What makes someone an artist? Is it simply the act of creating art? A talent recognized by others? Making money off something purely intended to entertain or inspire?
In Spokane writer Chelsea Martin's humorous and candidly truthful new novel, TELL ME I'M AN ARTIST, protagonist Joey seeks answers to these questions and more. As an art school student in San Francisco, she's struggling with financial and family instability, and to feel accepted by her seemingly more successful artist friends.
Partly inspired by Martin's own experience studying at California College for the Arts, the novel's plot also revolves around Joey's proclivity for procrastination, specifically on an assignment for an elective class.
"I definitely always wanted to write something from that setting, because it's just such a weird place, and I thought class tensions were really heightened in that space," Martin says.
For that final class project, Joey decides to make her own version of Wes Anderson's 1998 film Rushmore, even though she's never seen it. While juggling academic responsibilities, she tries to balance the burden of being poor among wealthy friends, and dealing with her dysfunctional mom and sister, who continuously guilt trip Joey about art school, which they view as a frivolous and selfish pursuit.
Even while Tell Me I'm An Artist distills some of these heavy subjects, Martin does so in her signature breezy, humor-infused style. Joey is unapologetically self-deprecating, but completely relatable in her awkward attempts to fit in and discover her artistic purpose.
"I think being an artist takes a ton of confidence, like, you just have to really believe in yourself and think that what you're doing is good and will work out and people will be interested in it," Martin says. "That level of confidence is really, really hard to maintain."