As part of launch week of my new I Am An Artist Print + Project, I am introducing you to some of my favorite artists and how their print reflects their journeys and who they are. Melissa and I were connected through the magic and mystery of Instagram (we aren't exactly sure how she came across a post of mine) but it seemed like it was meant to be! We ended up doing the 100 Day Project together and I resonated with so many of the things Melissa was so honestly sharing. Whether or not you identify as an artist, there's parts of her story that I feel anyone/everyone can relate to. Please see her work and words below!
I am an artist.
I have a beautiful story written up for this already. Full of memories of art through my life.
Getting this big box as a kid and creating my own little world within it, completely taken over and in the moment, fully myself in a way that when I got older and lost that feeling, I kept searching until I found it again..never thinking to look in the same place I lost it.
Coloring at my grandparents on Sundays, and how my mom would sometimes sit down with me and color too..how special that felt to me.
And of my grandpa, who is the real artist..how he would try to teach me to draw faces, how he could look at, study, and talk about one painting for what felt like forever..how I remember spending hours with him in the hospital when my grandma was sick out in the hallways, talking about paintings. I didn’t understand at the time how he could be out in the hall looking at crappy hospital paintings instead of in the room with grandma until I found art again years later.
I didn’t understand at the time that it’s about more than paint on a canvas..it’s about feelings, it’s a way to express what you can’t put into words, it’s a space where your mind goes away and the things that come out are coming from the depths of you. And in talking about those paintings with me, he was showing me who he was, what he was feeling..he was trying to express what he couldn’t say in any other way, maybe even not to himself.
I didn’t understand his language then, but I do now.
And I could have just gone with what I wrote before. It’s beautiful and true. But when I was working on the painting this afternoon, I added a bit too much water when I was blending out the colors on the top. And on cotton paper, using a harsh old brush like I do, that causes the paper to start to lift up a bit. Little pieces of cotton paper blending with the paint, creating a bit of an odd texture on the painting..washed out a bit, torn up a bit. Right where the AM is.
And I know that it’s not a coincidence that my brush was scrubbing out the letter in the AM in trying to clean up this spot. Because in art, what you put down on the paper, how you feel about it, all of it is a reflection of yourself. There are no mistakes, everything is perfect. Even if you don’t like it.
Art is something that’s created from what you feel, a true expression of yourself, often surprising you when you see it on the page since it goes deep - it’s not what’s on the surface, it’s an expression of what you try to cover up. Emotions are energy in motion, you are energy in motion - all art is is a movement that comes from that energy that you are, put down on paper with paint or a pencil or whatever your medium is. And through putting it down on paper, it comes to the surface and you see it, you feel it, you can’t hide from it anymore. And if you share it with others, they look at it and it makes them feel something - maybe they feel the feeling that was coming from within you or maybe they feel a different feeling that it makes them feel deep inside. But they feel something.
That’s why it’s so vulnerable. It’s vulnerable to create it, it’s vulnerable to share it, and it’s vulnerable to say you’re an artist - to own it as part of you.
It’s my belief that everyone is an artist. Not everyone is drawn to art, but everyone is capable of being an artist. It’s just that most who are drawn to it feel like I did for so many years - they don’t like what they create, they judge it, they give up and say they can’t, they get frustrated because what they create doesn’t look like what others create, they feel not good enough, they think it’s ugly and throw it in the trash, they think they need someone to teach them or the most expensive brushes or a studio or something else external for it to be enough.
I am an artist now because I allow myself to create without judgement of what it looks like, because I know that it’s just as much about the process as it is about the end result, because I can’t imagine my life without this way to express myself and see myself, because I both lose and find myself within it. I am an artist regardless of what it looks like, regardless of if I show it to anyone, regardless of if anyone else likes it.
I don’t have a studio - I paint in a corner of my kitchen where I also make my coffee.
I don’t have fancy brushes - my favorites are $1 brushes that I don’t always clean off and my palette is currently a 3 month old Happy Birthday paper plate.
I don’t have a style - if you check out my instagram, it’s all over the place.
But I put it all out there. In the stories I share every layer of every painting I’m working on. Some I absolutely hate and there’s a part of me that asks why I’m putting that out there for people to see. But I do it for a reason. I do it because for so long I didn’t create, then when I started I hid it because I didn’t think it was worth anything, and now I just want to show it all without a filter. For myself - and for others to see, to maybe make them feel better about what they hold inside that they want to hide.
So when I tried to scratch out the AM in the “I am an artist” in this painting, I paused and I looked at where it was coming from. I spent time with the insecurities that were coming up. And after I did, I chose to go back in with some black paint and make the AM stronger.
I AM an artist.
“I do it because for so long I didn’t create, then when I started I hid it because I didn’t think it was worth anything, and now I just want to show it all without a filter. For myself - and for others to see, to maybe make them feel better about what they hold inside that they want to hide.” I found these words to be especially powerful--the growth from feeling her work wasn't valuable to sharing it all and to use it help others feel better about a part of them they want to hide (I think we all have parts we want to hide). It's not easy to share your art--especially when there's things about it that you don't like--and I find Melissa's approach to be brave and inspiring.
Thank you Melissa for being a part of this, putting your special touch on this piece, and sharing your story--and your grandpa with us! :)