Feeling Like a ‘Real’ Artist

Lately on my FB page I've been sharing gorgeous photos by a variety of artists. Just astounding work, and more than a few didn't have a formal photographic or art education. Not saying they didn't have mentors, or people who gave them honest feedback on their work and a real drive to stretch themselves artistically, but that they didn't sit in a classroom with a teacher and earn a certificate of mastery. Sometimes I sense a lack of confidence from individuals that have done that, like they somehow don't feel as worthy as someone with a degree. Many of us lack the confidence to share our vision and our work with others, and that is a shame.  I see so many people put themselves down for being "self-taught"... which just means that you had to really put yourself out there to find your own mentors instead of being able to benefit from a more organized approach. Funny thing is I don't see that attitude as much in younger people, but in older ones that are just getting around to expanding themselves artistically and fulfilling their own dreams. Maybe because they finally have time now that they're not doing laundry every minute. 😉 I couldn't help but think of that when I recently saw an ad for a photographer that said he had over 35 years as a "professional", had been trained in the military, and graduated thus and so from such and such a school, etc. I wrote down his website and I looked at his portfolio when I got home. I could tell pretty much when he graduated... about 1983, I'm thinking. Considering his background and education I was surprised he'd let himself get so stagnant. I'm wondering if sometimes (not all the time) people think that what they learned in school is all they'll ever need to know, and stop exploring new ways to express their art. I have seen many portraitists that were in business way back when that didn't stick with the one approach or pose or lighting that was 'in' when they started and don't have a dated or repetitive look to their work. Consistent quality is one thing, the same picture over and over is another. Einstein is credited with saying 'Education is what is left when you've forgotten everything you learned in school.' Of course, many self-taught photographers do the same thing, they go so far and no farther. Maybe they like a certain look and sort of get stuck there... You could argue that's their personal style, and what people look for from them, I guess. In Art there isn't really a right or wrong. It's not the same as being a mechanic, when either something runs or it doesn't. Sometimes life gets in the way for awhile and you have more important things to do than go out at dawn and take pictures in that lovely blue light, so you don't get to explore that, or you can't take a class that you want to take right now...  Maybe right now  you need to sleep while you can after the baby's kept you up all night. Yeah, life interferes with art sometimes, but that's good too, because all those experiences of life roll into your art eventually. I guess my point is to keep pushing yourself, ask yourself if you can do something differently or a little better than you used to. Look at other people's work, and use it to inspire you to do something new and different. Benefit from constructive criticism. Don't get stuck in 1983.... Better yet, use your work to inspire someone else to reach for the confidence to share their joy and passion with others. Sharing the beauty you see is another way to 'pay it forward' and be a mentor for others. 🙂Have enough confidence to get out there and try.