Imposter Syndrome in the Arts

The following guest blog post is contributed by Huron River Art Collective member Edwina Murphy. Pears & Honey was accepted by Juror John Gutosky into the Collective’s Fall Juried Exhibit, 2022.

The difference between art and craft is frequently debated by both participants and observers. A closely linked debate is that of Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome: The feeling some artists have that make them feel that they will be found out as not being a true artist.

Imposter Syndrome is not unique to the arts but is rampant in many fields of work. Is a person an artist if they make their living selling art they produce? Are they an artist if they hold a Bachelor of Fine Art from an accredited organization? 

I, unabashedly, say that I am an Archivist with a camera as that is my profession.

Still life photograph of orange roses and white flowers in a bowl, near a braided loaf of bread, green grapes, and three pears.
Photograph by Edwina Murphy
A still life historically has been used to convey a variety of meanings, opulence, wealth, spirituality. In this image, Honey and Pears, wealth is redefined as gifts provided by bees and other pollinators. The beauty of flowers, the sweetness of honey and the nutrients of bread and fruit are all made possible by pollinators. If opulent gifts are gilded in gold, then how valuable is the humble bee? 

Perhaps I also say it as I witnessed two friends debate the divide between art and craft for years mainly as a disinterested party. The archivist in the room that really had no skin in the debate. One friend attended the Art Institute of Chicago and holds a degree while the other holds a completely unrelated degree but does the most stunning detailed and creative original art books.

Meanwhile, my profession started to change and suddenly I was tasked with creating social media posts for a sizable organization. I quickly learned that these almost always required a photograph or graphic design to garner any attention. As a result, my effort was diverted away from such things as copyright laws towards color wheels and layers in Photoshop. It genuinely made a difference if the colors were correct in the graphic design. Contrast between backgrounds and fonts mattered. The style of font could set the tone for the item or event that was being featured.

A job change later and I was now working in a museum handling both documents and artifacts. Part of my job was to take photographs for inventory purposes and social media. I was given a point and shoot camera and was very unhappy with most of the photographs. It was a paper document that made me realize that something had to change radically. I was very accustomed to working with old paper, think 1400 to the mid-1980s. Yet, the item that turned the tide was less than two years old at the time. However, in the photos, it looked so dingy that it could have been decades old. The photos made me cringe.

 I purchased a camera and enrolled in a formal photography class. I did so specifically to take photos of museum objects, but the reality is that the skills needed for artifacts are instantly transferrable to most objects. Working with natural daylight is a bit different but, in the end, it is still controlling light.

Hence, perhaps I and people like me, should feel Imposter Syndrome pertaining to being an artist. I earnestly strive to get photos as realistic as possible so one could argue that there is not much artistic effort in my work. After all, it is commonly thought that a bee is yellow and black so a realistic image should feature those colors. However, upon close inspection there is a good amount of iridescent on a bee’s wings and capturing those shades so that they are visible is the work of manipulating the light and is perhaps the work of an artist.

Photograph by Edwina Murphy

Is a graphic designer who is tasked with making eye-catching social media posts an artist or an imposter? Ditto with designers who set up professional web pages. In 2022 when most marketing is done online either through websites or social media almost everyone has encountered a website that they found pleasing to the eye. In good websites there is a consistency of color and tonal range which people respond to favourably even if they don’t register the underlying factors, not unlike art.

Imposter Syndrome is a real factor for many people. Enough so, that it may inhibit people from sharing their work. It is a difficult feat to put your handiwork out into the world for either open or silent critique. Art is highly personal. However, I would argue with anyone experiencing Imposter Syndrome that by not sharing their work, they make the world a little less colorful, a good bit less delightful. Sure, some people may not be attracted to your efforts or may not understand your work. However, for every piece of art there is an audience and sharing your efforts is like bringing a dish to a potluck where one is contributing to the shared human experience.

If you look at your work and it makes you genuinely happy, feel free to call yourself an artist.

Edwina Murphy is the digital archivist for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and has worked for the University of Michigan, State of Michigan, and the Arab American National Museum. She holds a Master of Information and Library Science degree and is a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists.  Her photography training was courtesy of the Cornell University School of Architecture, Art, and Planning in New York. She has over ten years of experience working with websites, social media, and digital content. She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and three dogs, Jeffy, Jolie and Petey. To inquire about purchasing artwork by Edwina Murphy, email:

Huron River Art Collective’s Fall Juried Exhibit can be seen at the Ann Arbor District Library (lower level) through the Reception on November 13th, 2-4p. Artwork is available for purchase directly from the artists with no commission. Join us at the reception to hear from the Juror, John Gutosky, and for awards.

All members are invited to submit guest blog posts. For Guest Blog Post Guidelines, please email

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