I hesitate to call myself an artist. It has always felt like giving myself a nickname. I wanted other people to determine when I qualified for the title… like it was something you had to earn. If you look around this site, or my other social medias, art is everywhere. It’s all I do. I draw, make graphics, build things out of wood, make videos, design games… it’s all art. Every bit of what I am is art. It always has been. But I’ve never felt like an artist because I don’t often make art that inspires or brings joy to others.
I recently went on a cruise with my favorite band, Flogging Molly. The community around this cruise is genuinely amazing and one of the things the crewmates like to do is have a swag swap. Everyone brings 1-1000 of something on board and then swap and trade your trinkets with others. We didn’t know about it the first time we went, but ended up walking through the event and got handed stickers and bracelets and all sorts of awesome items designed and made by our new friends. The moment we got home I started thinking about what I would do for the next cruise.
I chose art.
Many people built shadow box collages of their swag and I thought it would be awesome to do a piece that stood out and provided context for the other pieces in those displays. This was my ego flexing. I thought I could create something worth displaying and I wanted whatever that was to be in these pictures this year. I went into this with the supposition that I was an artist who could create art. I can’t really deny that… so why do I still not feel like an artist? Who knows.
I decided I was going to do a block print of a pirate ship. I thought on that design, drew a few ideas, worked on it for a few months, and had the final graphic nailed down about 8 months ago. I, of course, waiting until the week before the cruise to do the carving and printing… but we made it.
I had hoped to pull 100 prints, but only got 95 before things were too out of control to continue. The block was saturated with ink and was leaving lots of ghosting and I just didn’t have time to clean it and wait for it to dry. This is one disadvantage to using a wood block, but I wanted this to be a “traditional” woodcut. It felt right for the theme of things.
Anyways. I wasn’t happy with it. I never am. I’ve drawn/built/printed/written/sculpted/carved my entire life and I’ve never once been proud of anything I’ve made. I’m proud of aspects of it, sure, but not the thing as a whole. This time was no different. I had lots of slips with my chisels, didn’t get the text as crisp as I wanted, got ink in places it shouldn’t have been… the list goes on.
Nobody cared. Everyone I handed a print to on the boat, all 95 of them, were super impressed and appreciative. They thought it was art. They thought I was an artist. And maybe, for the first time in my life I felt like I deserved it. Like all the trials and tribulations led up to a point where I had made something that someone was going to hang on their wall. I made something that people appreciated and looked at lovingly. I made something that represented a group and they cherished it.
Am I an artist? Maybe so. What will my next art piece be? I have no idea. Maybe it won’t be art, it’ll be furniture. Maybe it’ll be a card game. Maybe it will be a dinner that my family loves. Whatever it will be, maybe I’ll allow myself to be an artist for a brief moment and accept that I have some sort of talent.