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Am I An Artist?

by Moshe Mikanovsky on 4/5/2012 8:04:55 AM

This article is by Moshe Mikanovsky, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  An emerging artist searching his way in the art world, he loves to share what he learns.  With over 20 years of technology experience, Moshe combines his technological background and his passion for the arts with the goal of "working his dream".  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

Am I an Artist?


You might have noticed that I have been away for sometime. Or have you?


The fact is, that I have not painted since the year started. I have not written, nor updated my blog. So what happened?


In one word – Resistance.


I was overwhelmed by that multi-headed monster, which told me that I am not a real artist. That I am not good enough. That I am a fraud. That I cannot give advice to other people while I have not succeeded much on my own. That I would be better with my old job and to let go of my dreams. That I have taken my dreams too seriously and not seriously enough. And much, much more.


And I believed it.


This was on the bad days. On the good ones, the resistance was just tasks I had to do. I had to look for a new job that would pay my bills. I had to take care of my family’s needs. I had to shovel snow. I had to fix the car. I had to buy some chairs. I had to learn how to cook. And I had to fix those annoying black spots on the ceiling of the bathroom. I had to do so much!


And I let it take hold of me and keep me away from making art.


Spring and the amazing days we had recently helped me get out of the rut and feel alive again. Finding a new day job helped me relax a bit about my duties and responsibilities to make bread for my family. And Seth Godin’s Linchpin showed me what it really means to be an artist.


Here are some quotes from his book:


“Art is unique, new, and challenging to the status quo. It’s not decoration, it’s something that causes change.”


“Art cannot be merely commerce. It must also be a gift. The artist creates his idea knowing that it will spread freely, without recompense. Sure, the physical manifestation of the art might sell for a million dollars, but that painting or that song is also going to be enjoyed by someone who didn’t pay for it”


“Art is an original idea that can be a gift”.


“Most of all, art involves labor. Not the labor of lifting a brush or typing a sentence, but the emotional labor of doing something difficult, taking a risk and extending yourself.”


So to my resistance-monster within (in my Lizard Brain) I say:  



I have given, and intend to continue giving, gifts to my family, friends, tribe, community.

Writing about my experience is a gift.

Painting for all to see, is my gift.

Sharing my creation on my website is my gift.


I want to be part of the artistic creative tribe, to see it grow, to learn from it and to share my knowledge with it. And the result, sometimes impossibly hard, sometimes unthinkingly taken for granted, is due to my labor as an artist.


Today I have won my constant battle with my personal resistance-monster. Tomorrow is another day and I plan to win the battle again. And they day after. And after that.


What about you? Are you a winner today? Are you an ARTIST?





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Topics: advice for artists | Art Business | creativity | FineArtViews | inspiration | Moshe Mikanovsky 

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Indigene Theresa Gaskin
I can absolutely relate to this post! Thanks for sharing this.

Great article. I am sure that every artist out there feels what you went thru at one time in there art life. I know I have had my share of set-backs. Thank you for this article I am going to print this and keep it, so I can read it when times get rough.

I can relate too and I'm glad you are writing once again on this blog. You were missed! Obviously you know what you need to do in order to beat Resistance. It's a daily battle but knowing that means you're half-way there. Don't give up and keep inspiring others with your lovely art and thoughtful inspiring words!

Sheree Rensel
I am going through almost the exact same thing. The only difference is that I KNOW I am an artist. Yet, this doesn't stop me from "resisting" and being "overwhelmed by that multi-headed monster". I have been an artist for decades. I always had teaching gigs to pay the bills. I finally quit and I am trying to FOCUS on art. However, the monster (in my mind) is snarling and gnarling. I find myself washing dishes, doing yard work, wondering when I will write my next blog post, and pushing back panic because I haven't found a new (bill paying) job yet.
I totally agree. Art is a gift and we must use it. This might sound cliché, but we have to trust in the natural processes of the Universe. Of course, we need to pay bills and attend to the mundane life chores. However, we absolutely need to make art our priority. It is our duty to slay the monster!
Good Luck,
Sheree Rensel

Susan Roux
I've wiped my last painting out twice after painting on it for a full day each time. For some reason, it just wasn't meeting my expectations I guess. Perhaps I wouldn't allow the monster to win? I must admit that in time it sure felt like I was stupid and incapable of painting what I had set out to achieve. I was tougher on myself than any other monster could have been. Tuesday I finished my painting. So yes, I won my battle too.

I guess when the going gets tough, the tough get going! I'm glad you didn't cave to the insecurities that can crush the creative spirit. I like the idea of our art being a gift for anyone who sees it to enjoy. It's a lovely thought for artists to keep in mind. I'll be sure to share that with my students...

Um... You're an artist if I say you are. (Taking that from Frank Stella the night he was on Stephen Colbert with Steve Martin. Google it and watch. It's valuable.)

I had a mentor years ago that told me, "resistance is a sign that you are doing something right." This includes external resistance and internal resistance.

Although, my caveat is that not everyone who paints is an artist. Some of us are snake oil salespeople. (Can you guess which one I am?)

Sharon Weaver
Everyone hits the wall at some point but getting through and starting to create again is the true test. I hope everyone who goes into that dark place makes it through with a renewed outlook, inspired work and the will to create.

Holly Banks
Thanks for sharing your personal experience of difficulties. It is good to be up beat, but sometimes just knowing that other artists are struggling too is encouraging. Recently,I have had a lot of small physical issues that have been keeping me from accomplishing as much art work as I would like. Your article helps me want to "keep on keeping on"

Jan Perkins

What you have written so rings true for me and so many of us.

I just found my favorite quote which helps me to keep the monster at bay until I have to go back and read it again! It does give me courage. It was a conversation between Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham. Perhaps you have heard of it before? I have never read what prompted Martha Graham to say such truth until today when I looked the quote up.

This is copied from wikipedia who no doubt copied else where probably from a book by de Mille:

According to Agnes de Mille:
The greatest thing she ever said to me was in 1943 after the opening of Oklahoma!, when I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha. I remember the conversation well. It was in a Schrafft's restaurant over a soda. I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.
Martha said to me, very quietly: "There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.


Sandy Askey-Adams
Dear sweet Moshe....

Thank you, thank you for the wonderful post. It is a reminder that we are not alone..with even believing if we are an artist or not an artist.
I did wonder where you were. I have not replied to many of the posts within the past year, but this one...yours, I must. Thank you for sharing and being so honest.

I have been unable to paint for, well, I won't say how long....but, I have also not been well.
However, it is very difficult to get back into painting because of also all that you mention.

It is like a lost love. (temporarily, hopefully.) My last several blogs (other than the very last one) have been related to being unable to paint ...the one is even a poem about not being able to paint. (Not that I am a poet...I am not. I do try to be an artist though.) You are each welcome to read those several blogs.

Thank you again,

Artfully yours,

Sandy Askey-Adams

I just read your reply to Moshe's post....
Thank you for sharing the conversation between Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham.
SO beautifully expressed.
Something to hang on every artists studio.


Bruce Black
Take courage fellow artist, for having doubts about your creative abilities is only a measure of the conviction you have to create something meaningful and profound. It means that you truly care about what you are making. I too have gone through spells of inactivity, doubt, and the distractions that life throws my way. However, I am nothing compared to Vincent Van Gogh and his troubles. This man sold only one painting in his life, and that was to his brighter Theo. He also suffered from mental illness and crushing despair, but where would the art world be if he had given up and succumbed to his feelings of inadequacy? Van Gogh once wrote, “I certainly hope to sell in the course of time, but I think I shall be able to influence it most effectively by working steadily on, and that at the present moment making desperate efforts to force the work I am doing now upon the public would be pretty useless.” He made art despite the lack of a market for it and despite the ridicule he received. If he can do it, so can you, and so can I, and so can a lot of others. Keep making art. Make it for yourself and share it when you can. Don't judge the work to harshly, but rather see it as a place where you are at in that moment. Let it be your creative journal, your escape, and a place to deposit your emotions and creative sentiments. Make art, make art, make art.

Cathy de Lorimier
When I read your title, "Am I an Artist?" without even opening up the article, I replied to myself, "Of course you are, and of course I am." That we may make art sporadically or faithfully, create simple studies or full out masterpieces, matters not. If we engage in it, we are the real deal. Your inner dragon was pulling some mean tricks on you, like mine has done with me. It's time for us all to resist that dragon! Mind games are very often not truth, although I find that art is. If we paint and it is a poor job, perhaps that is a reflection of our inner self on that day. Perhaps we can look at it objectively and just admit we need more practice. But it is truth, either way. Have you painted some things you are very proud of? You betcha! Will you do that again? Better believe it! YOU ARE AN ARTIST, and there's only one you, so explore it and share it, as you do. Thank you for this post Moshe, and all your wonderfully written articles. You have done right by your family getting things in order, and there is a season for that, but make time for the artist in you too. (I'm telling this to myself right now as much as to you.)

I completely agree with your post. Thank you for sharing. I am going through same thing. The difference is that I know I am an artist. I have been an artist for longtime, even though I compromised some years of my life for a stable income to pay my bills. Then took care of the family responsibilities.
Now I am ready to focus on art.
Art is a gift and gives me so much strength to my life. I think I am not going to give-up until I can see the world with my eyes. They might end up being gifts or a stack.
Happy painting!

Sharon Weaver
Jan that quote of Agnes de Mille is amazing. I feel her paint and realize that dissatisfaction is the nature of being an artist.

Debra LePage
I guess we all have those 2:00 a.m feelings of doubt. It's good to know we aren't alone. I enjoyed seeing everyone's comments as well. Thanks, Moshe!

Carolyn Henderson
Moshe: Those horrible little voices within us that whisper about our inabilities and our lack of qualifications are dreadful gremlins indeed.

We push them down, move on, but to some extent, they are always there, ready to attack us at our weakest.

I am glad that you are up again, walking, creating, moving forward, and I am glad that you shared your experience.

Kathy Chin
We are so glad to have you back Moshe, and it's great to see all the other comments from folks who have experienced the same thing. As you did admit, you are an artist...and not just an emerging one as you put in your intro. (Seems like Jack would have something to say about that!)
The Agnes DeMille quote is right on, as is Bruce's comment when he said "Make it for yourself and share it when you can. Don't judge the work to harshly, but rather see it as a place where you are at in that moment." Wow...gets right to the point doesn't it?
Seems like there are a lot of reasons to be scared and unsure of ourselves and the work we do...from not enough money to buy supplies and pay bills, to creative blocks, to having physical challenges, to people not plunking down money to buy our images. As much resistance as we get, we have to keep on stepping...and sure that's tough...mostly mentally. But our art is one with us, so even if we try to deny it, or turn our backs on it, it will return.
I'm glad your art has returned Moshe! (and cut out that "emerging" are an artist!)

Denice Peters
I can relate totally! I have just come off one of those "hiatus" times myself! I let it waste way too much time. I am going to have to be stricter with that monster! I am glad I am not alone though! Thanks!

Diana Moses Botkin
Some days, or during some paintings I wonder if I forgotten how to paint. And I expect most artists have periods of burnout, or just needing a break to recharge the creative batteries.

An artist I took a workshop from a few years ago revealed he sometimes felt like an imposter. This man has a list of important awards and collectors as long as he is tall.

When life stresses, constant deadlines, and other pressures close in, something has to give. It doesn't hurt to take some time to read, clean the studio, work in the garden, enjoy family and friends, take a workshop, rest, pray, and get some sunshine. Even God took a sabbath rest after creation.

Donald Fox
Creating anything positive is an act of courage. Certainly creating art is a courageous act. So is airing your doubts in a forum that will bounce around cyberspace forever. That act of courage, though, as attested to by responses here, can inspire courage in others. Thanks for expressing your courage in a creative way.

Susan Koon
Wow I can really relate. When I decided to follow my dreams I first met resistance as "what do you have to contribute/say with your art?" That one held me for awhile but I pushed past the doubt. Then my life became so overwhelming with responsibility for my 92 year old father who is bed bound and three grandsons who are my wards. It is hard every day to push past resistance but when I don't keep at it I feel lost with out my art. Art and all the prep to get it done complete me in a way that is hard to explain. My drive is also contagious and all of my grandsons have picked up the "bug" to create. With the help and support of my family resistance will fail and my art will continue.

Teresa Tromp
I don't suppose anyone wants to hear about how God has a wonderful (artistic) path for us, and the "accuser" (the devil) is always going to work on your mind, trying to convince you that you are not worthy, and will never make it.

So I won't talk about it.

Betty Pieper
Moshe, You of all people....Even though I don't read much online I have always wondered at and admired your sense of how to share your work and your gifts. How to blend the marketing with the personal and build it and bend it but not to pervert it so that others can share in a kind of creative experience. Tell me it is you I'm remembering like that! So I'm glad 'you're back' accepting your art and gift! I like the comment from the book about art as more than commerce. I THINK...but what do I know...that that is kind of what Morley Safer was trying to say...that art needs to demonstrate also talent and giftedness. And now there is this firestorm about
what he said and it makes me glad I'm old and don't even do facebook! Take care. Believe in you. We do.

Brian Sherwin
Moshe -- I noticed your absence... but assumed that you were on an extended vacation. Bravo to you for displaying courage in vanquishing the resistance that held you back... this was a very personal and open article.

You said, "I was overwhelmed by that multi-headed monster, which told me that I am not a real artist. That I am not good enough. That I am a fraud. That I cannot give advice to other people while I have not succeeded much on my own.". Your experience is important -- and you know it has helped people. At the end of the day, that is all that matters.

I know that some people, even with FASO comments at times, choose to knock us for our efforts -- or simply downplay our experience while shouting out about their own. It can get frustrating when people choose to 'step' on something you've put your heart and soul into. Your experience is important... never forget that.

I've seen the 'you don't know what you are talking about because I've done this for decades' type of comments... and the 'I've made *any high dollar amount* and know more about this topic than you' type comments. You can't let that stuff get to you. Do what you do -- it is clear that people enjoy your views. Keep sharing.

Brian Sherwin
Moshe -- I noticed your absence... but assumed that you were on an extended vacation. Bravo to you for displaying courage in vanquishing the resistance that held you back... this was a very personal and open article.

You said, "I was overwhelmed by that multi-headed monster, which told me that I am not a real artist. That I am not good enough. That I am a fraud. That I cannot give advice to other people while I have not succeeded much on my own.". Your experience is important -- and you know it has helped people. At the end of the day, that is all that matters.

I know that some people, even with FASO comments at times, choose to knock us for our efforts -- or simply downplay our experience while shouting out about their own. It can get frustrating when people choose to 'step' on something you've put your heart and soul into. Your experience is important... never forget that.

I've seen the 'you don't know what you are talking about because I've done this for decades' type of comments... and the 'I've made *any high dollar amount* and know more about this topic than you' type comments. You can't let that stuff get to you. Do what you do -- it is clear that people enjoy your views. Keep sharing.

Moshe Mikanovsky
Wow, thank you everyone for the warm welcome-back and sharing of the feelings, I am feeling blessed right now, reading all your comments!

Since that day I wrote the post couple of weeks ago, I am asking myself "Did I give a gift today already?". Most of the days its easy to answer, because I know I did. When its a bit harder, I remember about the things I have put out there, and new people find them every day, read them, enjoy the artwork, and I know it touched someone today even if I gave the gift awhile back...

It is good to be back!

Love you all

Susan Holland
Moshe--- take a look at the watercolor titled Battered Life (interestingly enough), that you share at this link: percent20moshe-mikanovsky-battered-life-12x36x1.5-watercolours-2011.jpg.jpg

If that sensitive and skillfully rendered painting is not created by an artist, then how did it get created?

I say BRAVO, too, along with others who really struggle with that feeling of uselessness and fatigue, and who hang on to the vision and the impetus through it and come out strong and validated. YES, there is an artist who will be OUT...

May you come to thank your hard months when you see what that drought brought to your new work.

I'm celebrating your rebirth this spring... YAY.

jo allebach
Thank you for your honest article and everyone's comments. I have had to take a few days off because i am moving from one apartment to another. I have set up my studio space and put everything in its place. Now what? I can relate to not being able to paint. I think I "forgot". I better get going before it carries on too long. Painting is my life and saves my life every day. I love doing it I just don't know why I have this fear to get back to it. I also know I need to get out there and market - and I have read and lsitened to everyone i can about the approach to galleries and other methoda of getting my work out but still I procrastinate on that one and let that resistence monster win.
I really like the idea of art is a gift. It is a gift to me to be able to be able to do it but having it be a gift even to people who don't buy it per se is a great concept.
I am glad I belong to the FASO community and get the ideas and thoughts of you all.

tom weinkle
Hi Moshe,

Frankly, I missed your posts. I had noticed you were off the grid so to speak. Not having read all the posts above, I will say that I believe we all have these moments. Some moments last longer than others.

I know you have inspired me, I am sure you have inspired others.

I had a few experiences over the past year that helped me to understand that I am painting primarily for my own satisfaction, and to understand my place in the world.

It is a gift to be able to express one's self visually. To me, the act is of expression is what connects us to the world outside.

You are a winner in everyone's eyes.


Ms. Muse walked out my door right after graduation. She spent 10 years, (that's right - 10 years,) searching and looking for a way to create again. She was not happy with 2D even though that is how she was trained.

Finally, this year she discovered the right road (3D) and she has been creating every single day.

She is a chatterbox and won't stop with her ideas. And I must admit she is lovely company.

Never give up. Dry spells can last for an hour up to years. The moment I started calling myself an artist, is one reason why Ms. Muse visits every single day. Hallelujah-Yahoo!

Denice Peters
@ Tereas Tromp, I agree with you. God does have a plan for us whether someone admits it or not. I need to try to remember that it is His talent working through me. That will help me stay on track and keep that doubt monster at bay.

Hi Moshe, I had noticed your absence, I thought life might have got in the it does sometimes! Glad to read your post and thanks for sharing, you gave me a gift today!
I often have times when I feel my work is yuk and I'm no good as an artist... fact is I don't want to do anything else so I just have to keep going. It's good to know I'm not alone.

Barbara Blair
I can really relate to this article and all the comments! Thank you so much Moshe for writing it. I started my art business in 2008, "when everything went down the tubes so fast it didn't touch the sides." (Love this quote that I read recently somewhere.) My monsters and gremlins have been working overtime, mainly on the issues of - is my art good enough yet? Is my art healing enough? (I have a "healing" overview for my life purpose.) Resistance and procrastination have also been big, forcing me to question whether I'm even supposed to be doing art!

In addition I have taken training as an EFT practitioner (Emotional Freedom Technique), which is an amazing technique to release limiting beliefs and negative emotions, using a meridian tapping system. I've been using it on my own issues for quite some time, and have eliminated many layers of old negative programming, (although there's more junk to work on), and have also helped a number of other people. It's a wonderful self-help tool to know.

The reason I bring this up on this blog is because for some time I've been struggling with the question of how can I combine both art and EFT businesses without going into total overwhelm. This blog article and the numerous responses have shown me clearly that there's definitely a need for EFT in the artist community, especially with all the challenges we face.

Carolyn Henderson's comment about the gremlins - "we push them down, move on, but to some extent, they are always there, ready to attack us at our weakest." - is very true. They will keep coming back unless we employ a technique to get rid of them for good, which EFT miraculously does.

So, if this interests anyone and you'd like to find out more about it (perhaps some of you are already aware of EFT), send me an email through my FASO website, and let's have a conversation. I'd love to help any artists I can to get rid of those monsters and create more peace of mind, so they can get on with the business of making fantastic art!

Jacqueline Kinsey
Wow! Huge response to this post!

Jan, I had that quote already written in my true!

This is a similar quote I have in my blog title;

"From now until the end of time no one else will ever see life with my eyes, and I mean to make the best of my chance". (Christopher Morley)

Bruce, very well said.

Sometimes I feel as if I'm walking a tight rope. I am trying to balance my need to create for the sake of the world and my need to put groceries in the fridge.

Donna Robillard
I know just a few months ago I kind of went through a personal questioning concerning my art. It was then I wrote some goals I wanted to accomplish to keep me focused. Almost a month ago we had a death in the family, and I had to be away for most of that time. I am now back home and am ready to get focused on my art again. Even while I was away, I did know what I would do when I returned; and I am reminded often that yes, I am an artist.

Jeanne Lafferty
I got a really good scammer several years ago. It was the one about buying a painting but needing it shipped overseas..etc. I had a lot of fun with it. The longer the 'conversations' between us went on the worse the English became. They, It, kept trying. My favorite line toward to end was how he was 'emailing from his labtop in the Canada. I kept the entire conversation in my FineArtsOnline blog. Fun for me, not so much fun for folks who fall for it. Thanks for reminding people to think twice.

Susan Holland
Jeanne Lafferty, I was unable to resist looking at your blog...the attitude came through on the comment above, and I had to see the art of this fun writer. I found the artwork, but not the article you mention...however I did laugh a lot trying to find it. You are totally fun to read..

Genuine funniness comes wrapped in the trappings of unabashed honesty about real life... someone said something to that effect long ago, and you are a very fine example of that kind of writer.

Your art hints at that too. I love that you do it all. Admiringly, Susan

Carol Schmauder
Good to see you back, Moshe!

That is way all artist need a support group to keep them going during the hard times.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Dear Delila...

I so agree with you.


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