The Question That Never Goes Away

10 Jul 2012

"Am I an Artist?" I can't help but wonder how many nuclear physicists get up out of bed each morning and ask themselves whether they are nuclear physicists. Granted, if one is a nuclear physicist, one has concrete evidence of the fact--education, background, job title, and hours of working each day with whatever it is that nuclear physicists work with--but an artist has a few concrete pieces of evidence as well:

"Am I a fisherman?" You've got a boat, you head out to sea, you catch fish, and you come home. The question answers itself. Peruvian Fisherman by Steve Henderson.
"Am I a fisherman?" You've got a boat, you head out to sea, you
catch fish, and you come home. The question answers itself.
Peruvian Fisherman by Steve Henderson.
Paint; canvas; brushes; paper; pencils; clay; some sort of easel, palette, or workspace--all of which are jumbled together somehow to create an oil painting, a drawing, sculpture, piece of jewelry, or some other product that others look at and call "art."

So it would only make sense to call the person who made it an "artist." Ah, but nothing in life is simple, and many people--some of whom are nuclear physicists--work at a day job and do art on the side, in the evenings, on the weekends, in place of eating lunch--and while what they produce looks like a painting or a sculpture or a piece of jewelry, they torture themselves by asking all the time, "Am I an artist? Am I a real artist?"

Some people ask themselves this so much that they stop producing whatever artwork they have been producing, until they can get an answer to the question.

But to some extent, does it really matter? And whose definition of "artist" are you using anyway?

This is what I recommend: go ahead, keep asking yourself the question if you insist, but don't stop creating whatever it is that you create, and don't let the question fill your mind and crowd out ideas for your next piece of work. Your next piece of artwork, that is.

Does this question crowd your mind? Leave a comment and let me know.

--Carolyn


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Comments

KatPaints wrote
on 11 Jul 2012 9:04 PM

"but don't stop creating whatever it is that you create"

Yes this is the key ... to keep creating. And if you are like me....someone who let confusion--about the thought of what to paint, what to say, what direction to take...and let it paralyzed you, remember that tomorrow is another day. We generally don't have all the answers when we start, they seem to unfold as time continues on. I have learned to keep creating even if it is imperfect.

Good posts Carolyn, thanks

streganona wrote
on 14 Jul 2012 9:48 AM

Uh, yeah. I was almost afraid to read it for fear I might find out I wasn't an artist and I had to give myself a "good talking to" before I clicked on "read more". Silly me. I am an artist because I make art.

jbqdgq wrote
on 14 Jul 2012 10:03 AM

Somehow I just don't think of it that way. I enjoy mixing paint, pushing it around on the canvas, and changing what I don't like. The doing is fun so I do it. I guess you can say I am not serious. I like going to a museum and looking at the paintings there so should I worry if I am a viewer?

Rich Mason wrote
on 14 Jul 2012 10:13 AM

If you enjoy making whatever type of art you do and produce then I'd say your an artist;  Now this might be followed by what plagues most of us,  am I a good artist? This question will be answered by whomever you hope to sell your product to.  If you work just for fun then It don't make any difference what people think, your the judge. and critic of your work.\Rich

AngelaV wrote
on 14 Jul 2012 3:10 PM

How do you know you're an artist?. . .

You need to create as much as you need to breathe."

—Michael Gormley, Editorial Director American Artist

This is the subjective definition I choose.  It requires neither talent, nor vision, nor work, nor quality, nor quantity, nor popularity, nor does it even imply skill.  It just is who you are, or aren't.  I say I am an artist because when I am not creating, I feel dead inside.  Yes, I aspire to be skilled, yearn for more talent, and secretly hope for popularity; but those really have nothing to do with the unquenchable passion for creating that defines me as an artist.

Deep inside, though, I still struggle with the notion that talent or skill or popularity or something else governs how I use the term in public!

So, yes, Carolyn, the question does crowd my mind from time to time.  Using Michael Gormley's definition gave me peace.  Each day I feel more and more comfortable with the label and with my right to use it in spite of my imperfections.  Because it is very likely that those imperfections are what spurn the forward movement of the creative process eventually leading to improved skill and popularity etc., etc.  

Thank you.

on 14 Jul 2012 4:44 PM

I used to question whether or not my experiments with words and fibre were the works of an artist, but I don't any more. I just enjoy the artistic process. I invoke the spirit of making every chance I get and call the results art.  Why not?

jomac70 wrote
on 14 Jul 2012 8:12 PM

This is a  question I have often asked myself, I eventually decided the answer was, probably no,  I am a amateur painter, who loves painting plein air, for a amateur I am not bad, so I call myself a Painter, I paint landscapes, still life or anything that takes my interest, I am not guided by what I may sell, I have not entered an exhibition in years although I have sold a  in most of the ones I entered.  so what is an Artist? I think the defining line is that an Artist can paint from creative mind, whereas a painter paints what he see's  sometimes  creatively as you never paint quite what you see but what you can make of  what you see or you try,  I think the Artist Paints the " the emotion of what he feels when he ponders the subject "  maybe I am nuts anyway that is what I think, over to you for comment   john

robbmck wrote
on 15 Jul 2012 7:10 AM

I paint or draw everyday; I have paintings covering the walls and stacked on the floor of a spare bedroom I call my studio; people tell me they love my work, but they are friends and family so they have to be 'nice'.  I do ask am I a real artist? Do I need to sell something first? Do I need a gallery show?  I find the answer when alone in my studio painting...I am an artist.

momofmaple wrote
on 23 Jul 2012 8:54 AM

I have been painting and drawing, part time, for just over 2 years and always ask myself, " when does one call ones self an artist?  When do we stop being students?"  I don't believe I will ever be done with being a student.   I am taking classes at the Wallkill River School in Montgomery NY and l love the whole experience.  I found this articles timing remarkable.  Just this week I decided that I was not going to wonder about this anymore.... I am going to keep painting and just enjoy everything that I get from it.  I can only hope that my love of the world around me will show in my paintings   and if anyone else enjoys viewing my paintings as much as I enjoy making them my mission is accomplished....

momofmaple wrote
on 23 Jul 2012 8:54 AM

I have been painting and drawing, part time, for just over 2 years and always ask myself, " when does one call ones self an artist?  When do we stop being students?"  I don't believe I will ever be done with being a student.   I am taking classes at the Wallkill River School in Montgomery NY and l love the whole experience.  I found this articles timing remarkable.  Just this week I decided that I was not going to wonder about this anymore.... I am going to keep painting and just enjoy everything that I get from it.  I can only hope that my love of the world around me will show in my paintings   and if anyone else enjoys viewing my paintings as much as I enjoy making them my mission is accomplished....