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Illustrator, Artist, Maker or Doodler?

Thinking stick figure

What am I – an illustrator, artist, maker or doodler? There’s a podcast I often listen to that interviews people who sell what they make on Etsy. It’s called Etsy Conversations and one of the questions the host Ijeoma often asks her guests is how they describe themselves – as an artist, a maker or a crafter. It’s a question I love to hear the various answers to, but it’s one I feel quite uncomfortable answering myself.

Part of this is down to my lack of formal arty training. I loved and did well at art at school, and considered doing Fine Art at university. After going through the interview process though I chickened out before I even found out whether I’d got a place. Although I’m still not sure that would’ve been the right path for me, I do often wish I’d studied something more creative, perhaps graphic design or similar.

So getting back into drawing now that I’m much older, I have this constant nagging feeling that I’m not ‘doing it right’ or that I’m just pretending to be an ‘artist’. Even typing that sentence makes me cringe because I really don’t consider myself an artist. I’m also not entirely comfortable calling myself an illustrator, as I don’t have the commercial background or training that a ‘real’ illustrator would have. (Sorry, too many quote marks!)

Another part of it is that I’m not doing this full time – I still have a day job three days a week. When people ask me what I do I usually end up giving a very confused answer as I still think they’re asking about my employment but know that I need to let people know about my drawing too…

So what am I?

I’ve always liked making stuff. My hobbies have ranged from making greeting cards and wedding stationery by hand, to making jewellery and tiaras, to knitting jumpers and painting furniture. So although I’m now designing my cards and then having them printed externally, I still think of myself more as a crafter or maker than anything else. Though this brings to mind images of a little old lady sitting at her kitchen table making tea cosies… (I will probably be that little old lady in another 20 years or so!)

I like thinking of myself as a doodler too. It takes the pressure off, so I feel like I can just enjoy drawing without worrying about whether what I produce is any good or not. And it sounds fun, so I feel like I’m playing rather than working when I do it 🙂

I know I’m not the only one who has trouble having the confidence to call themselves an artist or whatever. There is even an official term for it – imposter syndrome. Wikipedia’s description of imposter syndrome says the following:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

Perhaps I should just stop worrying about what I call myself. It’s all just labels anyway. I’m just happy that I get to do something I love with a decent sized chunk of my time. If people like what I make enough to buy my cards or prints then that is just a very fabulous bonus 🙂