Narrow Down Education and Artists

Hi, my name is Zoe and I’m a writer.

Hi, my name is Zoe and I’m a painter.

Hi, I’m a photographer

Hi, I’m a designer

Hi, I’m an . . .

 

It took a really long time for me to be willing to fill the end of that sentence with the word “Artist”. I was homeschooled for the majority of my education, but when it came to college, I am a product of what I’ve come to think of as “Narrow Down” education. It takes individuals with a broad variety of interests and over four years narrows it down and down and down until they are theoretically a specialist in one area of interest. For some people this works very well, and they complete their four years with a degree that will ultimately provide them a job that is both concise to explain in introductions and fulfilling. There are many of us, however that are not specialists, and whose specialized degrees don’t necessarily encompass or prepare us for where our passions will take us, and that ultimately have to figure out a name for what it is that we do and are.

 

I choose “Artist” and “Content Creator” because frankly I do a lot of things. Below is a current list of my endeavors:

  • Writing
    • This Blog, Simply Subtext
    • My novel
    • Short stories of various kinds
  • Youtube
    • Tea Talks videos – A sit down discussion of random topics usually relating to life as an artist in the current world.
    • Read with Me – Me reading my short stories or excerpts from my work.
  • Patreon
    • Patreon fuels all of the above, but there is also patron only content that I produce and release nowhere else. This includes:
      • Patron only/driven podcast
      • Rough drafts of short stories
      • Monthly patron short story
      • Paintings/digital downloads/post cards for Patrons.

All of this feels better encompassed through the term “artist” than any one word that I can pick.

I originally entered college as a visual art major, but due to various circumstances and admitted family pressure, I ended up in Theater. Now before we go any further I want to be clear that I have met so many wonderful people through it and in and of itself I do not regret my experience with theater. That being said, I entered college with a wide variety of interests. I wanted to take english classes and art classes and history and learn and do all of these things. Some of these hopes were fulfilled, but many were left by the wayside as I decided what it was that I wanted to do. 2 years after graduating and working in my chosen, wonderful, weird field, I found myself stepping out. I quit working in theater and decided to spend time investigating all of the loves that I had lost. Around the same time I

11e3541d75d4afba6badc2c3c058b8cb4bfe5863_2880x1620
Emily Wapnick giving her talk at TedX in 2015

saw the TedX talk by Emiliy Wapnick called “Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling”. For someone who like so many others spent most of their life being told that you pick what you want to do and work towards it, hearing a concise, well thought out argument in favor of the jacks of all trades and renaissance people of the world was eye opening.

 

As a kid, I would draw and paint almost every day, devour books like my life depended on it, put on “performances” on the back yard swing, and “write” books full of interviews before I knew how to form letters, let alone words with my ever present #2 pencil. After listening to Emiliy Wapnick’s talk, I started looking at all the things that I loved and started to consider whether or not I really had to pick just one. My next thought was “but what would I BE then?” The word “artist” had been used in such a negative connotation for so long that I was terrified of using it as a definitive name for myself. Artists were Ar-TEEsts, they were flaky with their head in the clouds and didn’t have real jobs, or they had real jobs and then did their art on the side only. I didn’t want to be any of that. So I left that thought behind, and decided to find what made me happy. First it was writing, and that is a very easy title for me to wear now. “I’m a writer” rolls right off the tongue. Then it was video making, about writing and art. “I make youtube videos” was a little harder to get used to, and I definitely get sideways looks for it. Finally I started admitting that music and painting held a place in my heart that would never be filled by anything else, whether it was part of my profession or not. It was around this time that I started to have to admit to myself that “Artist” was probably the best word to describe me.

 

Today there is a stack of canvases that are finished and waiting in the corner of my bedroom to be photographed, sitting next to my ukulele that leans against my writing

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I’m still pretty bad, and she doesn’t have a name, but I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

desk that holds my computer and my camera. Today it is very easy for me to label myself as an artist, and revel in all of the things that it encompasses. But it took almost 4 years of leaving college, trying out a career that was not for me, and going through some serious guilt for “abandoning” the people who helped me develop that career to get to that point. When you say at 18 that you want to be an artist you get met with  “but what do you want to actually do?” or “but what will pay your bills?” or the ever popular “Just an artist?” Wanting to work in a field that is so broad and encompassing comes with its fair share of sideways glances and disbelief, and the process of narrow down education teaches us that we can’t have a broad set of loves and passions, or at the very least that some must be left behind.

 

The best part of Wapnick’s talk is that she acknowledges the need for both specialists and what she deems “multipotentialites”, and how they can work together to make productive teams because they encompass all of the necessary attributes for business endeavors. The jacks of all trades are just as necessary as the specialists, even if the jacks have to do a little more work to figure it out.

 

Are you a jack of all trades? A renaissance person? Or are you a specialist? Let me know down in the comments.

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One thought on “Narrow Down Education and Artists

  1. I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. I draw, paint, and write but none are to the level of Shakespeare or Bob Ross. Practice has polished my art to a point where I’m at least comfortable posting it on Instagram. It took me awhile to feel I could say I have ranks in drawing now. Beyond stick figure level, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

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