Who is an Artist?
Occasionally I have to fill in forms which ask for my occupation. For years, I put ‘housewife’ or ‘mother’, but that felt like an insult to the heroines who actually care if the kitchen floor is dirty. I have always invested more time in making creative messes than clearing up domestic ones. It took me a very long time to actually write ‘Artist’. I’m still not comfortable with it, but I don’t know what else to call myself.
Renoir was an Artist. Van Gogh, Picasso, oh, all the great Names….. THEY were Artists. The internet is awash with wonderful works by contemporary artists from all over the world.
It would be easy to feel overwhelmed by all that amazing talent. But there’s something about being creative that just keeps bobbing back up in the stream of inspiration once you have turned it on.
Is that enough to call yourself an Artist though?
Who, or what, IS an Artist? What makes one person’s creative output inspired and/or inspiring, and another’s dull and laboured? Are they both Artists? It’s not always the effort they put in; some people can spend hours, days, weeks, producing tired and repetitive work, another breezes past a canvas and takes your breath away.
Do you become an Artist if you exhibit and sell your work? We have all seen pretty dire stuff framed and hung on walls. And I have seen gems discarded because they were ‘not good enough’.
Do technical skills matter? Naive and Outsider art have broken down many barriers but have made Art even more difficult to quantify. Visiting galleries and exhibition spaces doesn’t always guarantee you’ll see the best local works, but it does give you a window into the cultural life and vibrancy of the town or country you are in. Art reflects the intelligence of a nation, I read somewhere.
So is an Artist someone who does nothing but produce Art? It can’t all be pure inspiration or social comment, which may or may not sell; it’s usually financially necessary to at least take commissions, teach, or produce some more commercial pieces if you are going to eat as well as create. Some people produce artworks alongside a full time job, which takes the financial pressure off the art itself. It doesn’t guarantee standards though. Nothing does really, does it?
Another even more bottomless question could be ‘What is Art?’ Is it really anything that anyone produces? Should it be judged and ranked? Who is to judge? I have been asked a few times to judge children’s art competitions. I try to get out of it, as I hate the idea of choosing one child’s efforts over another’s. I don’t want to reject any of them. But there has to be some kind of judgement of art, doesn’t there?
Art critics give their opinions as guidance, and we are free to agree or disagree with them. Criticism should be honest above all, and hopefully constructive, but sometimes it’s good to read a really bad review of an exhibition. Not all art, or all artists, are equal. Seeing the work through someone else’s eyes can be quite useful for your own work.
Graduates from art schools and courses are often no better than those who call themselves ‘self taught’. But then we all learn from others, nobody can be without influences. “If I have seen further it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants” said Isaac Newton