I met with Bonnie, my teacher from the Artistica boot camp, for a one-on-one a few days ago. We talked over many things, and it was a great example of how uncomfortable I am standing (in person) by my art. The internet is a whole other business. Blogs are safe because you don’t have to watch the thoughtful “Hmmmms” from across the table and wonder if they are positive, negative, or truly neutral.
One big thing from the meeting (and it was overall incredibly thought provoking and therefore positive) was that I am no longer a beginner. That was one of the most definitive things she said. “You may need to retire that line.”
At first, I felt a wave of joy. Yes! All the hard work has finally paid off, I’m no longer a beginner.
But then the fear of that reality struck. Beginning is this wonderfully safe place. Everyone is friendly in the beginner’s circle. People want to help you in the beginners circle. They know that beginners need patience and praise. And beginners get to let things slide. Oh that didn’t work? “It’s OK, you’re a beginner. You’re still learning.”
But an intermediate artist? I don’t know what that means. Beginners are defined by their beginning-ness. What is the definition of being an intermediate artist? You’re no longer new to everything, but you’re also not yet fantastic at anything. You can’t hide behind a label. No one says, “Oh man, please be patient with me, I’m an intermediate.”I hadn’t realized how much I enjoyed the beginner label until I peeled it off. Because here I am declaring it. I am an intermediate painter. And now, step two, is figure out what the hell that means. Image note: Art from my new intermediate-ness.
So much of visual art happens in a vacuum. It’s just you and your studio and your own private battles putting pencil to paper. Super social art form it is not. Honestly it's one of the things I love about visual arts. You get to do your creativity in private. (Unlike filmmaking which is so wholly a social art form...and that is terrifying.) Isolation can feel like a normal state.
And while that may be true, at some point a few months ago I looked around and realized that I didn’t want it to be the normal state for me anymore. That the act of creating art was also generating a whole host of questions that couldn’t be met by me and my brain in isolation. And one thing led to another and in that past two weeks I’ve met more Portland visual artists than I have in my previous three years of living in Portland.
And it’s been amazing.