How Are You An Artist?

A friend and mentor asked me that question recently. Say, what? I was initially taken aback, as he has known me for years, has discussed my dance and writing passions with me at length, has seen me perform.

I am a dancer/choreographer and writer, remember? But that’s not what he was asking me. His question was tougher. Deeper. His question is about intention, identity, integrity. Vision, even.

If I believe myself to be an artist, how do I live that belief? Maybe you’ve given this a lot of thought and already answered it comprehensively. Maybe I am late to the party (again). While I’ve ruminated at length about art and creativity, I had not previously done so precisely in these terms.

Why I am thinking about this today is primarily because of the afternoon’s session with one of the students I volunteer to tutor in writing. Things got off to a bumpy start, but finished with resounding success.

Combing back through my euphoria, I realize that a main reason we had a breakthrough is because of how I am an artist. When I learned we had no specific assignment to work on yet forty minutes of writing practice needed, I was flummoxed only for a moment.

Then I quickly looked around the room and did what artists do routinely: sought inspiration and improvised with what was at hand. (In reality, we are all improvising all the time as we create our lives, some improvs working better than others :)).  And presto! I created writing prompts based on the room’s contents, leading to laughter, discovery, and yes, success.

I appreciate even more fully now that part of how we are artists is that we constantly cultivate imagination. And resourcefulness. That’s a major part of our gig.  What potent ingredients to have for living!


Photo credit: Nikki Carrara

As I love to share the amazing roller coaster ride called “creating,” I suddenly jumped in and started writing a response to the prompts today. I surprised my student…AND myself. Why just sit there when I could be working my writing chops, right? We compared essays, and both learned something valuable.

Beauty and grace are major inspirations, and so on a glorious, sunny afternoon like this one, I am noticing how the light dapples and I wonder at the beauty of a woman’s smile as she says hello.  Through some magical alchemy, this results in creating a dance phrase.

As a dancer, I am generally on the lookout kinesthetically. People’s gestures and unique gaits fascinate, so much so that I often attempt to mirror them once folks are out of sight. I rehearse choreography and generate movement on my walks, either through slight gesturing or full out dancing in the street. More public art-yahoo!

The desire to stretch artistically galvanizes me to overcome the intimidation factor and sign up for a choreography workshop and a class in a new-to-me dance form.  Wholly nerve-racking.  But as essential as to artistry as checking out and supporting other artists.

Miraculously and refreshingly, how we are all artists is unique. Ain’t that grand? So now I am wondering: how are you an artist?

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30 Responses to How Are You An Artist?

  1. viewpacific says:

    Thanks to your friend for asking this question, and thanks to you for being in defended and meeting it. Oh, and sharing your experience.
    I believe we’re all artists, creating our lives and each moment. Some of us have more training , practice, or accolades. Yay ! Others of us are only slowly starting to realize just how creative we can be. Thanks for your continued inspiration.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Oh, I am so pleased you made this point! I agree–we are all artists creating our lives every moment. Thank you so much for visiting and contributing your support and insights. Happy Creating! xo

  2. kanzensakura says:

    I like to think I’m an artist in different media. I view my cooking as an art, my haiku, my writings. I am an artist that doesn’t paint or sew or weave or do pottery. I use words to paint pictures like you dance. I think it is so wonderful you mentor a young person. They need all the help, encouragement, flights of fancy, looks into another world that they can get. You are truly an artist and you are sharing it. Kudos to you.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Yes, I am with you about the cooking as art–thank you so much for mentioning. I had meant to include that and forgot. Your cooking is such a multifaceted art, my friend, as the stories you write and photos you include to accompany those luscious recipes are always beautiful. And you are so right–you do paint lovely creations with your words. You are indeed a multimedia artist. Thank you so much for adding all of your wonderful experience here! Shine on. Xoxo

  3. I think I’m an artist because I’m excited about everything. It’s all so fabulous. I get up in the middle of the night because I have to draw, make or write something and I can’t wait to get at it. I’m an artist because my life and my art are the same thing. I’m an artist because my world is far more interesting than the more mundane world and I spend a lot of time alone because other people get in the way of the things that are going in my head…LOL…someone will be talking to me and I’m trying to memorize the ending to a story that’s taking place in my mind, so that I don’t forget it, since I don’t want to write it down in front of the other person…because then they really will know that I’m not paying attention. People distract me when I want to create something. I love my books and my workroom…I love my stuff and all the things that inspire me. I love the city and the skyscrapers, and flowers and bugs and animals. I love so many things and I can’t hold all of that in…so it comes out in my drawings and words and pictures. And sometimes, I dance:) I believe in magick…it’s a reality in my life… it’s what lets me turn one thing…into something else.

  4. Miranda Stone says:

    A profound question indeed! My dear Chloe, I think being an artist is an inherent part of your being, as natural to you as breathing. Your ability to draw inspiration from the seemingly mundane, to create and share your work with others, and to inspire all of us, is what I consider the epitome of a true artist.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Oh, my! I am grinning from my heart outward, Miranda. Thank you so much for your thoughtful support here and throughout my blogging experience. As I have said repeatedly, you inspire me and warm my heart, my friend. Love to you….

  5. t h i n g s + f l e s h says:

    i love this post and discussion, Chloe. the medium doesn’t matter when it comes to art. only the intent does. tony

  6. Eileen says:

    I love the idea that creativity of any kind is art. Even the ability to come up with alternative solutions to problems……’s just part of what we are, how we are in the world……rather than just what we produce.


    • SirenaTales says:

      Oh, thank you very much for reading this and sharing your generous persoective, Eileen. “It’s part of what we are, how we are in the world….rather than just what we produce.” So true! Shine on, my friend. Xo

  7. Eileen says:

    It’s a flexibility of mind. There, does that capture the essence of artistry?

    • SirenaTales says:

      I love that you added this cool idea right around when Geo Sans (below) offered “swirling lines/in/my mind.” Flexibility and swirling–to me, definitely components of artistry. Thank you again!

  8. Geo Sans says:

    swirling lines
    my mind
    art definitions
    are merely personal
    interpretations ?
    and maybe
    that’s the point ?

  9. Rachael Charmley says:

    Ah Chloe. I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said. In fact I’ve been thinking about it so much I haven’t got round to replying. Don’t think this is a reply either!
    Start with a cliche. Being an artist is a way of life. It is who we are, whether we think we are creative or not. Even an accountant can be an artist. It is the way we think and see that’s different. Almost childlike – or something that small children have that gets lost as they grow. It’s a kind of sideways on, oblique vision that others don’t see until we show them through our work – and then they remember and yes ‘Ah yes. I get it!’
    It’s hard and it’s painful and it’s visceral – and it means often we can’t sleep until we find that word, that gesture, that brushstroke. So we have to be strong. And even though we might not think we are brave – we are.
    So all this stuff – and much more, gurgles out of my mind and fills me with gratitude that you and I, and all the others out there who often struggle – as that’s what we have to do – keep on creating – because that’s what we’re here to do to, and that’s how we survive!
    Coo. What a rant. It’s a start anyway. And thanks for posting, dear friend. x

    • SirenaTales says:

      Whoa. This is fantastic, Rachael! Thank you so much for all of the time and thought you invested in this. I am truly grateful to you, as I sit here nodding vigorously in agreement…it’s “a way of life”…”almost childlike”….”painful, hard, and visceral”…requiring us to be strong, tenacious and “brave.” Like you, I am abundantly grateful that we all persist in creating, seeing things with a certain “sideways” vision, imbuing our lives-and the lives of those around us–deep meaning. I am also grateful for support like yours that makes the journey so much richer and reassuring. Rock on, my friend! Xo

  10. i’m sorry Chloe, i’ve tried several times but i can’t seem to come up with a satisfactory or coherent answer for your question. it’s a subject i rarely think about and i guess i’is something i need much more time to reflect on. Love and Hugs for your constant enthusiasm!

    • SirenaTales says:

      Oh, so sweet of you to make such an effort, MW! I hadn’t meant to add any burden….thank you so much for your continued encouragement and friendship. Love to you

  11. chrisbkm says:

    “Through some magical alchemy, this results in creating a dance phrase.” Oh, I love this line and the simple inspiration behind it. I think it just sums the whole thing up. End of story.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Wow, I am humbled, Chris. Thank you. And thank you for bringing my attention back to this line because it, too, came seemingly out of nowhere and wrote itself. When I looked at it, it felt apt, but somehow mysterious. I so appreciate the presence here of your artistic soul, my friend. Hope May is full of inspiration for you!

  12. fictionfitz says:

    Reblogged this on Writing Out Loud and commented:
    It seems to me it is all about claiming our artistry. Sirena does that well.

  13. SirenaTales says:

    Reblogged this on Sirena Tales and commented:

    And, as Pina Bausch asked, “What do you stand for?” After having my art misunderstood recently, and just generally looking at the world lately, I am back to asking these questions. Again. Still….

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