It might be ok to be weird, but is it ok to be unique as an artist?
I have officially been an artist since 2009. I am absolutely not one of those who could ever say I have been making art since childhood.
No, not in any realistic way. Sure I made the requisite finger paintings and weird clay dishes that my mother used to hold her rings when washing up. But I was definitely not an artist.
I didn’t have paint around as a child. I didn’t have anyone around me who made art that I could participate in.
I do have a very talented Uncle who was a student at Ringling College of Art and Design. But he painted in oil paints and was rather mysterious about it all.
So when in my thirties I looked around for something to interest me that wasn’t related to programming, web design or reading, everyone was surprised to see me take up altered book art.
And everything I now create, every face or flower I draw was [and is] something I struggled to learn, largely on my own.
I practiced and practiced.
And everything that I did that wasn’t “normal” or “like” others was condemned by those who I considered to be my peers.
When I painted faces with unusual colors I would hear feedback that people didn’t want to learn that, they wanted to learn to paint with “normal” skin tones.
When I made stringy hair, or hair with lots of lines I was told that was NOT how you draw hair.
It took me such a long time to over come all of that negative feedback and to simply walk away from anyone who would treat my creative output as something they could critique or demean. To “grow a thick skin” so to speak.
Then I started to share more of who I am, what I think and what matters to me. I did that via video in a series I called “Conversations with Christy”. And again, I was told to shut up, to “just make art” or that discussions of politics or atheism had no place in the art world. So I took that conversation and put it behind a wall where people had to look to find it. Sadly.
Eventually I realized it was all a form of the same thing. And lately I have simply come to the realization that it is ok to be different or weird or geeky. But it is impossible to be unique.
If you try to be unique, and you achieve it with any relative success, someone will happily come along and copy that and tell you that there is nothing unique or new. It doesn’t matter if it is your teaching style, your art, your voice. Some will get busy trying to turn you off and others will try to take it for themselves.
You just have to shut them out. Stop listening.
My tagline is “weird, but beautiful”. I use it because I love it and because it was said to me by someone who was watching one of my videos online and she said “Christy, what I love about your art is that although it is weird, there is still something beautiful about it.”
So when someone tries to tell you that is is ok to be weird remember that it doesn’t mean they will be ok with you being unique. And they don’t matter!