A Letter To My Younger Selves - You are an artist.

February 15, 2020 4 min read


Dearest six year old me - You are an artist.
“Yes,” you say, “I know!”. You’re so certain with every cell of your excited little body that it’s your destiny to create. You can see it with perfect clarity, and you feel it pulsing through your blood and out of your hands. Art is in you and nothing in the world can stop it from coming out. From messy little sketches on scraps of paper while you should be listening in class, to the piles of sketchbooks your mum bought you when she could see the spark in your eye. Your light is strongest now, your conviction in the truth of it is unwavering. Right now, the path to your dream is inevitable.

Dearest nine year old me - You are an artist.
You love to create, but you might be losing grip of your convictions. The sly ghost of comparison has snuck into your head as you stare across the desk at the paintings of the girl across the desk. You’re worrying about how you need reference to draw well - why does it come so easily to others? Your paintings never feel quite as good as the best in the class… and when they do, you’re the only one that thinks that. Your teacher's compliments are drowned out by the worries in your head. Don’t worry little one, these things are inconsequential. You ARE an artist.

Dearest fourteen year old me - You are an artist.
You’ve recently been told about a sensible career called graphic design. Apparently it’s like being an artist, but with security. A REAL job, not like being an artist. It does feel a bit like selling out, but surely the grown ups around you really know what’s best. They tell you that art is not a job, it’s a hobby. Please remember - graphic design is not art. Make sure the glimmer of hope stays alive in your chest while you pursue your new ‘sensible’ career. Because you are an artist.

Dearest seventeen year old me - You are an artist.
No, you didn’t win the art prize in your final year at school, and it hurt. I know that makes you believe you’re no good. You almost dropped art as a subject because you had a fight with a nasty art teacher. ‘I could always be a psychologist’ you thought. You’re being told constantly that your drawing skills aren’t up to scratch.. that your glasses need a new prescription because your lines are not crisp. These unkind words are not true. They’re a reflection on the person saying them, not on your art. Please don’t store them in your heart, they will come back to haunt you later.

Dearest twenty year old me - You are an artist.
Yes, I know, you dropped out of art school after your second year. You failed art history. You failed the year. You never quite felt as ‘arty’ as the other students. You have no political agenda to your art, and your lecturers make you feel like that means your art means nothing. You’re looking for reasons to hate the system, but to be honest… you’re young and having the time of your life, so you’re not committed to your art practise. You’ve moved to study graphic design, and it makes sense. Enjoy yourself! This is some of the best fun you will ever have. Don’t worry, even now, you are an artist.

Dearest thirty year old me - You are an artist.
‘What?” you say, “That old dream? I haven’t thought of that for years”. You’re working as a graphic designer, and the thing is, you never feel quite good enough. You do work that you’re proud of, and others don’t share in your excitement. You do other work that just bores you to tears. Is this the life you imagined? Your first few design jobs were so much more adrenaline filled and exciting. Now you feel like you’re selling things to people who don’t want them. You feel icky. Do you know why? It’s because you’re not a graphic designer (although your design is teaching you some incredible skills that will help your art later on!). You are an artist.

Dearest thirty six year old me - You are an artist.
Can you hear that little voice inside your head telling you to pick up a brush? That’s me! Our little daughter is asleep, the sun is shining, I’ve put you in the most beautiful home in the hills and filled your soul with so much inspiration that you feel like you might just burst. Paint! You are an artist! It doesn’t matter what it looks like, just paint, paint every day until you find your voice. You’ve just had a glimpse of the life that lies ahead - you tell people and as you say the words they seem self indulgent and unlikely. Just wait, it’s coming, because you are an artist.

Dearest forty year old me - You are an artist.
Do you believe me now? The voices of the past are still ringing in your ears. They’re telling you that it’s not a ‘real’ job, that you’re not good enough, that your art is not as good as the little girl across the desk (or on the other side of the screen). It’s not true. Your art is literally the contents of your soul, and you’re sharing it with the world. Don’t ever stop, and don’t ever worry that the contents of your own soul are not as good as other artists’. You will do some good paintings, and some not so good. Some of your art will be so sublime that they scare you. Sometimes, you’ll launch a whole series and be devastated when it fails. 

Don’t store it in your heart - breathe it out, dance it out, breathe in the extraordinary life you’ve created and hold it in your heart with gratitude. 

Then exhale your next painting, the next piece of your soul.

Because you are anartist.

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