What is an artist?
As I return from my daughter Michelle's college graduation at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, GA, I find myself debating the meaning of the word "artist" and how creatives are not always given full permission to shine.
According to Merriam-Webster, an artist is:
1a: a person who creates art (such as painting, sculpture, music, or writing) using conscious skill and creative imagination
1b: a person skilled in any of the arts
2: a skilled performer especially a musical or theatrical entertainer
3: a person who is very good at something
In my opinion, an artist is not just simply someone skilled in the arts. Regardless of ability, an artist is someone who has the ability to make another person feel. It is someone who has the capacity to create in some form and, in doing so, to change the way others think about the world around them.
Creatives surround us. We are so blessed to have both hobbyists and professionals in our midst, no matter the form ... be they novelist, painter, fashion designer, vocalist, animator, gardener, chef, poet, architect, dancer, violinist, graphic designer, seamstress, actor, videographer, essayist, or other creative.
Too often artists are not given permission to shine. Some are told they aren't good enough. Some are told being an artist isn't "practical." Some are simply not taken seriously and eventually wander away from what brings them (and so many others) joy.
The self portrait (above), which my daughter gave to me as a "Thank you, Mom, for always supporting me" gift several years ago, is one of the most touching works of art I've ever had the pleasure to receive. It is one of my most valued possessions. I can't read her sentiments, shaping the curls and swirls of my daughter's wild hair (since then tamed with a serious haircut), without needing a box of tissues.
This. This is what an artist is. My incredible daughter brings me to my knees. She is an artist who adds color and texture to my existence, and I would be simply lost without her (and her lovely artwork) in my life.
Art, in some capacity, has been a part of my world and the worlds of my family members, since forever. My husband was in marching band and played in the orchestra for his high school musicals. I loved to draw and paint as a child. Participating in journalism, choir, and musical theater were my main high school hobbies. Our two girls were raised on a healthy supply of The Beatles, Billy Joel, and show tunes. They saw their first musical as early as we could reasonably expect them to sit quietly in a balcony for two hours. Active in choir, band, and theater, both were quite comfortable performing for others. From a very young age, Michelle also showed a natural ability for visual arts and took art classes through high school. She even worked a side-hustle as a caricature artist for library events, graduation and birthday parties, and the like. She eventually progressed to digital art and has done commissioned logos and other artwork for businesses and nonprofits.
Both children were high, academic achievers and took every "pre-college" course necessary to get into a top-tier, liberal arts college. Our oldest got a degree from Georgia Tech. But Michelle? When it came time to look at colleges, she explored the same liberal arts opportunities her sister originally had and, with somewhat lackluster interest, decided to consider a degree in marine biology or psychology or geology.
Some sort of "ology."
But an "ology" degree wasn't right for Michelle. Her heart wasn't in it. We knew that, and, deep down, she knew that, too. Despite a fair amount of terror that she'd be a "starving artist," at the end of her effort, we pushed her to check out SCAD.
She was hooked. SCAD prepares its artists with specialized creative skills that cannot be found elsewhere. She grew as an artist and and as a human in the past four years, and we have never regretted giving her permission to follow her heart and be true to herself ... her wonderful, artsy, colorful, richly-textured self.
Yes, I am proud of Michelle's recent graduation from one of the top art schools in the nation. Yes, I think she's amazing, and I'm envious of her experiences. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Motion Media Design and minor in Animation. She's interned with the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL) motion graphics team and is now interning with the marketing and branding team of a global CPA firm in Atlanta, GA. I have absolutely no concerns about her securing a full-time job IN HER FIELD OF WORK.
Michelle went for it. I believe all creatives should "go for it," too, if it's what brings them joy. More than anything, though, I wish more artists were given permission to try.
Listen to your heart. Write that novel. Paint that masterpiece. Take that bow.
And shine. You're an artist.
For more art by Michelle, check out www.motiongraphicsart.com.
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