While I was re-organizing my workspace today I found an old artist statement from a previous mentor of mine, James Michael Starr. I read it again and was reminded of why I’ve kept it all these years. I hope it speaks to you as much as it does to me.
What Makes Someone An Artist?
I could draw from a very early age. I remember, when I was about four, drawing a shield on the side of a cardboard box so that I could climb into a fantasy police cruiser and be Broderick Crawford on the 50’s television drama, Highway Patrol.
I also remember many of my first drawings were of revolvers. Apparently I watched a little too much tv.
As I grew up, everyone knew what I’d be. It was obvious. I could draw very well.
But, did that make me an artist?
When I was in high school, I entered the Draw Me contest to win a scholarship for an artist’s correspondence course. I didn’t win, but I took the course anyhow and paid for it with a paper route, throwing the Dallas Morning News. Evenings I sat in my room and did lessons in transparent wash, pen & ink, and charcoal pencil.
Was I an artist yet?
I was an art major in college, worked in an art store, and then started my career as an art director. At home I tried to paint, but couldn’t. I had nothing to say.
Twenty years passed. When I was 42, I looked back. On the eleven-year, childhood separation from my mother that even now cannot seem to be recovered. On my best friend who doused his car with gasoline and set himself on fire while I was away at college. On the failure of my sixteen-year marriage and the passing of youth’s warm sun. And on the rediscovery of a loving God who’d been there all along.
Now I had something to say. Now I was an artist.
Dallas critic, Jim Fowler, wrote, “Painters attempt to capture the world around them and color the image with a little bit of their insides; artists attempt to capture the world inside them using the images they see in the external world.”
What’s inside of you? What do you have to say?
- James Michael Starr