I have an aversion to calling myself an artist, but what is an artist? What makes an artist? Is it a title assigned to someone by others? Am I even capable of forming a definition? I’m not certain yet if it’s a confidence issue or missing the feeling of having arrived: the moment where you feel yourself having become a peer instead of a follower, a rival instead of a student. Recently I had a moment where I took a step back and thought, on the art I have been a part of, and the art that I have created myself (such as drawings, screen printings, photography) and wondered to myself: am I an artist?
It was my birthday on June 3rd. Instead of gifts this year, I made a Facebook plea for donationsto the BACKWORDS PressKickstarter – both art and poetry – as it is art that I play a part in helping to create. I am also receiving an original drawing from someone important in my life who lives on the east coast (the piece is currently still in transit while writing this). I also received a surprising gift from my mother (and father): two canvas prints of photographs I took when I was 18-years-old while visiting Paris, and the two prints are what made me step back.
These prints are unremarkable in the fact that one is of the Eiffel Tower, which is an iconic piece of architecture too often used in art – a simple tower meaning so many things to so many people; the other is from the top of the Eiffel Tower, overlooking the Seine river. Yet these prints are remarkable because seeing them made me feel more like an artist. I believe an important step to becoming an artist is to believe in what you are creating and to see its value. These are not photos found in a scrapbook from a vacation or simply framed memories, but visual pieces that, if I saw them in a store or at a market, I would want. They are pieces that I conceptualized. The angle of the Tower in one is centered between the moon and the trees, the earth and the stars; and with the other the fencing at the top of the tower creates a unique border to the river far below.
To be honest, I have an affinity for art and trinkets of Paris and France. This can be evidenced in my earlier BACKWORDS Blog piece on French photographer, Eugene Atget, someone whom I find inspiring in the photography world. I have a few chests with French decorations, a framed piece of people milling about under the Eiffel Tower water coloured in tones of orange and black, postcards with French symbols, notepads with French words, small statues, and even an Eiffel Tower lamp with a deep red lampshade – a shade of color meant for the Moulin Rouge and the 18th arrondissement. Spread out amongst all my other things, in the midst of art I have either made or purchased, Paris does not invade my home, it simply lives as part of it, but amongst a long list of items such as this makes me sound like I should be on an episode of Hoarders: Francophile Edition.
With all my other French and Paris inspired artifacts, I was excited to see some of my own photographs printed on canvas and it’s ignited my artistic spark in a new way. To see photographs that I took staged in a real life setting, my own personal space to be exact, inspires me to create more. To take more photos I feel worthy of hanging up on a wall, not just scrolling by in an Instagram feed. That is not to demean or lessen the beautiful photography that does appear on Instagram, but only speaks to the tangibility of a printed piece. Printing causes a more selective approach and a financial consideration that Instagram can subvert. Ease of access is both liberating in its reach to wide audiences and limiting in its choice of quality and control (a much more in-depth and educated podcast and debate on this subject can be found here).
I still don’t feel like I have “arrived” as an artist. I still have yet to form a body of work, or to truly define what I see as art versus what others see as Art (with a capital A), but I feel I am on my way, and with another avenue to present it.