I’m an artist.

What?

I am an artist.

Part of me can’t believe I’m admitting that as such a bold statement at this juncture in my life. Especially in a form so seemingly public as the world wide interweb… but alas. I said it.

My earliest childhood memories go back to blissful afternoons spent with a tackle box full of art supplies given to me by my parents one year at Christmas that they continually replenished, sitting at the antique desk in my bedroom, coloring with colored pencils in sketchbooks. To this day, there’s even a giant puddle of dried glue in the carpet under the desk where I came up with some grand idea to create window stickers with Elmer’s glue, transparency paper and transparency markers. (Why I was sitting under my desk doing this, I’m not certain…)

And I can’t even begin to count the hours as I spent as a child in the basement of the house I grew up in sorting through my late grandmother’s doll making supplies and hot gluing buttons to magazine pictures to give them depth and texture.

I excelled on any school project that required a “visual element” and even was bribed to do some school projects for my big sister. (Shhhh, don’t tell!)

I loved creating, I loved learning, and I wanted to know everything about every art form out there. Instead of spending Saturday mornings watching cartoons, you could often find me lying belly to the floor, watching Bob Ross re-runs, episodes of The Carol Duvall Show, or programs about any number of the watercolor artists you’d find on public access television.

The people in my life knew, loved, and supported my bent for all things creative. I’d venture to say that many of them would have even predicted that I would settle into some artistic field as an adult, so it wasn’t a surprise to my parents when I told them I wanted to pursue my passion and go to college to study art.

In 2004 I began my college career at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. Initially I set out to get a degree in Art Education, but quickly changed my major after I took my very first oil painting class and absolutely fell in love.

At EKU, to say I was fortunate in the bounty of incredible art professors guiding and teaching me is an understatement. They taught me, encouraged me, supported me, and pushed me to think outside the box — to recontextualize whatever artistic medium I was working with.

My senior year in college, however, was quite a different experience.

The painting professor I had been working closely with up until that point went on a year long sabbatical and was replaced by another, newer painting professor who, at this point, I had never been in class with and did not have a learning relationship with at all. I quickly learned that he and I did not see eye-to-eye on… well… anything, and he took it upon himself to humiliate me in front of my peers and my professors. The exact details of the encounters and conversations I had with him aren’t important, but what is unfortunate is that a person in a position to teach, encourage, and mentor, used that position to push a personal agenda and tear me down.

I was crushed.

I was a young, twenty-one year old girl with the world at my fingertips running headlong into the end of my undergraduate career, and what should have ended with a bang ended with more of a splat.

I stopped going to class and I stopped caring.

I did just enough work to earn the passing grades I needed in my classes so I could graduate, but that was it.

I stopped creating.

It has taken me seven years to finally be able to look back at my college experience and not label myself a failure as an artist — a nobody.

The lies I’ve believed that my art didn’t matter, was irrelevant, and my voice didn’t deserve to be heard have slowly begun to fade away.

It has taken a lot of hard work and perseverance. Several dry spells. Lots of tears, countless sketchbooks, failed paintings, dried out markers and dull colored pencils, and also a heaping helping of courage to reclaim my title as “artist”.

Unfortunately, my experience isn’t unique. Over the years, I’ve talked with lots of creative people struggling with the ability to call themselves an artist for one reason or another — to understand that their voice is important, unique, and longs to be heard!

We all have our struggles and I’ve found that what helps me the most when I’m struggling is to hear that someone else has been there, too, and either they’ve already come out on the other side for the better or are willing to journey with me as they fight the same or a similar battle.

I’m really excited to share with you that I’ve been compiling a whole mess of blog posts that I want to share with you. Some are the stories of my artist friends’ struggles, some are their triumphant victories. Some posts are about the work I’ve done over the past 7 years to arrive at the place I am in today, and I’m even throwing in a few about my favorite projects, working methods, and supplies. (Because I have an insane art supply habit and I cannot get enough of the supplies! Anyone else with me on that?) Oh and let’s not forget the posts I have for you about the two cute little artists that join me in my daily work!

I can’t wait!

Love,
Janine

One Response to "I’m an artist."

  1. I’m so excited you blogging Janine!

    Sadly I can relate to your senior year in college. A similar experience is why I changed majors from Fine Arts to Theatre before graduating. What started as a positive experience became an environment of power struggles between faculty and competition between students. The theatre was much more of a team so I was drawn to that department.

    My art went to the backburner. I did some scene painting and directing, but I was the most organized so before I knew it I graduated and was a professional Stage Manager keeping all the other creatives on target. Meanwhile the creative part of me started to shrivel up.

    I shifted to a theatre education pathway thinking I could do more creative theatre work that way, and started doing more photography again.

    Then, last year after working with Mayi, I started to sketch and paint again! It’s scary to return to something that you used to do after so long, but after that jump it feels so great to create again. Something from my mind to the paper or the screen. No camera or actors in between.

    I can’t wait to see what you do here.

    Much Love,
    Sarah

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