I should listen to more artists.
For the past two years, I've operated under the assumption that as a Designer I was a creative professional, but I never presumed to be an Artist. In fact I've actively avoided calling my work "art" or investing too much of my own narrative into my projects. (Style and personality, yes. Narrative, not so much.) Some of that is the accepted delineation of design and art: function and problem solving vs. expression and pure aesthetic. But, I think some of my hesitancy is rooted a little less esoterically in my own avoidance of vulnerability and the inevitable feeling of being an imposter in the art world.
I already struggle with Imposter Syndrome as a lady designer—it only makes sense I would feel awkward about naming some if not all of my work as art. Sure, it can be "artistic," that's not a problem. I can be "artsy" too. Hell, I can make things for fun that I really like or design a political statement, but I'm far more likely to assume the title of Creative than Artist.
And then I went and made Brassy.
An obvious design-centric project—what with it's layouts and heavy typography—it also reaches new depths of self-expression and exploration in ways my work never has before. In fact, as I was preparing to install the project in the gallery, I was more terrified of having this work lay open to the world than I was of even finishing the monumental thing. In all reality, the threat of looming installation was the first time I had ever really thought about how I was defining my work and my role in creating it.
One of my cohort members recently explained that every piece she creates has had a deep emotional connection to her and her creative process, regardless of content or purpose. Looking back, that must mean every critique was essentially an act of bravery—she put something so personal up for review under the guise of an innocuous product week after week. For us to comment on her personal expression, even if it led her to creating more "successful" designs, must have been exhausting.
Maybe there's a difference between personal projects and those designed for a client. Sure I may like the colors and the aesthetic may "look like me," but if it's not created for me I don't think I necessarily have a deep connection to it. I can be proud of it, hate it, love it, or weirdly want to print it on temporary tattoos, but in my eyes, some part of that design will always belong to someone else. And I don't share myself that easily.
All that said, I watched this video about Jim Carrey and his paintings this morning and I can't stop thinking about how much I see myself in what he does—how much I'm starting to realize that maybe I've tricked myself into thinking I wasn't supposed to be a "true artist." (Whatever that means.) The video opens with the statement, "What you do in life chooses you. You can choose not to do it, you can choose to try and do something safer... Your vocation chooses you." And it's just making me think about a lot of things. And it's making me think that as a "designer," I should start listening to more "artists."