Finding My Own Style
A recent attempt to join a society of professional artists left me wondering: just who did I think I was and what was I doing believing I could paint for a living? I never claimed to be a professional. I don’t have any fine art degrees, my work doesn’t hang in any galleries, I don’t teach any classes…but when I was labeled an “amateur” by one of the judges, it struck deeper than I had expected.
[ am-uh-choor, -cher, -ter, am-uh-tur ]
1. A person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons.
When I looked up the definition, I suddenly didn’t feel good enough to sell my work – which I have been doing for two years now. I felt like I was cheating my clients, asking them to pay for something less than worthy. It’s amazing how one little word can have such an effect on this sensitive psyche, even if it was presented as a means of essential advice.
I know they didn’t mean any harm with their evaluation, and indeed need to be selective about who they allow into their group. I thanked them for their honesty and their time, and then pondered giving up on the whole idea of being a freelance artist and applying for a job. But did I really want to quit painting? Better still, did I have what it takes to get better? And exactly what does it take and where do I find it? (AND how much is it going to cost me? After all, we’re talking about a starving artist here…)
It was suggested that I find my own style. I actually thought I knew what that meant. I was corrected when I started researching deeper other artists and what made them great. I found that Style isn’t so much HOW you do something as it is WHAT you do and WHY you do it. Did I even have a foothold on anything special, one thing that makes my work unique, something that says “this was painted by Stephanie Mummert”? When I looked through my portfolio of paintings, I couldn’t find any single composition that stood out, couldn’t put my finger on one particular subject I truly had a passion for – I loved painting it all. I love painting pieces for people that THEY want painted…portraits of loved ones, pets, vacation memories, classic cars, even signs for local businesses. It’s already special to them before one stroke of the brush hits the canvas, and they trust me enough to recreate it for them. Really, God bless them for that as He blesses me with the joy of it all.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s my style. If I have a “specialty”, it’s painting commissions. And despite being labeled as one less than, I continue to receive requests and am in fact booked in the studio for the next several months. Will they hang in prestigious galleries? No. They will already be sold and will hang in someone’s home where Art is complete. And the best thing about it all is that I get to experience something new and different and special with every single painting, continually learning and growing while providing something of heart value for my clients. I am not a professional. I am not part of any art society. But I am fortunate beyond measure and so very grateful to the One who made me what I am. I AM an artist.