For years I was afraid to art on anything but cheap paper.
I lacked the belief that I was an artist. It was perfectly fine for other people to describe me that way, but you would never catch me doing it. There were so many reasons why I felt like a fraud using that word to define myself. Real artists use canvas. They are commissioned for paying jobs. Paintings and sculptures just sort of fall out of their head perfectly intact. Their work is always meaningful and conceptual. Art is serious business. I was just a creative person that made stuff.
Creative insecurity plagued me. I was worried about messing up on or with expensive materials, and that worry inhibited my process as an artist. Sets of watercolors would sit untouched in my desk drawer, because it seemed totally logical for me to save those for something important. Queue that little insecure broken record in my head whispering, real artists use canvas. I was not paying attention to the fact that my favorite materials chose me for a very good reason. The paper ephemera, considered bits of trash by most and rightfully discarded, was synonymous with the major themes of my art: abandonment and solitude.
Most of my pieces were mixed media blending crumpled magazine pages and paints, and they were almost exclusively the standard artist trading card size of 3.5 x 2.5 inches. Atc's are tiny works of art often traded through the mail, but honestly the art form has become very craft project-y since hitting the mainstream. Think scrapbook embellishments and puffy paint. While my artistic style was transcending the medium and my purpose of expression was becoming clearer, I still did not feel like a real artist. The size of my work and the materials I used were constant points of self criticism. Like how can I consider myself an artist if I cannot make a painting larger than my hand?
A few years ago I was given the opportunity to display a collection of my artist trading cards at a museum in Brooklyn. The validation came in spades. The experience gave me the confidence boost I needed to open up my Etsy art shop, evey in orbit, and to assign a monetary value to the cards I thought were only viewed as insignificant craft projects. Through the joining of my entrepreneurial side and my artistic side, I finally realized who I was and gave myself credit for it. I was a working artist.
As soon as I embraced this definition of myself, a lot of insecurity faded away. If creating on paper was no longer viewed as a weakness, works on wood and canvas would eventually come (and they did.) If I popped a few tubes of watercolor open and left them on my desk, hesitation was thwarted and they were mixed into my art whenever it felt natural to do so. If the overly stylized view of artists in general was squashed, then what would prevent me from taking my place among their ranks?