Artists are inherently storytellers, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started down this artist path, it’s how to talk to other artists. I can think of a million questions to ask them because I sincerely want to hear their stories. On Saturday morning my husband and I took a walk around our neighborhood. There is nothing unusual about that, but this particular day we found a display of digital photography printed on stretched canvas hanging from a series of grids set up in a front yard. The photographer, as it turns out, is our neighbor, and he frequents the art festival circuit in and around Metro Atlanta. You can view his work at dobbsphotography.com (David A Dobbs, Fine Art Photography).
In the course of my inquiries about selling art in festivals and artist markets, he admitted that some of the bigger festivals are hard to get juried into, because “Everyone’s an artist.” I found that to be an intriguing comment. It DOES seem that more and more people are calling themselves artists these days. It may be because of the company I keep, but as my friends retire from their careers, they are nearly all picking up brushes, markers, clay, pens, wood, etc., and expressing themselves differently than they have in previous decades. I assume it’s a phenomenon of us Baby Boomers—told as children and teens that we are “free” to be ourselves, that anything goes, that we should “let it all hang out.” Instead of following popular thought, most of us towed the line like generations before us, married heterosexually, made babies and raised Gen-Xers and Millenials, held jobs and careers, bought houses in the ‘burbs, and got damned good at making and saving money. I have assumed that there is a lot of gray hair at art shows because as representatives of our generation, we’re all trying to recover some of what we lost of ourselves in the intervening responsible years. (Just look at our poster child former President George W. in his retirement.)
My neighbor the photographer is as gray-haired and grizzled as the rest of our generation. He makes his own business cards. The day of his yard sale he wore a sweaty well-worn tee-shirt inside out. But he spends his real life photographing his world, digitally enhancing it on his home computer, printing out and framing his pictures in his basement, and travelling around peddling his wares. Like the rest of us in this modest suburban neighborhood of tiny 60-year-old brick ranch homes, he lives with a crumbling driveway and exhausted trees. But his unique vision of the world is full of bright color and movement, and I applaud him for telling his story.
We won’t many of us get wealthy as artists this late in life, but maybe, just maybe, the process of doing it brings us closer to who we really are and helps us let go of who we became.