When Did You Know You Were an Artist?

I asked this question of just about every creative I interviewed on my cross-country U.S. road trip. Now, in the first film I’ve produced since that road trip ended, I feature highlights from a few of those interviews. Hear from writers, musicians, and visual artists sharing when they first knew that they were on the creative path.

I’d love your feedback on this video, and whether you’d like to see more on other topics surrounding art and creativity!

About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

29 Responses to “When Did You Know You Were an Artist?”

  1. Great video, Patrick. It’s fun to hear from other artists, in their own words, when they first knew their calling. I also enjoyed seeing where they work… the books piled on the shelves in the background, the clutter on the desks. Good stuff.๐Ÿ™‚

    • It was an honor when the creatives would invite me into their homes, no doubt. Novelist Michael Swanwick’s out-of-control book stacks would offend Steve Cox’s mom, methinks!

  2. What a cool video! I really enjoyed it, and it’s pretty amazing how almost all of them were so very young when they considered themselves artists!

  3. Great video! (I also like how the first artist said you can’t be creative and neat at the same time. I use that excuse, too!)

    Obviously, as evidenced from all of these testimonials, the drive is there from the beginning. (Can we even say that we are all born creative?)

    I still don’t claim “artist” as a title. Heck, I still have trouble calling myself a writer even though that’s the main thing I do. (Why is it so hard to call myself a writer?!)
    But I know when I was 5 I was already pecking away at my mom’s electric typewriter instead of going out to play with other kids. It seems stories have always lived and breathed with me.

    • Your story fits so well with these others, pecking away at the typewriter!

      It’s so hard to find the right “labels,” and difficult to embrace them. We had a debate along those lines here about a month ago, on the use of the word “creative.” http://bit.ly/kgrSgF

  4. I still wrangle with it, apparently have such resistance to it… Not only did I have little opportunity and zero encouragement as a child, there were potent abusive “things” I endured when I dared to flow with my creative energy. Only in this moment am I realizing that this may be the deeper reason why I resist it. As a kid I’d enjoyed drawing, but my perfectionism made me crazy, so I stopped doing it. I remember enjoying writing a few poems, but wrote only a few. I’d come upon them over the years and reading them made me smile. Then I’d tuck them neatly away. Same with my drawings. I never dreamed of being an artist–as a child, coming from what I came from, it would never even have occurred to me.

    I never had a voice until I got a computer, not that many years ago. But, omg, that “voice,” stifled for so long, just exploded onto the computer screen. Emails and the like that never seemed to end, lol๐Ÿ˜‰ And not long after, I wrote the editor of a small newsletter inquiring about placing an ad, totally unrelated to any type of artistry. The ad placement required a bit of an elaboration. She responded asking me if I would write an article for her newsletter, using the email I wrote to her. That was a first.

    From that point, all these little synchronicities started creeping into my life. Like writing a simple snail-mail letter of inquiry to a local business owner who responded with telling me I should be a writer? Intuitive ones online telling me I’m an artist? I felt joyous from these comments, but not worthy. I had no training or experience as a writer–or “artist,” so how could I be one?

    A few years after this started, I found myself backed into a corner financially. So in a desperate, “crazy” moment, I endeavored to quickly write an article to see where that might lead. It was the first time I’d ever sat down to “seriously” write something. I sent it off to a nice, very reputable website online. To make a longer story shorter, ha, this site published my article (and a couple of subsequent ones) to my absolute astonishment. And a couple of months later, a hard-copy magazine published it. Still blows me away.

    And I’ve made no serious writing attempts since. Although there’s a part of me that feels she is a writer and artist, mainly because of those things I’ve mentioned above, that other part of me seems almost insurmountable at this point. In this moment, I keep thinking about a hard slap across my face, when I was about 7 or 8 years old…my “reward” for following my creative juices at that young age. I suppose I’ll know I’m an artist when I can let that memory fuel rather than falter me.

    Dove

    • Dove, thank you so much for sharing this moving story. All I can really say is that you just demonstrated you are both a writer and an artist, and the universe has on several occasions confirmed that fact. I wish you luck in following that path if that’s where your heart wants to go.

  5. Hi Patrick! I think this format (asking one question and having multiple creatives answer it) is intriguing and engaging. I think you are on to something! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Oops, guess I’m not signed in but this is Amy Buchheit. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Amy, thank you for being one of the artists featured in the video!

        I’ve always wanted to produce videos like this, with multiple voices on one topic, rather than a focus on one creative. I finally found the time, and I hope to do more.

        • One of my favourite tv shows, “Writers’ Confessions” on Bravo!Canada, uses that format. I love hearing multiple perspectives on the same question. It gives a sense of how personal everybody’s process is and how important it is to find what works for you rather than to follow somebody else’s path.

  6. Hi Patrick!

    Thanks for the nudge to see one of your latest creative efforts, most enjoyable. I found it quite enlightening that others have discovered their own creativity at such a young age. I don’t know if this early age of creative development and expression concept is the same for everyone, but it is interesting that you have discovered or uncovered it among those you had interviewed during your trek across America. In any case, the video is comforting to know that there are others out there who have felt and who have experienced the same need to express themselves in some art form. There truly is a population of those who have had a youthful outpouring of creativity and who continue this focus through the years of their lives, mine included. Thanks again for your time interviewing me and for including a portion of that video footage in this new video. It’s another job well done!

    I agree with others who have posted comments here and wish you well on your journey of self expression! Good work Patrick!

    • Thank you, Don! Steve Cox said something else in the interview, that everyone has that artistic spark at a young age, but it’s not always nurtured by the home environment. Something to think about.

  7. Fabulous video. My favorite story was the first one, about being five years old and telling his mom “You can’t be creative and neat at the same time.”

    Great production, too, and I loved how these interviews were all over the map. You sure covered some miles on that trip! And the creative people opening up to you and sharing the most precious parts of themselves is so life-giving and inspiring.

    I first had an inkling I was a writer at age 12 when I was the only one who felt passionate about a story assignment for English class. I was so passionate, I even worked on my story while on vacation with the family.

    ~ Milli

  8. thank you for the moving video Patrick! I guess i knew i was an artist when i was in the 4th grade and i began to draw Twiggy – all the kids gathered around me and said i was a good artist. I was so painfully shy and never noticed for anything – that experience made me realize that i was an artist!
    Cheers, Violette

  9. Nice work Patrick! Man! Road trip is right! What I’m really struck by is how YOUNG everyone said they were when they first knew they were an artist. It really makes me wonder if most of out there who may not claim to be artists also have similar experiences but just aren’t as fully aware of how much joy those inspirational moments really meant to us.

    • Hi Jenny, I’m so glad you like the video! As I mentioned to Don above, Steve Cox also talked to me about the importance of having that creativity nurtured. I know from your own art that your comedy may not have been encouraged by your parents, but perhaps their overall love and support helped keep a creative flame alive in you.

  10. Hello everyone,

    I thought it would be supportive of this chain of communication to make the following comments –

    The single most important factor separating us from animals is conscious creative and co-creative thought. It is a unique characteristic of the human mind not found in any other species.

    All of us create something, always, literally always. What is created is not always a matter of conscious choice and may not be what a person had in mind as far as preference in their own conscious thinking. None-the-less it is still a manifestation of creativity.

    When a person becomes conscious of themselves seems to be in alignment as related to the timing of our individual awareness of being a creative type and the start of conscious development and outward focus of this innate skill. The decision as to the context in which one elects to express themselves, is a choice based upon interest, knowledge and availability of resources to manifest conscious creative thought.

    The environment in which a person grows up does effect how and in many cases in what context a person uses and expresses this innate ability. Parents who foster and support their child or children in creative expression, certainly goes a long way in assisting the individual in being able to express them selves creatively. Nurturing can come from the outside too however I believe the act of creation by all people is something we cannot help but do whether we have support of the family or from outside people including companies who finance creative thinkers. The context in which a person uses this skill is an internal and personal choice and it can be a choice brought to them from others. The question then arises as to what field of endeavor will a person elect to use this creative ability, in the arts versus some other context?

    Our living environment can also retard or hinder our growth in the development and fine tuning of the use of this mental faculty as well, so can a person’s choice to allow people, events and things to affect our willingness to express ourselves creatively.

    In the end, we all create something, always, including our outwardly expressed self. It is our individual choice to express ourselves in the arts.

  11. Great question, Patrick! Loved their answers; great video. My earliest memory is of my grandmother reading to me…been a passionate reader even before I started school. Then my parents gave me a journal for my eighth birthday, and I’ve been writing ever since.

  12. Patrick,
    This was a very good video. First of all, I watched the whole thing (for a 5+ minute “talking head” video, that’s rare for me). But what I really liked about it was that it didn’t waste the viewers time with ramblings but got to the point quickly for each interviewee and moved on to the next. Very nicely edited. Was it aesthetically perfect? No. Color correction, composition (watch your head-room – too much in some cases), and audio could have been better but was it watchable and enjoyable? Yes. And in the end, what else matters? Nice job.

    • Dan, I value this feedback tremendously. In shooting this footage on this road trip I learned how many challenges a professional photographer faces, from sound to lighting to color to framing. It’s interesting to me that you like the editing of the messages, because that’s something as a professional writer and editor I have experience with words.

      With some of the ones I made while on the road I began experimenting with b-roll and music, and I anticipate doing a bit of that with future works I make from this footage. I’m stuck with the color saturation and audio that I’ve already shot, however!๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Thanks for reminding me to check this out, Patrick. It was well worth the 5 minutes. Hmm…5 minutes, I am noticing a theme…Anyway, as for me, I probably didn’t consciously think I was an artist till I was about 30, although all my life I dabbled in creative projects.

    • Thanks for sharing that, Melanie. It’s interesting that so many of these artists self-identify so far back, I don’t think that’s necessarily the norm.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Claim Your Identity as an Artist « Kate Arms-Roberts - June 2, 2011

    […] It may make all the difference. This post was inspired by the video and discussion on The Artist’s Road: When Did You Know You Were an Artist? […]

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