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Shelley Bassett

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What is My Art?


June 1, 2018

I've been feeling really lost lately, and I cant stop wondering what is my art? Am I an artist? Does anyone even know what art is?

It might just be because it’s winter, or it might just be the depression talking. But after reading Art and Fear a few weeks ago, I’m still struggling with the question of what is my art? Art can be anything, but I don’t think the way I wash the dishes is very artful. So, in my world, what does art look like?I make things all day, every day. My day job involves creating marketing materials and websites. And I like to think I’m pretty good at it. But in being one of those ‘creative types’, I’m really not happy until I’m making art. Although, even that hasn’t been bringing me joy lately. I’m haunted by imposter syndrome, and feel constantly disheartened by my inabilities and limitations. I feel time poor and idea rich, and lost within myself.

Last week I reviewed a book that was meant to help me find some direction. But instead I gave myself a complex with a simple question. What is my art? What do I have to give; creatively, aesthetically, artistically? I look at all I’ve done, and can’t help but wonder if the answer is… Nothing.

It’s okay. Calm down. I promise I’m not going to spiral down into self-hatred. But I look at my Instagram, and I’m not sure of who I am as an artist. I look at my sketchbooks and I’m even more confused. A glance around my study muddies the water still further. Nothing seems to marry or belong together. Who am I as an artist? What is my art?

Finding Me

Somewhere in life I’ve lost who I am a little bit. I almost found me at uni. I was passionate about what I was doing, and each project pushed me further than the last. There was the combination of technology and design, and my degree felt the closest to me I’d ever been. I’m a traditionalist, and although I studied digital design, my minor was in traditional animation, giving me projects that had tangible qualities. Yes, it was stressful and I was learning to deal with depression at the same time, but I was content in my being.

Working full time in marketing has stripped something personal from me. I no longer have time to just sit and draw. And when I try to carve out time in the evening to do this, I can’t concentrate and am so brain-tired that nothing looks like it should. I can sit and write blogs like this during my lunch break, and copy-paste code for tutorials at night, but to actually create something takes time and energy that I just don’t have.

The obvious solution is just to quit my job. But then we run into bigger life problems of paying rent and buying food. And Chester really likes having a warm house and a full dinner bowl. I gotta keep my job. So what to do?

Chester enjoying the nice warm house

Chester enjoying the nice warm house

Work can’t magically change, so somehow I need to restore balance back into my personal projects. I need to take the time, and rediscover who I am and what my art is. I suspect the root of this disconnect is that the idea of my artistic aesthetics in my mind is very different to the style I actually create. So I’m going to have to take a deep breath, return to my roots, and work out who I am.

But what is my art?

Trying to answer “what is my art?” has been a far harder task than I ever anticipated. A few short weeks ago I was almost confident in what I was trying to achieve here. But in trying those ideas, a huge discrepancy has been brought to the forefront. So this is my task for the next few weeks, to find an answer. To work out what is my art.

I’m starting by looking at two very distinct groups. What have I made (and actually finished), and what have I enjoyed. Somewhere between the two will be what my style and direction is. I hope.

A venn diagram of my projects

A venn diagram of my projects

Listing it out is going to help me see patterns. I’m a list person, and looking for common trends and elements is something I’m good at. This might be a slow process, or it might be done in a week or two. Either way, at the end, hopefully I’ll have a conclusive answer to the question what is my art.

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