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How to Tell People You’re an Artist

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It’s difficult for me to tell people I am an artist. In fact, I sometimes don’t even like to say that to myself. It’s not my full-time job, I’ve never gone to art school and I honestly can’t imagine giving up my career as a journalist to be a full-time artist.

Since starting my Instagram account and becoming active with Get Messy, my friends have become curious about what I do. But instead of saying, I’m an artist, I tell people I do art on the side, or that it is a hobby.

But that’s a lie.

I am an artist. In fact, many artists have other careers. Katy Waldman wrote about artists who have days jobs in the New York Times Style magazine, including Edi Rama, the prime minister of Albania.

Waldman argues that for many artists, having a day job is what helps artists cultivate their craft.

“For those who want to mine daily life for their art, a second job becomes an umbilical cord fastened to something vast and breathing,” she writes. “The alternate gig that lifts you out of your process also supplies fodder for when that process resumes.”

So I am not the only artist with a full-time job. Nor am I the only who has difficulties talking to people about my art. I recently asked members of the Get Messy community how they tell people what they do and found that nearly everyone struggles with the confidence to say “I’m an artist.”

Misty Granade told me she had to practice talking in the mirror “and not flinch or try to explain it away as a hobby.”

“It took a while to get there,” she said.

Riet Poch said that while she is now comfortable telling people she’s an artist, it’s difficult to explain what she does. So she tries to show them instead.

“I usually show one or two spreads because really, I think art journaling is something better understood by seeing than by words,” she said.

I asked my mother, Maureen Costa, who is an artist and art teacher, how to talk to people about my art. She told me the best way to get over my fear is to practice.

So here I am in the video below, talking about my art and giving you some of the tips she gave me:

Whether you’re just getting started in art journaling, or you’ve been to art school and sell your painting world wide, you’re an artist. And if you have difficulties telling people what you do, just remember that you’re not alone. Look in the mirror, smile, and tell yourself, “I’m an artist.”

Take action:

Write down a sentence to describe your art. Practice saying it out loud.
Talk to close friends and family about your art. Once you’re comfortable, introduce yourself as an artist to someone you’ve just met.

Moriah Costa

Moriah is an American transplant living in Madrid, Spain. Her favourite part of art journaling is being able to experiment with different techniques and styles and not having to care about making mistakes or if it doesn’t look good.