When I was young I called myself an art student, not an artist. 'Student' implied I was a beginner, a trainee, a wannabe. Nobody expected my art to be any good. Least of all me.
There was a lot of potential in my art. But, like so many creative young people, I turned away from it. Based on the advice I was given and the society I lived in, I assumed that good grades in a traditional academic subject would lead to a good job and a happy and successful life.
Statistically, that's probably true. But it depends on your definition of happiness and success.
"Couldn't you carry on doing art as a hobby?" asked one of my teachers during an A-Level options meeting.
No other comment had a more damaging effect on my attitude to art. Except perhaps a tutor's dismissal of my sketches as "pretty pictures". Apparently that was a bad thing.
So I studied a traditional academic subject, English, and then worked in the offices of large organisations.
I never felt at home. I felt like I was playing a role; living somebody else's life. Inside I felt frustrated and lost. So at lunchtime I would sneak out and sketch. I'd draw people, buildings, anything.
I had to. If I didn't do something creative, I felt like I was going to burst.
Eventually I did.
It happened when I was a newly qualified primary school teacher. I had assumed that my creativity would be beneficial to the role. But it was stifled by more bureaucracy and box-ticking and stress than ever before.
"Why am I struggling so much to do a job that comes naturally to other people?" I thought. "I should be doing something that comes naturally to me."
So I quit.
I'm not proud of it. I do not like giving up. Ever. But enough was enough. It was time to do what I'm good at, what comes naturally, and what I enjoy doing. I allowed myself to be an artist.
How do I know that I am an artist? Because I always was an artist, I am an artist, and I always will be an artist.
Are you an artist?
You know that you are an artist if you always were an artist, you are an artist, and you always will be an artist.
It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's nothing to boast about either. It's just a fact.
Some people are naturally good at mathematical calculations. Good for them. Some people are naturally good at talking to other people. Great. Some people are naturally good at hitting a fuzzy yellow ball over a net with a racket. If that's what they're into, fair enough. Me? I'm naturally good at drawing.