Are you an artist?

Works in progress, on location, Provincetown, MA

I came to painting unconventionally, with no memories of childhood painting aptitude and little painting experience outside of my elementary school art classes. I’ve always liked to draw, but my ability to render what I saw was never remarkable. Playing sports and being a good student were more my things. 

There is some photographic evidence that hints of my early interest in painting, but being an artist was never part of my identity. I’m not sure what it would mean to claim that identity at age 50. Nor do I really feel I must do so, at least not any more than I’ve defined myself in other ways. Am I a painter? Someone who likes to paint? Is there really a difference? 

I don’t know. I’m just curious about these sorts of things, most especially how each of us develops and claims aspects of ourselves that have been unknown or previously dormant.

What I do know is that I’m irrationally compelled to make visual images, increasingly so since I started experimenting with watercolor in college. My first watercolor set had been gifted to me in high school, but went unused for a couple of years. Looking back, it feels like the paints waited for me to find them, waited for my readiness to move beyond the comfortable safety of an expected path. It’s been a slow walk!

I wish I could remember what led me to make that first painting, which I still have, though not on display. Maybe that would be informational in some way. I do recall it didn’t matter that I used regular paper, that the paper buckled pretty significantly, or that I had little painting finesse.

Today is the first in 4 sequential days I haven’t spent hours engrossed in painting. The painting workshop I attended earlier this week – my first ever – has ended. The deferred maintenance of my life is crying for my attention, away from painting. But here I am writing about painting.

Does this mean I’m a painter? Maybe it just means I’m curious to understand myself, others, and the world around me.

Predominantly, I feel like my development as a painter is just beginning. And that’s a bit strange to think about at this point in my life. On the other hand, I suspect the timing is just right, that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. Even if I don’t really know where that is.

Not everything can be understood with intellect. This is the reason for painting, and poetry, for making art of all types. And it’s probably the reason I’m driven to pick up a paintbrush, again and again.

Below is a sample of the works I created during the painting workshop, in rough order of their making. Several were painted en plein air (as the tide schedule and my sun sensitivity allowed). Some were made from a photo made during the week. Others are an expression of my imagination. I’m accustomed to painting in a certain way and proud that I challenged myself to move out of my comfort zone, to experiment with different surfaces and possibilities.

I hope you’ll enjoy the images. Moreover, I hope you’ll be inspired to make time in your life for whatever compels you, whether or not anyone else acknowledges that thing. You can create your own path.

With gratitude to Pete Hocking, who helped create a safe space to paint, each in our own way. Primarily self-taught, I haven’t really known how best to intersect with a teacher. As things happen, there were a number of synchronicities that pointed me to Pete’s workshop in Provincetown, MA. If you’re not familiar with his work, check him out here. His work is incredible.

15 thoughts on “Are you an artist?

  1. amanda, thanks for sharing your experience with us. what is a painter? what is a father? or a friend? your post is the fertile loam in which we can ask these questions of ourselves in a space that has been safely created–so thank you.

    as i look at the sample of paintings you are sharing here, i will say that to me they seem to be some of your best work. why? the colors seem more vibrant, the paintings somehow more thoughtful and coherent. for example, the beautiful one on the upper left while not unlike in composition to some of your others, still seems to have more natural appearin lifng gradations of color and activity. it’s a less a passive rendition of a photograph feel than it is a video of it. the activity on the right side of the horizon line also draws interest and reflects a sub-theme.

    like everything in life, we experience ebbing and flowing (with energy). keep up the work and my support of your journey is without question.

    ed

    Liked by 1 person

    • I so appreciate this thoughtful comment and love that you could draw parallels beyond painting, as was my hope in writing about my experience. I’m grateful for your support and love you more with each step on the path together.

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  2. So beautiful, Amanda. I love your statement: “Looking back, it feels like the paints waited for me to find them.” I think that happens to us – the synchronicity of factors that suddenly burst upon us. And 50? Never too late. I didn’t start writing until 50, and it dawned on me then that I’d bloomed and found something I loved and a way to be creative for decades (assuming I’m so lucky). I’m so glad you explored beyond your comfort zone. It was worth it. 🙂 ❤

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  3. Pingback: Chris Lovie-Tyler

      • No worries, Amanda. Your comment about intellect struck a chord with me. I’m quite a “head” person, so I love painting for that reason: it gets me out of my head and connects with me on what feels like a deeper level.

        I can relate to your journey too. For most of my life I’ve thought of myself as a words guy, until about two years ago when I started being drawn to paintings, and then a few months ago when I started drawing and painting. At 46, it’s been quite a surprising shift. I don’t know that I’d call myself a painter just yet, let alone an artist, but some part of me is drawn in that direction, so we’ll see. I’ve certainly got a lot of learning/catching up to do!

        P.S. Looking at one or two of your paintings above, I think you might like William Kocher’s work (https://williamkocher.com/category/paintings/).

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll check out William Kocher. Thanks for the suggestion!

        I’m glad my post resonated. Being in my head always felt safer and it was a real struggle for me to integrate other ways of knowing. Painting has been a real beyond the known experience for me and primarily a way of expressing something not even I understand, at times. And it’s interesting for me to see how the reason for painting is shifting for me – I’m increasingly interested in connecting with others through painting, whereas historically it’s been a highly private activity.

        I love that you’re allowing yourself to go deeper with painting, that you are following your instincts beyond intellect!

        Liked by 1 person

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