Now, I'm sure what I'm saying here might ruffle a few feathers. It's easy to split hairs regarding the use of this term, and there's a certain sense of pride in calling oneself "self-taught". I totally get it! There's often no formal training to learn to knit or paint or draw or use a camera. I'm not discounting that there is a great deal of personal dedication required to learn a skill without a formal educational system to push and reward us as students. We don't have papers to turn in, tests to take, and our efforts are not assigned grades by which we can gauge our successes and failures. We should, as creative souls, be proud of our accomplishments but, in doing so, should not forget those from whom we've gleaned even the smallest enrichment during our creative journeys.
And I'm not saying that there maybe isn't someone out there in the world who truly did learn and improve their skills without those resources I mentioned above. There are clearly a few creative savants in the world who, from birth, hold a degree of talent that can't be learned. But I'm confident in asserting we can all be improved upon and improvement comes often as a result of influence by others.
While I never attended a school to learn to wire wrap, to draw, or to take a passable portrait of my cat, I watched endless videos, purchased tutorials (thank you Eni Oken, IMNIUM, Lonely Soldier Designs, Iza Malczyk, to name a few), scrolled through many a DIY magazine at my local craft store, and joined creative communities where I could ask questions and explore possibilities. I would not be where I am without the influence and work of others and, therefore, couldn't confidently (nor honestly) call myself "self-taught".
But let's split hairs (because I know a few are probably dying to do so). Self-taught is defined as "having acquired knowledge or skill on one's own initiative rather than through formal instruction or training" and, as such, implies that many of us creatives would fall within these parameters. But this also implies that we learn without the help or aid of teachers. This, to me, ignores the influence of talented souls we meet and who inspire us to be better. What are those individuals who provide us with videos, articles and lessons if not our teachers? Without these influences, I'm not sure I'd have had that initiative to explore my talents and improve upon them. Please keep in mind, this is my perception of the term and I how I chose to personally relate to it, and I understand others may not agree. But it doesn't fill my heart with joy to congratulate myself on my successes without recognizing the work others have done to help pave my way.
So no, I am not a "self-taught" artist. I am a self-learner. I take the initiative to read those articles, watch those videos, try those lessons all in an effort to improve my skills. But those resources are provided by teachers. And I intend to express how grateful I am for the gifts they've given me, and that I am eternally, thankfully, their student.
But, no matter how you learn, or how you define your journey and your successes, I wish you all one important thing..... a long, creative life!
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