I recently put myself and my art out there and called myself a self taught artist. After all, I’ve heard the term used a fair amount by other artists and it seemed appropriate. But the more I wrote it down and used it to describe myself, the more I came to question just what it meant. After all, if I am using a term to describe myself, I really should know what it means – right!?
I started in the first place we all search for things – Google. (If only it could find my lost blue shoes for me!) I found countless articles and blogs on this very topic. I started reading and realized that this was a far more complicated concept than I thought and if I really got into it, it would take up way more time than I was willing to invest. After all, I wasn’t looking to write a mini thesis on the topic. So instead, I decided to re-evaluate what the term “self taught” means to me and try to redefine how to describe my artistic journey.
As a jumping off point, one of the definitions I did find was that a “self-taught” artist is generally someone who has taken a different career path in life than anyone who has pursued art as a career from an early age.” After all , I chose to pursue an engineering career instead of the fine arts and have worked over twenty years as a Railway Bridge Engineer. But I don’t think that fact alone meant I was self taught.
Throughout my Engineering career, and even after marriage and starting a family, the need and desire to have a creative outlet in my life was always there and as a result I always tried, and continue to try, to carve out a bit of time whenever possible.
While I enjoy painting in my studio with a little music mix on in the background, one of my favourite things to do is to participate in artist workshops. Many workshops I have taken to date have been “in person” with incredible artists such as Claire Cayer, Frances Alty-Arscott, Gregg Johnston, Shelby Willis, and Justina Smith to name a few. The past year, on-line workshops opened up the possibilities of attending more workshops with artists from all over, and I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend workshops by notable artists such as Margaret Roseman, Brian Buckrell, Jani Galarneau, Jed Dorsey, and Rachael Rector.
Through these workshops I have learned an enormous amount about colour and composition, materials, and techniques. But in addition to these factual learnings, I have learned that creating art is meaningful to the creator and to the viewer. In a world where our decisions have so much consequence whether it is decisions we need to make at work, or with our kids and family, art is free of consequence and can be used to express ourselves, a thought or idea, or to just be whatever we want it to be. Wow – pause on that thought for a moment.
As a result of these workshops and the growing online community of artists alike, I have been able to connect with like minded individuals who have a passion for learning, for creating and appreciating art, and supporting those around them. In fact, it was in a workshop with Rachael Rector that I was introduced to Linda French and “The Plaid Moose Gallery”.
Point being that none of the above appears to have been “self” anything and certainly not “self taught”.
So, on reflection, I consider myself a “student of the arts” - ready and willing to learn, experiment, fail, and find joy. I am inspired by all the amazing people and places around me which are infinite in their numbers. So, I will continue with my artistic journey and what makes this journey so exciting is that there is no end in sight, and I need not take it alone!