Did I peak as an artist in high school? Stories from an art school dropout Ep 3.
I am terrified by just the prospect of hearing "this isn't high school color class anymore" from another artist! So much of making art is about endurance and nourishment as we keep forging a path towards our center. I keep discovering how much the path of being an artist is a spiral, not a clean linear trajectory. The same lessons present themselves in different forms and hopefully each time we'll have learned a little more to be able to respond with gentleness and continued dedication. In that sense being an artist is much like being a human, and that's the best gift art gives us IMO—getting us in touch with our humanity. I think it's fantastic that you are clear that money is a distraction to your art—that alone is something our ego can get really hung up about!
So fascinating and illuminating!! My kid is a remarkable self-taught artist. Ever since middle school, people have said, “so, art school?” Or “you should sell your art.” They resisted it, wanting to keep their art firmly planted in the “joy” category. This is not to say art-making for money can’t be joyous, but not for them, not right now. I’m proud of them for knowing themselves like that. They’re going thru some challenges right now, and I’m so grateful they have their art as a refuge.
Thank you for sharing your artwork and your musings on your practice, Jenna. I have no drawing skills whatsoever, but from a writing point of view, I can see that whilst I've tried many forms of writing over the years, now that I have gained more education and practice, I see that my strengths have always remained very similar. Whilst I woud love to be a talented novellist, for example, I'm beginning to accept that there is still beauty and art in crafting a good sentence, or researching someone else's story and bringing it to light. I think as I get older, accepting my creative strengths for what they are and the fact that I may never be rich from them is the way go!
Did you see the Ruth Asawa show at the Whitney? I love that it’s all about her drawing practice. My favorite are her drawings of flowers. You are so incredibly talented! I think you might really like that show.
You are so talented--keep going!
Thank you so much for writing this. In so many ways it feels like I could have written it myself. It’s so hard to keep going when you’re so hung up on the “what.” Being able to draw very well, but not as well as you’d like. Being afraid to draw for fear of disappointing myself again, or for having to choose a subject. Anyway, I feel less alone after reading this. Thank you for that. :) Can’t wait to see what else you make!
I resonate so much with what you wrote -- I went to art school and graduated with a degree in design. But those four years sucked everything I loved about art out of me (I could probably write a few posts about it lol, art school kids are a different breed). I didn't pick up a pencil again for almost 10 years. And every time I did, I felt frustrated because my art was stuck at where my last attempt was. I may have grown mentally since but my skills did not. Now I try to frame it as play -- with little to no expectations on myself. It makes hitting flow state easier, and that's usually when I'll like my work the best too, when I'm not trying to 'try'. Can't wait to read more of your journey!
Oh I love your art! ❤️
Jenna, what a beautiful piece of reflection.
I loved when you said "I think about my most prolific period in high school when art was purely about joy, but also determination when I had something to prove to myself."
I hope you continue to create art the way that bring your pure joy and determination. Your drawings are beautiful by the way.
Thanks, I needed to read this today :)
I am the black sheep in my family when it comes to art/music. Both my brother, sister and mother were just talented artists or art hobbyists from the get-go. I just enjoyed watching my younger sister sketch at such a young age (sailor moon was a big one, and any sort of animals). She thought she would be having a career in creating art. My realist mother told me in private that some rules never changed, and that “the art world is for the 1%.”However, she did see regular every day people make commercial success. She said “if you want to be a creative, you need two things. 1. Be able to adapt to what ‘creative’ means as a career. 2. Be able to stomach being poor a long time.”
My mother would just chuckle at me for my lack of ability, but she liked how much I enjoyed art. She said in some ways, I won in the big picture scheme. I may not have the ability or talent, but just to enjoy it for what it is.
Your art is still amazing. I definitely think you have your mindset in the right direction.
I did not know that you were also a music major! I think that the question about what is an artist is something that will always tug at an artist heartstrings, it’s the very nature of who we are.
Just keep doing what you're doing. I'm a firm believer that your voice/expression/style will appear naturally. Though I admit I went through my own searching journey, and I guess that's all part of the process. It's nice to make some money from my paintings, and I'm always still surprised and tickled when someone finds my work nice enough to purchase. But like you, it's not about making a living off of it, and I suppose that's why I teach. I fell into teaching by accident and stayed because I love it so much, so I feel fortunate that I get to work in a subject that I love and connect so deeply with, AND still have a chance to make my own stuff. That being said, sometimes I wonder why I paint pictures anyway. I mean, it's not like I'm selling gobs and they're jumping off the walls faster than I can paint. I still haven't quite figured out why I paint but I do know that I have to... it can't be quelled. Those times that I tried to ignore it were ultimately not happy times. Perhaps it's just part of our DNA.
To be or not to be is not a question of whether to choose one of the muses to guide you in life. Art is form that from day one you see life, color, line, speech, movement in a way that no one else sees like you do. The crayon or finger paint tells the rest of the story. Movement across a page one letter and then a word at a time. Or a dancer or actor on stage waiting for their cue. I see art even in a knot that tells time or a cave painting deep in Mother Earth bosom.
Wish I could share something substantial, but keep your heart firm and set - the rest will follow, yeah?
This is so beautiful, thank you for writing