When I first started Creatively Bijou, I held the unique distinction as the only person who could make the incredibly simple word "artist" be so incredibly awkward to those around me. It would roll off the tongue akin to an unholy word slipping its way from priest to patron in the midst of a Sunday service. Or, perhaps, like the slow march of a shameful secret trudging from tongue to those held close to the breast. When pronouncing the two-syllable word, sometime after the "ar" left my mouth a weird accent would lead a coup against the last syllable transfiguring "artist" into some audial oddity that vaguely resembled the intended noun. I can honestly admit it was the strangest phenomenon that left everyone feeling slightly uncomfortable.
There is a lot of humor to be had when reflecting on my early interactions that centered around interest in my artwork and questions about myself as an artist. These early interactions resembled much of what I imagine has happened in most Baroque style paintings; furtive and slightly pained looks cast about a gory battlefield, with an overarching motif of discomfort and gruesome struggle. Most of the time I would divert my eyes to look absolutely anywhere in the room besides a question's poser. My voice would start digging its way to China leaving only the lowest of mumbles for canine ears to capture. Awkward giggles would burst through at inopportune times to cover any rumblings that could have been snatched up by human ears. Overall, interactions were, umm-- short, as no one wanted to remain a part of it by the end.
As you may have guessed, it was very apparently-- I would have to get this weird adverse reaction under control. I needed to figure out a way to RELAX and even enjoy chatting about my artistic endeavor. I decided to determine what it was that was making me lose my mind and turn me into a puddle of myself. Afterward, I would have to figure out a new way to chill out for a moment and enjoy the attention...something which has rarely been a problem for me.
It honestly did not take nearly the amount of introspection that I thought it would take to diagnose the major issue I was having. It was pretty clear I had an incredibly intense embarrassment about associating myself with the term artist. In my head, artists were living amongst the Gods in Mt Olympus. They painted massive epics that portrayed every last golden detail of their subjects. They were people who had studios, studied formal technique & color theory and were represented by galleries, while simultaneously, being the people who had committed themselves to a life of poverty with eventual death by consumption. Yes, a mighty glorified yet weirdly bleak outlook on the world of being an artist. As I began to unravel this pretzel of a problem, I realized that all of that crap I was telling myself had absolutely nothing to do with the noun itself. Anyone who picks up some supplies and creates something new from their imagination is an artist. You are in charge of how you want to create. You don't have to follow any mold you don't desire to fit in. If you are enjoying the process and time spent on your craft, then the rest is a 'moo' in the wind. Plus, with such a massive world population at least one person out there would have to like what I was doing. If not, at least I was guaranteed to have a supportive mother. By separating the previous connotations from the word, I could feel myself slowly unwinding the unwarranted pressures and fears I had created.
Bear with me on one small tangent that I promise relates to the bigger picture: When I first started mountain biking, I was scared shitless. I felt like Connor was trying to find a legal way to murder me in the woods by making me swerve through trees while shooting over rocks and roots. I would tensely hold the brakes down the entire way down the trail; most of the time it turned into more of walking my bike, like it was my loyal dog. It was extra frustrating because while I was avoiding unending death traps Connor was having the absolute time of his life. If you have ever watched your partner have the absolute best day while you are toting behind sunk in misery, it really jazzes you up--I mean how dare they?! After a couple of tense times on the mountain I finally decided that I would just let out a big "whoop" or holler to transform the guttural terror I was feeling into something that had a little more elation behind it. Most of what escaped my lips were giggles and girlish screams but pretty immediately I would feel myself relaxing and having a hell of a lot more fun out there. I began to absolutely love the sport. Excitement and fear are so closely related that it was fairly easy to trick my body into thinking the nerves were more of adrenaline than anything else.
This is the strategy I decided to use to release myself from my "artist" aversion. Obviously, I wasn't whooping in people's faces... that would be weird. Instead, I forced myself to express excitement at their queries and compliments. At the time, I had some of my artwork hanging at the brewery I was working at. Before, if anyone mentioned they liked the artwork I would pretend to not hear them; now I made sure to practice giving a big grin and saying: "Thank you, I'm the artist!" with some gusto, and, well if you know me, a cascade of nervous giggles on the side. I felt a lovely transformation slowly take over the more I practiced offering up this admission. Another measure I had decided to practice was saying "artist" out loud to myself while I was alone. I tried to pronounce it with no frills, lace or uncomfortable giggles infused. I have improved drastically from where I started. Though, I admit I still find myself transforming the last syllable "tist" to "teest" with a punctuating cackle. What can I say, it's a work in progress.
I can feel my fixation for being judged a dummy and a fool has begun to ebb. I have started to enjoy presenting my work, responding to feedback and working on improving my art-based personal interactions. I have come to the realization that life is a story we tell ourselves and my time has come to finally rewrite the fable I have been telling myself. Now, I believe it's important to put myself out there and own my dream of being an artist. I think it's a rather lovely thing to be able to share a part of who you are with the world. Afterall, what is braver than allowing yourself to believe in yourself? Perhaps this insight is a sign of personal growth, or maybe it is another case of practice for improvement; it could even be proof that you live your entire life inside your head. Either way, every day I become better at pronouncing the word "artist".