Saturday, April 16, 2011

Art Blog: FEELING like an ARTIST

We are what we do? Are we? Some experts say it is hazardous to align your self identity with your job or career because if that job disappears (as is happening now for so many); you not only lose your job, but you also lose your sense of self. This may be true, but for artists I think it is a bit different.

I was born an artist. I knew I was an artist during my preschool years. I wrote a story once about my four year old self laying in the grass looking up at the clouds and thinking of when I would have my “blue period” ala Picasso. Of course, I didn’t think that literally, but my childish thoughts were similar. As the grass pricked my face, the cool breeze gently waved over my supine body, my mind wondered if the clouds would bring me answers. I now know I already had all the traits and attributes that made me what I am today: an ARTIST.

Since I have been alone 99% of my life, I have always had to work other jobs to make ends meet. Teaching has been the most common job and the most lucrative (?). I found out long ago that I could decrease the stress and worry about art sales if I could just find a way to get money that didn’t depend on people buying my art. I have sold a lot of work. However, it would never equal the amount I need to pay my mortgage, keep the lights on, and feed me all at the same time. So I am an artist who teaches.

I am wonky about being called an artist. I don’t like being called a teacher. No offense to the teachers of the world. I love you all. I know what you do and endure. However, my self identity is linked to the idea that Sheree is an artist. Nothing more. Nothing less. ARTIST

I came upon a photo last night of the Vermont Studio Center area of Johnson, Vermont. It brought back a rush of memories. You see, I have always had to work a job and be an artist at the same time. ALWAYS. There has been only one month of my life I was allowed to be just an artist. I forgot about bills. I forgot about real life issues. I gave myself permission to be just an artist. It was years ago when I spent a very cold January in Vermont. It was at the Vermont Studio Center. I did more work in that one month than any other time in my life. I lived and worked with other artists. It was like a commune of artists living an artist’s life. I truly FELT like an artist. It made me wonder what it would be like to just do art. I think I thought these thoughts because my job has been so draining this year. It has sucked the art life out of me. This too shall pass. In the meantime, I will continue to insist on my identity as an artist. I will demand that title. I have worked hard for it. I have earned it. I deserve it. I am Sheree the ARTIST.

Yes. IT IS WHAT I DO. It is also who I AM.

PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Cummins
"Johnson, Vermont; Vermont Studio Center"


JafaBrit's Art said...

Yes :) I regard being an artist my way of existing rather than a profession per se :)

Sheree Rensel said...

EXACTLY. I knew you would understand! :-)

JafaBrit's Art said...


Liz Ruest said...

Wow, Sheree, I love your passion! I have been far more tentative with calling myself an artist (see even though it's been a part of me all my life, like you. Great to see another point of view!

namastenancy said...

I knew at the age of 7 that I was an artist. I used to try and copy the images from the art bulletins that my grandfather got from the Met; I still have some of them and my imitations of Rubens show that at age 7, I was really into stick figures with big round circles for the bosom. LOL! However, my parents did nothing to encourage me and my mother was actively discouraging, telling me that I could not be an artist because I couldn't color within the lines. It took me all my life to be comfortable with calling myself an "artist." I always had those draining day jobs - not because I didn't know that I was a painter but because I had to pay the rent and there was no other way. Now, at age 66, I can call myself an artist. Painting and writing are my day job and it still feels unreal. I think it's a problem for all of us but we are women, strong and talented. Never give up and never say never.