worthy of worth

I’ve had this post in my drafts folder for weeks. This isn’t the kind of post I usually write, but I feel beyond compelled to put this out into the world as loudly as I possibly can…

The word WORTH has been coming up for me over and over and over again in the last few years. When that happens, I know it’s time to listen. Now, this wasn’t my original plan, but the idea of “worth” has become the cornerstone of the latest talk I’ve been giving as I travel around to promote my new book, “A BIG IMPORTANT ART BOOK – Now With Women”. Here’s why:

In late 2016 I started thinking about this new book, and I had a flashback to being a first year art student in the early 1990s. I remember, very clearly, asking my art history professor why we weren’t learning about any female artists. Surely Frida and Georgia weren’t the only women who had ever made art? He assured me that there were thousands of women who had been creating for centuries, however, “they weren’t considered worthy enough to be documented”. Not worthy? Well, thank goodness that was in the past… right?

The next time worth, or lack thereof, raised its head was probably later that year as a freshman in art school. I’d been playing with humor-based work, and was told by my painting professor {I’m paraphrasing, but it went a little something like this}“It’s already bad enough that you’re a woman, but if you use humor too? Well, you’ll never be taken seriously as an artist.” Not worthy?

There were so many more experiences through my twenties, both in my personal life and as an artist, that fed into doubts about my self-worth… but those crappy stories of abuse are for another day. Let’s jump ahead to early 2017. I was ready to pitch this new book… my fourth book. I’d already had success with my books on creative blocks and inner critics, and now I wanted to write a big important art book that focused on women. I own so many big important art books but, when you flip through them, there are rarely more than a handful of female artists … if any. How is that possible in this day and age? Well, never mind, I was about to do my part to change that. So I pitched the book. It was rejected. Apparently “it was too niche… people won’t buy a book about women artists.” So I pitched it to four more publishers. I heard exactly the same thing. “It’s too niche… people won’t buy a book about women artists.” Was I seriously being told that female artists still weren’t considered worthy enough to be documented? IN 2017? I was furious and frustrated… and did I mention furious? Thankfully, it only takes one publisher to say yes, and Running Press was that publisher. Oh yes, it was finally time to write a big important art book!

So, shortly after I began writing in 2017, a little something called the #METOO movement began. There were marches all over the world, led by women, demanding to be heard. Our voices have worth. Our ideas have worth. Our bodies have worth. We have worth. I could hear them on the TV in the background as I wrote. They flashed by me in news stories on Facebook and Instagram. The spotlight was being shone brightly on issues of unequal pay, unequal representation from Hollywood to Wall Street – and, of course, horrible stories of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior in every industry, in every corner of the world. Literally every woman I know has at least one story, if not more {unfortunately, I have several of my own} …  hence #METOO. I was furious again.

Early October 2018 – the week the book was to be released – the world held its breath to see if Brett Kavanaugh would be appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Only days before, millions of people watched as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave her testimony about narrowly escaping being raped by him at a party in high school. Surely she was worthy of being believed? Apparently not. F U R I O U S.

Here’s the thing. As women, we’ve been taught to be polite. “Don’t speak up, don’t rock the boat, don’t be a nag, be a good girl”. Add being a creative person to that – male or female – and self-worth can take another hit. Is my work good enough? Does my work matter? Are my ideas important? Can I charge money for [insert anything here]? {…have you ever had someone ask to buy your work, and you either just give it to them for free, or cut them an insane deal? Yeah, me too. Don’t do that anymore.} 

The answer to all of the questions above is a resounding “HELL, YES.” What you do has worth. Your ideas have worth. The experiences that have brought you to this point in your life have worth. And yes, creativity is an absolutely worthy use of your time. When we get busy, why does our creative practice fall to the bottom of our priority list? It falls below picking up the dry cleaning, for crying out loud! That said, you’d think the first step would be making time for your artwork, but there’s one very important thing you have to do first. You have to believe that there’s WORTH in making time. Once you truly believe that, you will make the time – no excuses. You will show up to the studio – no excuses. You will answer “yes” when someone asks if you’re an artist – no excuses. AND, you will never give your work away again. EVER.

You have worth. We all do. In the studio, at home, and in the world.

OWN IT.






comments (33)

  1. Ela /// 11.25.2018 /// 12:01pm

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  2. Anna /// 11.25.2018 /// 12:51pm

    Thank you. I needed to read this not not only as an artist but as a woman. Not feeling worthy as a human being right now. This helped.

  3. Katrin /// 11.25.2018 /// 2:14pm

    VIELEN DANK! Thank you from Germany!

  4. Vicki /// 11.25.2018 /// 2:51pm

    Danielle! You ROCK. Thanks for always speaking up and giving female artists a voice through all that you do X

  5. heather /// 11.25.2018 /// 2:53pm

    this made me sad, because it’s all so true. and, thank you!

  6. Carrie /// 11.25.2018 /// 2:56pm

    And thank goodness women like you are showing up and more and more are saying these thoughts we’ve all had out loud. ❤️

  7. Annette Nieukerk /// 11.25.2018 /// 2:59pm

    Thank you Danielle. This is such an important message. It took me until I was 65 before I learned this – but I’ve got quite a few years left of art making and I will make the most of the coming years to pass on this message. Hopefully many women who see my work and hear my voice will learn their worth earlier than I did!

  8. Naomi /// 11.25.2018 /// 3:16pm

    Oh hell yes! Thanks for this ❤️

  9. Rose Currie /// 11.25.2018 /// 3:20pm

    This has been a theme on my mind for years as well. Another area where women are dismissed is when we get older. We do have worth, we are not invisible and we have a right to exist. Thank you for being a part of the solution.

  10. Nina /// 11.25.2018 /// 3:33pm

    I just assumed your latest book (book proposal) was published without question. Niche?? That’s a polite way of saying “not worthy?” Boggles the mind!!! Bravo to you for going big and bold with it! And for everything you said above! Xx

  11. Dora Cuenca /// 11.25.2018 /// 4:10pm

    Thank you Danielle, for publishing this. Worth is a word that brings me to tears a bit when I try to say it. Tears of sadness and anger. I’m workong on it… but every post, every inspiring work of art, every news about women coming into their own worth allows me to get one step closer to mine… so thank you!

  12. Amanda /// 11.25.2018 /// 4:45pm

    I still feel worthless. Late art school gave me plenty of distinctions, but so much debt it wasn’t worth finishing with no hope of earning enough to pay it back. Too old to find another job, I wait on my family in return for my keep, feeling worse than I did before.

  13. Hannah /// 11.25.2018 /// 5:10pm

    And to this I say “hear, hear!” I looked up the origin of that term and it was derived from “hear him.” So, I am changing it to “hear her.” Thanks for the reminder of every woman’s worth!

  14. Mandy Behrens /// 11.25.2018 /// 7:19pm

    As a female artist and mother of two teenage daughters I am extremely grateful for your work, your words, and your encouragement. We are worth it. LOVE your latest book — thank you Danielle! xo

  15. the jealous curator /// 11.25.2018 /// 9:04pm

    Thank YOU… all of you. Thanks for reading, thanks for ‘getting it’, and thanks for being ‘my people’. xo

  16. Jane /// 11.25.2018 /// 11:29pm

    THANK YOU! Lovely and poignant article. Recent events are teaching us more and more that there is a need to redefine and re-evaluate women’s worth. As a mother of a daughter (and two sons), I owe this to my kids to show them that I am worthy (and they, in turn, will learn that THEY are worthy) when I/we value our work and selves and that we MUST keep pushing forward.

  17. claire /// 11.26.2018 /// 2:21am

    Wow Amen to all that. Worth and worthiness is such a struggle but we are worthy and charging properly for out time and work is hugely important. Thanks for being such and inspiration Danielle.

  18. Sarah Rayner /// 11.26.2018 /// 3:30am

    All so true..well said Danielle !!

  19. Amy Maricle /// 11.26.2018 /// 3:38am

    Thank you so much for this powerful post, Danielle! We need to hear these words loud and clear, over and over. Yes, you have worth, your ideas matter, your stories matter, your thoughts and your art, and your efforts matter. This is what it takes to begin etching away at the “get smaller” message we get as women. Thank you, Danielle.

  20. Francesca Colussi /// 11.26.2018 /// 4:00am

    […] self-worth can take another hit. Is my work good enough? Does my work matter? Are my ideas important? Can I charge money for [insert anything here]? {…have you ever had someone ask to buy your work, and you either just give it to them for free, or cut them an insane deal? […]
    touché!
    […] creativity is an absolutely worthy use of your time. When we get busy, why does our creative practice fall to the bottom of our priority list? It falls below picking up the dry cleaning, for crying out loud! […]
    touché, again…
    I’m going to print your post now, very big, and I’ll stick it in front of my desk.
    Thanks,
    Francesca Colussi

  21. Stefania Ragnarsdóttir /// 11.26.2018 /// 4:45am

    Thanks for this post!

  22. Vivien /// 11.26.2018 /// 6:39am

    ❤️❤️❤️

  23. Clemsy Xue /// 11.26.2018 /// 6:40am

    This is great. Thank you. Those words resonate a lot, to me and others. Thanks you.

  24. Anna Sandgren /// 11.26.2018 /// 7:09am

    WORD SISTER ❤️

  25. Michael /// 11.26.2018 /// 8:47am

    One of the most important pieces of writing you’ve ever created and such an important message. Keep creating! You are WORTH it.

  26. Gilly Gil-Lugo /// 11.26.2018 /// 11:10am

    WOOPWOOP!!! Preach sister!

  27. Emily /// 11.26.2018 /// 1:09pm

    Thank you!

  28. Jessica Amos /// 11.26.2018 /// 3:47pm

    Thank you for this. Thank you, thank you! Still following you every day and love watching how you are owning yourself and changing the world. Seriously, I adore you!! <3 xoxo

  29. Jackie Basham /// 11.26.2018 /// 4:44pm

    Holy Smokes. It’s time!!!!!!!

  30. Anne Schwankhart /// 11.27.2018 /// 8:00am

    YES and thank you!!!

  31. Tara /// 11.29.2018 /// 4:02am

    Wow! This is excellent. I really needed to hear this right now. Thank you so much for writing this. It’s good to know those self doubts aren’t just in *my* head, but in the heads of other women too. Thank you.

  32. the jealous curator /// 11.29.2018 /// 7:40am

    thank you, tara : )

  33. Meredith Stoudenmire /// 12.05.2018 /// 6:06pm

    Your dad was right, you do have an amazing way of inspiring people. This moment in time is special for women and I think your words will make history. They are worth a lot to all of us.