Yeah. Also between fine art and more commercial art and design.

Laura

4:22
There seems to be this stigma around the word craft, and it’s sometimes seen in derogatory terms by artists. But I have to say coming from the craft world, there’s definitely artistry to some of the work that crafters do.

Nikki

4:37
Oh, absolutely. And I think it goes the other way too, the craft of what you make when you’re calling it art is also important. So when we try to label things as one thing or the other to judge it or make a separation between the two, I think they’re very, they’re both very entwined.

Laura

4:54
Well, they are entwined, but I’ll say that once I started drawing my own designs for digital stamps, I was drawing and painting in encaustic, watercolor, acrylics, oils I started to feel like I could begin calling myself an artist, but I think I threw in the word wannabe before it. Like why do we feel that we have to put qualifiers into our language?

Nikki

5:18
Well, we actually don’t have to do that, Laura. Alright, so when did you drop the wannabe?

Laura

5:26
I think it was when I had my first gallery show around 2016 with about 30 of my own paintings in it. And I realized that those came from my own imagination, my own hands. And even so I’m nowhere near the skill level that I’d like to be with my art yet. So I still get hit with imposter syndrome sometimes, I mean, social media certainly doesn’t help.

Nikki

5:50
No kidding.

Laura

5:52
But my friends and my family, they see me as the creative, artsy one now, even though I don’t always see myself that way.

Nikki

6:00
Well, okay, none of us is ever at the skill level that we’d really like to be, you know. But we just keep working and we try to get closer and closer to that. But what about people who haven’t had a show, you need to be able to call yourself an artist or a designer, or whatever it is that you do and have the confidence to put your work out there in the world, and get people to take you seriously if that’s what you want to pursue.

Laura

6:27
And when we say artist or designer, we say that because that’s where we’re coming from. But we also mean writer, photographer, filmmaker, fill in the blank with your creative calling. But you have to believe it. And maybe there’s a little bit of the fake it till you make it to some degree, but you have to produce a volume of work to sort of back it up.

Nikki

6:48
Okay, Laura. So you consider yourself an artist now.

Laura

6:51
Mm hmm.

Nikki

6:52
But isn’t your brand Laura Lee Griffin Designs?

Laura

6:58
It is. But I use designs in my logo, because I feel it encompasses a lot of what I do. So surface pattern design, digital stamp designs, greeting card designs, etc. If I were more focused on fine art right now, I might consider either dropping the designs or changing that word to studio. But to me designs and studio are both pretty generic descriptions.

Nikki

7:25
Right.

Laura

7:26
And when it comes to Instagram, I actually use the word artist in my bio name, because that particular field is searchable. And that is the overarching umbrella to everything that I do.

Nikki

7:38
And really, you are an artist, whatever it is you’re doing with your business, your current business focus might be more towards design. But that doesn’t take away from your identity as an artist.

Laura

7:50
For sure. But I think another reason it took me a long time to call myself an artist is that I’m self taught. I never went to art school. And as a kid, I was the one who drew stick figures. I even have proof that I’ll put in the show notes of my first published work of art at age three.

Nikki

8:09
Okay.

Laura

8:10
And it’s stick figures. I was always really jealous of people like you, Nikki, who were probably drawing gorgeous portraits at age three, just saying.

Nikki

8:19
Well, when I was a kid, I was actually drawing horses and dogs and bunnies.

Laura

8:25
And I bet they were gorgeous dogs and bunnies.

Nikki

8:27
Well, they weren’t stick figures.

Laura

8:32
Okay, so though I was really talented in the music department, I never really thought that I was that artistic as a kid. And as I got older, my day job was using the opposite side of my brain in the finance and corporate business world. So that imposter syndrome was very real. It’s hard to feel comfortable saying you’re an artist until you see other people that you admire with the same background as yourself, like other self taught artists, calling themselves artists too.

Nikki

9:01
Well, I went to art school, as we’ve talked about before, and I’ve still had times in my life where that imposter syndrome creeps up for different reasons.

Laura

9:10
Okay.

Nikki

9:11
So for example, after grad school, and then I had that job with the apparel company. I did freelance design and illustration for a short time. But then I took a job with IBM. And although I was designing and coding and leading a team of designers, I had basically stopped making art. It had been so long since I had a consistent studio practice or created a finished piece of work, that I stopped calling myself an artist. It wasn’t really until 2003 when I moved to Paducah as part of the Artist Relocation Program that I started making my own art again, and I went back to calling myself an artist. And I haven’t stopped since.

Laura

9:53
Awesome.

Nikki

9:54
Thank you.

Laura

9:55
Well, we tend to feel like there’s there some moment or an activity or like an accomplishment or goal that gives us permission to call ourselves an artist. But as Pablo Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.”

Nikki

10:15
I really love this quote. I don’t know if it’s really 100% accurate. But think about it. Kids have such imagination and so little fear. They aren’t afraid to mess around with paint or clay or to write stories. They don’t label themselves, they just do what seems fun, right? It’s not until the outside world intrudes and starts criticizing us and stifling our creativity and trying to label us and fit us into boxes. That’s when we stop believing that we’re creative.

Laura

10:47
So true. And as human beings, I personally believe that we’re inherently creative. It’s in our DNA. But we forget that somewhere along the way. And you know, who says that the sky has to be blue in the grass green? When did it become cool to color inside the lines?

Nikki

11:04
Exactly. So my sister and I always tell the story of when we were little, and we both took ceramics classes and gymnastics classes. We started both at the same time. And my interest immediately went right to the art side, and hers went to the more active side. She stopped making things and I stopped jumping around. I became, quote, the creative one, and she became the active one. But I wonder what would be different if we both stuck with both? We might both be artists and jocks, instead of completely stopping the other and believing that she isn’t creative and that I’m not good at sports.

Laura

11:48
Yeah, we do, we make up these decisions about ourselves of what we’re good and not good at at such a young age right without hardly any experience in them.

Nikki

11:56
Right, totally.

Laura

11:57
It’s interesting. Well, I was the kid who actually took 12 lessons a week.

Nikki

12:02
Oh, my God.

Laura

12:03
And I never wanted to drop any of them. Like my parents would always ask me and I’m like, no, I love everything.

Nikki

12:09
I can do everything!

Laura

12:11
At one point, I was in competitive gymnastics three times a week, I took voice violin, piano, swimming, performance troop, dinner theater, acting classes, and the list goes on. Then in high school I was in 10 clubs at once, everything from the pocket protector college-bowl geeks, yes, I was one of those.

Nikki

12:31
Oh my god that makes me wanna drink.

Laura

12:33
..to the pompon dance squad. And I was the valedictorian and student body president.

Nikki

12:38
Of course you were.

Laura

12:39
Maybe that’s why I still feel a little bit scattered today. I love doing all the things. Jack of all trades, master of none, right. But wasn’t it cool at one point to be a renaissance woman? We need to bring that back. Maybe that can be what I call myself now. I don’t know.

Nikki

12:58
Well, I’ve got the rubenesque side down.

Laura

13:01
You can be the muse for everyone’s paintings.

Nikki

13:04
Wait, you mean I’m not already.

Laura

13:08
Okay, Nikki, what are our key takeaways today?

Nikki

13:11
Well, in my opinion, there’s really only one. If you believe you are an artist, you are an artist. Whether you are a professional artist or a financial manager, if you’re a person who’s always inspired by art, thinking about art, planning your next creation, making things…

Laura

13:30
…experimenting and following your curiosities…

Nikki

13:35
…then you are an artist.

Laura

13:37
100%

Nikki

13:39
So now it’s your turn. Do you consider yourself an artist, a designer, a writer? Or do you feel like you’re not ready to own that title? Either way, let us know in the Startist Society Facebook group, or on Instagram @startistsociety.

Laura

13:56
If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, we’d love for you to leave us a five star rating and review. Reviews help us reach more startups like you and keep us inspired to continue creating new episodes.

Nikki

14:08
For today’s show notes go to startistsociety.com.areyouanartist. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

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