You Can Be An Artist When I’m Dead

Ummm, no thanks.

Direct quote, from my husband to me, this past Saturday as we sat out on the patio at our local brewhouse enjoying a childless, cloudless evening and beer together. We had been discussing the current trajectory of our life, work stuff, and house stuff like we often do and I had finally managed to scrape up the courage to say to him, out loud, that I want to be an artist. That I can be an artist.

Yes, his response was a bit abrupt. I immediately thought to myself, “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” but like many things he says (and if you know him in real life you can concur) it wasn’t said with any malice or an air of “I forbid you.” He’s just too fucking practical for his own good. And I get that. Ohhhhhh, do I get it. I need that practicality from him, and I accept it as much as I can because I know it’s good for me. I tend to take my daydreams a bit too seriously sometimes and can also be pretty wishy-washy in general, so I need his reasoned, well-thought-out take on things because otherwise I’d probably still be living at my parents’. The guy has lived through some terrible shit (his country getting bombed, early death of his father) so I understand where this aspect of his personality comes from. Boiled down, it’s simple self-preservation and there’s no practicality in making art when you’re trying to beat The Man.

Beyond that, though, it’s just ignorance. I think he thinks I want to try to be the next Picasso or Kahlo. Well, yeah, man, then we’re talking serious impracticality! But that’s not my intent or desire. There are so many ways I could use my creativity to be a working artist that he isn’t familiar with at all. Yes, I love to paint so I could just be a painter and try to sell my original work, but I could also paint patterns that get used on textiles or stationery products and those are the types of things he has no clue even exist. Hell, I didn’t even realize the potential in that until a few years ago! He doesn’t know about the full array of potential ways to make a living being a freelance artist – textiles, stationery, gift wrap, prints, home decor, even iPhone cases, to name a few – so of course he thinks it’s silly and impractical. What I said is, “I want to be an artist,” but what he heard was, “I’m going to quit my job right NOW, throw some paint on a canvas, post it on Craigslist and wait for the dollars and fame to start roooollin’ in, baby.” I believe most of his response was rooted in ignorance and unlike his deep-seeded practicality which I stand no chance of changing, his ignorance of the subject can be undone with education. Yay! I don’t have to kill him!

My whole life I’ve been what you’d call artistic slash creative. I’ve always liked to draw and paint, make pictures, doodle, decorate, buy art/craft/office supplies, the whole thing. He knows that, too, but I think it’s mostly because that’s what me and everyone else have always told him about me. Yes, he very literally watched me paint every wall, floorboard, baseboard, and window casing in our house after we bought it (and half of our furniture) and yes, he let me have a dedicated art room in that new house, but very rarely has he seen me dust off my easel and begin a painting on canvas for the sheer joy of it. And that’s my fault. I haven’t shown him Sarah The Artist over the past 14 years because I stopped making art a priority shortly after we got married. (Sidebar – WHY do we do this to ourselves when we grow up/get married/have kids?! If there is one thing I could impress upon a child…) If he had routinely seen me painting and creating over the past decade and a half, I believe he might not have said what he said. This, too, is a problem that can be fixed.

Sometime around the beginning of 2017 I started trying to make art a priority again and those efforts became magnified when I committed to The 100 Day Project in April and began sharing my work everyday on Instagram. My only real goal right now is to make some shit every single day, even if it sucks, even if I only have 15 minutes. Because I know that everything I work on now can inform a future idea or project. Because I know that practice makes perfect. Because I know that I have a lot of lost time to make up for – that I want to make up for. Because I know that it’s never too late to follow the thing in your heart that’s been there all along: I have always wanted to be an artist. Now my husband sees me, Sarah The Artist, everyday, hunkered over my desk or at my easel, making art. He will continue to see me making art and at some point the light bulb will ding over his head: “Holy shit. I guess she was serious.”

This new daily habit is going well so far and I feel like it’s sustainable, but I’ve got other plans, too. Like taking classes (probably online ‘cuz I’m an introvert homebody, dig?), researching all the different ways I could sell my work, experimenting with new mediums and surfaces, reading more about art history and where its future lies, continuing to make artful connections online, finally introducing myself at the little art studio in town, and, this may sound stupid, but just generally putting it out into the universe at every opportunity that this is what I want to do and yes, I will do it (and no, I will not wait until you’re dead, my dear.) I read a book a few years ago (the name escapes me, my apologies!) that was about this concept – putting your wishes and desires out there into the universe so that the universe can provide opportunities to fulfill them – and I’ve always kept that idea in the back of my mind. But maybe, just maaaaybe, my own husband ought to be in the loop, too, right? Like maybe he should be the first to know or is the most important person to know about my dreams? I never wanted to say it out loud though because I knew what his response would be. Now that his initial response has been confirmed, I don’t have to give any more fucks about it, right? I’ve put my wishes into his orbit whether he likes it or not, I’ve reestablished an old favorite habit, and am laying down plans for growth and ultimately, success. It’s not going to be easy and I guarantee I’ll second-guess myself a bazillion times along the way, but this is what I was called to do; it has always been there. I don’t even know exactly where the path leads; chances are good I’ll end up somewhere I didn’t know was part of the map, but I’m totes cool with that. Because unlike Mr. Practical, I love me a good plot change (I mean, that don’t include bombs and death. I’m not psycho.)

Whether I ever wind up a working artist or not, I am an artist today, right this minute. I make art. Nobody has to buy it or even like it; I don’t even have to show it to anyone! If you make art, you’re an artist, too, no matter what the people around us think. And it’s funny what others think!  So many people have this idea that wanting to being an artist is somehow ridiculous, impractical, childish… You guys, I clean houses for a living. If I had two opportunities to die and on one day I died as a house cleaner and on the other as an artist, which do you think would be more celebrated when I’m gone? The one where I made a living selling art or the one where I scrubbed toilets and come home with dust on my fucking head and a broken back? It really doesn’t matter to me – I don’t plan on dying anytime soon, and I actually quite like my job – but it’s an interesting contradiction, no?

So I’ll go forth, make my art, and try to make it my day job. I’ve got one life and so does he and I’ll be damned if I’m going to do this thing without him.


2 thoughts on “You Can Be An Artist When I’m Dead

  1. Pingback: Paint, Stop, Repeat: A Lesson in Perseverance |

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