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“Oh, are you an artist?”

by James N. Gibson

For the longest time I dreaded this question. I may be sitting in a park or a café and be doodling on a notebook, napkin, or table cloth. A curious onlooker might approach and the question would come.

“Oh, are you an artist?”

My breath gets caught in my chest.

Am I an artist? I don’t know. I like art. I have created for as long as I can remember. People have requested works. I have even been paid for drawings! But am I really? I mean really, really an artist?

If I say, “yes.” What am I promising them? What am I promising myself? What am I saying about myself? What if they think that I think I am better than I really am? I mean based on this doodle it looks like I can barely draw. What if? What if? What if? “What ifs” start falling like raindrops in a sudden Texas thunderstorm, heavy and abundant?

I mean what does “artist” even mean?

“A person skilled in a particular task or occupation.” (“Oxford Languages”, via Google 2021)

It is only recently that I have learned of the term “Imposter Syndrome.” For those of you who may not have heard of this term it is defined as:

“The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills” (“Oxford Languages”, via Google 2021)

So yeah, I guess I am an artist. I mean aren’t I? But wait. What about the Dunning-Kruger effect?

“A cognitive bias whereby people with limited knowledge or competence in a given intellectual or social domain greatly overestimate their own knowledge their own competence in that domain relative to objective criteria or to the performance of their peers or of people in general” (“” 2021)

…maybe I am not a real artist.

My usual answer, “I don’t know; I like to draw.”

Wait, wait, wait, wait… Hold up! It doesn’t have to be this hard.

I have been trying to learn to take a breath and calm my mind. I remind myself, this kind, curious, passerby is not asking me under oath. Heck! They are not even asking for a portfolio or resume. In fact, regardless of their intention, they have paid me the complement that at the very least, my current creation or the process of making it was intriguing to them. Ultimately, that is my whole goal in the end; I hope to get enough intrigue to get someone to stop and look or comment.

I have decided, as it turns out I am an artist. Not because of the quality of my work. Not because of the money my work has brought in. Not even because others have chosen to call me an artist. I am an artist because I enjoy creating. I love to make interesting things that make people stop and look. On a good day they may even make them think! I am an artist because I have decided to be one.

I can remember my first significant art memory (I was five years old). I remember the first time my art was formally recognized (I was in second grade: I won a poster contest for the book fair). I remember my first real sale (a portrait of a coworker’s mother). My first and only art job (caricatures at Sea World of Texas). I recently opened my own studio (Creative 101), where I work side by side with wonderful artists who create for the love of creating and try to pass that on to another generation. My name is James Gibson, and I am 46 years old. I am an artist.


First strike. James is a tea guy. Second strike. He doesn’t drink alcohol. Strike three! He doesn’t follow baseball either. Mr. Gibson and his wife own Creative 101 LLC in San Angelo, Texas. Creative 101 is a cooperative studio where he teaches, learns and creates. While his roots are in drawing he enjoys experimenting with any creative medium. He’s dabbled in writing, poetry, and music but recently decided to narrow his focus to watercolor and ink until something else catches his eye. His artwork is illustrative and tends towards the fanciful. If you are in San Angelo stop by and say hi.

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