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Creative Life News Blog

How Do You KNOW You Are an ARTIST?

"Artist" is an The Elusive Label

Is it because you say you are? Because someone else says you are? Do family and friends count or are they discounted because they love you anyway? Is it because you've shown your art publicly? Because someone shows it in their gallery or other venue? Because someone (other than family or friends) purchases it?

This list can go on. What would you add? What do you need to convince yourself that you are an artist? If ever that was a question for you, I'm interested to learn what convinced you that you are an artist?

Certification? Validation?

Once there were craft guilds that certified skills for a given craft. But "artistry" has always included more than artisanship, an elusive quality of perhaps carrying things further than fitting a given task. Learning both craft and art were surely involved in the practical training of artists apprenticing at a young age in the shops of established artists.

Now, we have art schools. How many art-school graduates continue to work as artists?

Many emerging artists (and even some veterans) are unsure of whether or not they fit the title "artist". This is often especially true for those who've never attended art-school or, if so, did not get stamped with approval there.

There's really no external certificate that can validate a person as a bona fide "artist." Doctors, lawyers, professors, and the like, must get certified for their profession. That certification says they have the necessary and sufficient knowledge and skills of their profession. It doesn't say if they excel or just pass this bar by the skin of their teeth. Yet artists, whether or not they've attended recognized art schools, must make it on their own merits as well as the judgments of self and others. Ah, there's the rub in that last part!

Some are grandiosely self-confident; others suffer from agonizing self-doubt. Some waver back and forth. But there is one thing we know for sure: To be an artist you must make some art! You probably feel that "must" in yourself, regardless of your confidence or doubt. The bottom line is: you just do it. Maybe tentatively, maybe boldly.... but you feel you must do it. You make whatever form your art takes. You do it without grandiosity. You do it without doubt (if you're fortunate) or despite doubt (if you're courageous). You make it happen. You create. You make art.

"Ah", snickers the the little sneak inside you: "Ah, but is it really Art?" And here we go again. What will convince you that your creation is art?

Here's my story. I wasn't an artist. I hadn't been to art school. I just wanted to, needed, to and sometimes loved to make art. And so I did ... in whatever ways and under whatever circumstances and limitations prevailed. One day, I drew something I thought was outrageous on a piece of ordinary (non-artistic) yellow office paper, using a pen, ink, and that white stuff used to cover printer-ink mistakes on white paper. On a whim, and because I also held some sense of humour about myself, I submitted it to an art magazine, The American Artist, which I'd read to give me glimpses of what real, contemporary artists were doing. I didn't care. It was a toss-off and a little crazy. I let it go at that.

It won first prize in the magazine's "Strokes" drawing contest. Outrageous, right? But it marked a turning point for me. If something so out of bounds, so un-pretty, so unplanned and unexpected as this little work could win a prize, maybe I should re-think what this art and artist thing was about.

I'm still thinking. Most importantly though, I'm still making art, still creating.

How about you?


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