During a recent visit, my mother-in-law sat at the kitchen table admiring my six-year-old son’s artwork.
“Oh, it’s so beau-ti-ful,” she said. Then, turning my way, “He’s really an artist!”
I smiled, and gave my standard reply, “Thanks, but you know he didn’t get it from me.”
Because, seriously, I can’t draw. I also can’t paint, sew, decorate, cut out snowflakes, or assemble cardboard boxes. Yeah, he didn’t get it from me.
However, my MIL wasn’t going to let me get away with my usual compliment-controlling standby.
“Well, Amanda” she said, “you’re an artist, too. Your writing is your art.”
Now, that was a kind thing to say, and a statement I know my mother-in-law (as a kindred writing soul) truly believes. However, I must admit that it made me a little uncomfortable.
When I think of an artist, the first images that comes to mind are of an easel and a paintbrush. A musician and an instrument. A singer. A dancer. A stage. Or, even a scrap booker with a pile of teddy bear stickers and rainbow cardstock nearby.
And, definitely a beaming six-year-old holding a picture of the ocean.
But, then I think of writing.
If art “is the product of human creativity,” then of course the dreamers with pen in hand should also be included. How can I forget the great poets? Or, the literary icons? Ditto for the Stephen King’s of genre who weave the art of storytelling in a more commercial form. And, what of the rest? The midlisters. The unknowns. The many writers I meet in this virtual world — some published, some aspiring — whose words connect with readers across states and imaginary lines. No, I wouldn’t begrudge any of them the title of “artist.” In fact, I’ll happily bestow it.
But, I wouldn’t choose it for myself.
Maybe my reluctance stems from an aversion to “titles” which often seem like a prize for the best of the best. Some ART, in all its high falutin’ glory, has appeared a mystery to all except the geniuses of the flock. They become the artists. The rest are, well, just minions.
Or, maybe my problem relates directly to what I’m currently writing — stories about middle grade boys and their ungraceful adventures which don’t exactly fit into a typical artsy mold. I mean, the other day I actually wrote a scene that began with, “That’s fart-tastic!” Of course, my sons (with their love of gastronomic humor) have now deemed me the goddess of literature, but I’m not sure the rest of the world would be as impressed.
The definition of art, like beauty and good 80’s music, is in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure there’s someone out there who thinks the Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney song, “The Girl is Mine” is art. And, since I’m a lover not a fighter, I’ll leave them to their fantasy.
Yes, it’s a tricky situation. It is subjective, folks, and it’s up for debate. Art is the sculpture in the city center, but it’s also the hand-stitched flying cat curtains in your neighbor’s living room.
I’m in awe of those with such curtain-type craftiness. For their DIY dexterity, and their ability to make a room feel inspired. Those skills are also art to me, and the crafty ones are the artists. But, to them? It’s just something they do. It’s something they love.
Writing is something I do, too. And, the love part? Yup. It’s also there.
Me, an artist? No.
But, you? Most definitely.
Do you call yourself an artist? Is that title up for grabs? Is it easier to give that title to someone else?
Find me on Twitter @amandahoving
Note: In case you missed it here, my post, A Book Lover’s Walk of Shame, was given new life over at KLZ’s Taming Insanity yesterday. KLZ is one of my favorite mommy bloggers, so I hope you’ll pop over to her place and look around. Many thanks!
*photos via clip art