Outsider No More by
(90 Stories)

Prompted By Finding Your Tribe

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My tribe has been around since the stone age. Our people are infused with the spirit. The spirit of creativity. We are Artists.

I always had a sense of something missing, of being on the outside of myself.

Pomposity aside, artists often say they’ve discovered their tribe. I’ve actually held out until now — because what is a tribe without a leader? Well, this is going to get a little woo-woo, but here goes. Almost any artist would (or should) tell you something along these lines: Although learning and hard work might play a role at some point down the line, the creative “spirit,” inspiration, is something that moves through you. You can’t claim it; it comes not from within but from…without. Back in the early 14th century, inspiration referred to a divine influence upon a person, from a divine entity. That’s good enough for me. Because that said, I can tell the rest of this story without fear that you’ll think I’m egotistical or bragging. Because I had little control over what transpired. I just followed the leader.

Libras are supposedly creative, but for the first half of my life, I felt as if I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. As a student I excelled in English, gained office skills in junior college, then become a secretary and then a court reporter. I was, as we say, a “left brain” person which served me well as a single mother supporting a child on my own, but I always had a sense of something missing, of being on the outside of myself. And since I’d never felt like I fit in anywhere, I was perpetually on the outside looking in.

Until, in my 40s, married to my second husband, my daughter now grown, I was browsing in a bookstore and just happened to pick up and glance through a photography book featuring something called a Polaroid image transfer. It gave me the impression that I could transform a simple photograph into something that looked like a painting.

I did some research and, armed with little more than a Polaroid camera, an eye for composition and some inexpensive equipment, set to work. I’ll never forget that feeling when I made my first image transfer and transformed it into a handmade holiday card. Magic! That was it. A door had opened, along with a new lexicon, and the tools of the trade. Different types of Polaroid film enabled me to create a variety of what are known as “alternative photography” techniques. I remember taking a photo of my daughter when she was at work as a hostess at the oh-so-trendy restaurant RED, transforming it on the spot, and her showing it to her cohorts claiming “Look, my mom is an artist!”

I was an artist! I’d always been artist — I just didn’t know it. Now I simply exploded with ideas. Over time I would launch a greeting card business, write two how-to books for a major craft publishing house, develop a new photographic process I dubbed the Auratone, author numerous magazine articles, teach, create custom stationery, DIY kits, and host workshops taught by other artists. My brothers like to say I’m always reinventing myself; I feel as if I’ve been reborn.

Please click to read!

The members of my tribe speak a common language — the power to communicate feelings and moods — not just to one another but to others around the globe and across time, using color, value, shape, form, space, and texture. Even non-visual arts — like writing, my fellow tribespeople! — use the very same elements metaphorically. Now that I know the language, I’m an outsider no more, and I never feel alone.

(Note: The images you see here were made over 20 years ago. My interests have expanded! To see my more recent work, please do visit my website…just click on the link in my bio below.)


Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

Visit Author's Website

Tags: art, creativity, inspiration,
Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Marian says:

    I love this, Barbara, and you articulately describe the “within” and “without” of being an artist. It must be synchronicity (which I believe in), so you’ll see in my story almost the exact same line(I’d always been an artist …), except substituting Reconstructionist! Amazing!

  2. Suzy says:

    Barbara, I love the little six-second clip of you talking at the beginning of your story, and have played it about ten times! I hope everyone else listens to it too. This is a lovely story about seeing artists as your tribe. Not a tribe that I consider myself a part of, although you include writers, so maybe I am. I’m so impressed with the art you show us here, as well as the art you allude to. You are so creative! Definitely an Artist with a capital A!

    • Yay, thanks Suzy! I’d love to hear more voices!! And of course if anyone wants to know how, I’m happy to share the process. Of course you’re an artist…with your singing and your writing. You reach us, and others, by expressing your feelings. That’s what it’s all about.

  3. John Shutkin says:

    What a unique and fascinating take on the “tribes” prompt, Barbara! I would never have thought of artists — the classic outsiders, as you note — of themselves constituting a tribe. (Of course, I’m not an artist.) And yet they clearly are as you so beautifully describe. And, like Suzy, I love your inclusion of your own clip talking about it.

    So thank you, both for a fascinating story about tribes and for letting me rethink the whole concept. But, as I think of it, that’s what artists are supposed to do, right?

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    I love this, Barb. Wish I could have taken one of your workshops because I think I would have loved it. Of course, I do not have the creative eye you have, so there’s that. The sound clip was awesome. I will have to try that if I ever crawl out from the COVID-19 mess and sell my house and move. You belong to a tribe I greatly admire.

    • Thanks, Laurie. The workshops were so much fun, wish you could have taken one, too. And I don’t know about your creative eye, but based on what I’ve read here on Retrospect and in your book, you certainly have a creative mind!

  5. Nice going, Barbara. We are a tribe, we sometimes artists, sometimes craftspersons, sometimes workers, sometimes failures. But through it all, I have found a Japanese concept ikigai to be extremely helpful when I begin to wobble off my centrifugal path: from an introduction to a piece I am working on currently: “I can continue my journey through ikigai, my purpose in life, what gets me up in the morning and steers me straight ahead, into the world’s chaos.
    When I’m in touch with my ikigai my belly begins to swell, my cheeks fill, and my smile broadens. Without wasting time with self-awareness, I am doing it, the foolish path I chose to follow on earth, in our corporeal dimension. I am best at describing ikigai, my buddha self’s path in response to a simple compound sentence written by Bertolt Brecht — Change the world; it needs it.” Keep the faith, Barbara!

    • Charles! Just what I needed! Ikigai is my new favorite word and concept. I will play with it tomorrow as I try to relax and create to stave off my increasing anxiety, and with some Japanese paper and Sumi ink, I’ll change the world a tiny bit. I hope to see the piece you’re working on. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

      • Glad I could be of service, Barbara. Is your featured pic one of your colorized pics? It seems to carry the same message as your title — “Outside no more.”

        • Yes, the feature pic is a Polaroid SX-70 manipulation…the colors are in the film, basically I just moved them around before they had a chance to set. Nice that you noticed that subtle connection to the message…it wasn’t planned but I was pleased when it just worked out that way.

  6. Wonderful and impressive BB, now I understand your interest in the photo my husband took of my sister that I posted last week.

    What an admirable talent you have, brava BB!

    mentioned was taken by my husband

  7. Betsy Pfau says:

    Absolutely a tribe, Barb! I’ve been on the board of an art museum for years, I follow the work of MANY artists, know lots of them, a breed unto themselves. Wonderful, creative people. We paid a LOT to have a show of one at our museum a few years and he gave a TERRIBLE lecture. Walking back to my car with another board member after, we shook our heads. Just because he could MAKE art didn’t mean he could TALK about it. But you can do both! You are articulate, funny, creative, thoughtful. You are a member of a very special tribe, Barbara.

    • You are too sweet, Betsy, thank you so much! I might have to create a mock “review” using your words and tack it up on my wall! But I should admit that years ago I was one of those artists you described…I just went blank when presenting to a group, and it’s an awful feeling! I felt so bad afterwards, and still do to this day. But artists are also notorious introverts, and speaking in front of a group is an art in itself!

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