Monday, 4 April 2011

You don't Have to be an Artist to Make Art

Okay, at the risk of swimming against the tide and making a lot of people angry, I gotta say it. Everyone in Not an artist.
Please just hear me out.

Everyone is not an artist and we are not doing people a favour by saying they are.

Being an artist is more of a vocation than a career. The artist is driven to create. It is hard work. For most artists it is solitary work. Days, weeks, months of being alone in the studio. Often no one else sees your work for months on end, and it is not uncommon that few people care about your work. The pay can be nonexistent. It is facing insecurity, inner demons, self-doubt regularly. It can be wondering why you are spending your time doing something for little or no pay that hardly anyone cares about.

It may not be like this for every artist, but in my experience it is for the majority. With that said, I love being an artist. It is the joy and love affair of my life. I would not trade it for anything.

But you can understand why it might not be a fit for everyone.

The good news is: You don't have to be an artist to make art.
Maybe even better, you don't have to make Art to be creative. And I deeply believe Everyone has the capacity to be Creative.

You don't even need to figure out whether you are an artist or not. You can just be as creative as you want and see how it goes and grows.

When I was twenty-nine I asked myself what I would regret if I died tomorrow. The answer was immediate. That I hadn't painted and drawn more. At this point, I didn't know I was an artist. I had a creative background, but I kind of figured that since I wasn't a genius I wasn't an artist. But I decided to give myself some time to paint and draw and just see what happened.

I went to community college and took some painting courses. Then I went onto university. I watered the seed of my creativity. To make a long story short, that seed turned out to be an oak tree. And now I have no other choice.
But what if that seed had grown into a delicate rose bush instead? How beautiful is that? Maybe me creating on the weekends or the monthly art retreat. Sweetening my life with creativity while I enjoy an alternate career.
Or perhaps painting wasn't really my thing and I became a crafter. Making beautiful quilts and weaving cloth? Or being creative with my children and cooking beautiful meals? There is room for it all.

People don't say 'everyone is a musician'. Good thing, because believe me, I am not. Of course I can make music but it isn't the same thing is it?

One of the reasons it worries me is that it subtly reinforces the belief that only artists make art. Anyone can make art. Anyone can dance, sing, create, cook, and hopefully balance their books. It doesn't make them a dancer, singer, chef, or accountant. Give some credit to the people who dedicate years or their lifetime to an artform or profession, and take the pressure off people who want to paint for fun and self-expression.

And, just to add something else to the discussion, you don't have to be a genius to be an artist. You don't even have to be good at making art.


Anonymous said...

I totally get what you say. And thanks for saying it. I love to be messy with paint, mediums, seeing what new tools do ... or don't do. I spend lots of money (to my hubby's regret) on art supplies. But I am not an Artist. I just like to see what things do. I love watching people who are Artists create their magic. It always astounds me how easy they can make it look. Anyway, I agree with you.

Zom said...

Thanks Melanie. I want to encourage everyone to be creative. And I just think that statement: "everyone is an artist", while it might initially encourage people, in the end it will turn and bite most of them.

Anonymous said...

I always felt that if someone wanted to be an artist they had to say it for themselves. No one can tell you (or you or me) that you are an artist. It has to come from within. I dunno. I alwys felt awkward about the whole "You're an artist because so-and-so says so." It felt... too motivational speakerish to me.

Zom said...

I am in complete agreement with you Leslie.

Jonathan "Blade" Manning said...

I've heard a lot of similar arguments lately. If you don't lock yourself away for months at a time, you're not an artist. If you haven't been professionally trained, you're not an artist. If you are not hung in this or that gallery, you are not an artist. If you are not supporting yourself with your work, you are not an artist. Most of the time, I hear these arguments coming from people who lock themselves away after attending art school, hound every gallery and website they can to get hung and create the same stuff over and over so it will sell.

That's fine for them.

But what does that say to the one who aspires to be an artist but has been told all their lives that they can't be artists because they're not artists. Those people live their entire lives BELIEVING they CAN'T be artists because of these statements.

By strictest definition, an artist is one who practices art. YOU define art, and then we'll determine who is or isn't an artist.

Zom said...

Jonathan, but look at the title of this post. A large part of my point is that you don't have to be an artist to make art. So it won't help if I define art.

I assume you are disagreeing with those arguments you have mentioned. I would too. I don't think I said any of those things or anything similar.

I appreciate you coming over and disagreeing, or intending to disagree. WIth respect, I don't think you read my post very carefully.

I also agree that it is shocking to tell people that they can't be artists. How soul destroying. If you continue to yearn to be an artist after you have experienced how difficult it can be and persisted through that, in my experience you probably are.

Jonathan "Blade" Manning said...

I may not have read the post very carefully. But that's just it, Zom, I got what 90% of the people that read this are going to see.
You defined what you believed to be an artist in the first few paragraphs, and then went on to pat them on the head and say, "That's OK, though, you go ahead and paint, you little non-artist you!"

Then, just like what happened on twitter, several people take from that, "Well, I can just never call myself an artist, then."

Zom said...

To bring it back to my initial point, rather than arguing about what people might think I am saying but we have kind of agreed (?) that I am not saying.

Do you believe that everyone is an artist? If so, don't you think this might be a lot of pressure to put on someone who perhaps just wants to begin to explore their creativity?

Eveline said...

Ahhh, this is always a fun discussion.

Are you a writer, if nothing you've ever written has ever been published?
Are you a singer, if you only sing in the shower?
Are you a dancer, if you only dance in your bedroom, listening to your iPod?

Maybe if we changed the wording just slightly into 'professional artists', meaning someone who sells their art work it would make this discussion a bit easier.

Can anyone be a professional artist? Of course not. Not everyone has the talent, or the drive to produce enough works that will sell and make them enough money to live on. And even then, most professional artists I know (and I have to be honest and say I only know professional artist I met online) are diverse in what they do, they either work in a few mediums, or do workshops or write books, too. It's difficult to make ends meet on just art, especially in the current economical climate.

But if you feel you are an artist, because you enjoy what you make and maybe even share it with loved ones, I'm not stopping you from calling yourself an artist. Whether or not it is realistic to think you could make a living off of your art work is a whoooooole 'nother discussion. ;)

Zom said...

Eveline, once again I just gotta say that I wasn't telling anyone Not to call themself an artist. I was just saying that Everyone is not an artist.

And to confuse what you have so nicely clarified. There are amazing artists who don't, and even can't sell their work. So I can't go with you on the professional thing.

You can absolutely be a writer without publishing anything. Our culture's idea that if you are good at something that people will buy it or it will be successful is... well... Bullshit.

Thanks for writing all that Eveline (twice!). I appreciate the your point of view.

Eveline said...

Ok, I'm trying to understand here... So whether or not you would say someone is an artist depends on how much blood, sweat and tears went into creating their work? How much time and energy they devote to their craft?

Were the first people to draw stick figures on caves artists, or not?

Anyway, I agree that not everyone is an artist, and thankfully, not everyone wants to be. But I think that those who feel they are, are. Maybe not An Artist in the Old Masters- way, but artists.

Kerri Love said...

ok after talking with you on twitter a bit I think I've got this..

You don't have to be an artist to create art, but if you create art you're welcome to call yourself an artist?

I call myself a newbie LOL seems to work for me ;)

Zom said...

Okay Eveline, I probably do believe that someone is an artist depending on how much blood, sweat and tears went into their being an artist, and how much time and energy goes into their art.

I don't know about the stick figures, before my time, haha.

As for your last point, I don't know. I have known people who call themselves artists because they have painted a single painting in a workshop. I just can't agree.

Zom said...

Hey, anyone can call themselves anything they want. Especially if I don't necessarily have to agree, lol.

I didn't mean to set myself up as a judge here. I have strong opinions on the subject but I realise that doesn't mean I am right.

Eveline said...

I think we agree. I too believe you have to put in a little more effort than just a little bit of painting here and there to call yourself an artist. But those are more my standards for me, rather than what I feel other people should do.

If it makes someone happy to call themselves an artist, it does not bother me that much.

And on that note, I have to step away from this discussion. I was supposed to have an early night and it's now 2.20 am! Oops! ;)

Kerri Love said...

I think you've fallen victim to the fact that some people have told us we're not allowed to call ourselves Artists unless... ect ect ;)

I do agree with you 100% that anyone who wishes to create something is free to create with wild abandon no matter what :) and who cares about silly labels when there's fun to be had! Add in a little "If at first you don't succeed..." and away you go.

Mary Helen-Art Saves Lives said...

I understand your point of view...making art is work and discipline...yet many times we may open the door to explorations when we mentor or teach one to SEE and see again. Have a great week! Peace, Mary Helen

Linda said...

You had me until "Or perhaps painting wasn't really my thing and I became a crafter. Making beautiful quilts and weaving cloth?"

Some of the most beautiful art I have ever seen have been in the form of quilts and weaving. Last weekend I spent lots of time in art galleries in Santa Fe looking at beautiful textile *art* with prices to match. They would have winced at the term craft to define their work.


Zom said...

Thanks everyone for putting in their points of view. I have learned a few things about myself in this and the twitter discussion. I do get a bit opinionated on this subject which probably at least partly has to do with my own struggles with being an artist.

Linda, good point. Some craft definitely qualifies as art.

Karin Bartimole said...

Really interesting discussion Zom, and obviously a trigger for many. I find myself pretty much in agreement with what you've written - there are many folks that create art, find deep satisfaction making 'art' and even selling stuff, but they could just as easily move on to do something else if that stopped working for them. I know I couldn't - when I am unable to practice my art, to be the artist I am, my life feels unfulfilled. That may sound dramatic to some, but being an artist is why I am here, period.
I just don't know about how one defines themselves when it comes to other careers - is it different being an artist than, say, being an engineer, or an accountant...? I think there are some people that are more passionate about their career/life path than others. For some artists it's a job that they have a natural talent for, where as others it's soul work - just like for certain doctors it's a job, while others are called to heal. It's not my place to take the Artist title away from anyone, but I know I only am drawn to the work of people that are soul artists.

Anonymous said...

Can'o'worms here and some heated comments- that is always good.

Artists (for me) can't live without their art.
..and craftspeople are artists.

nollyposh said...

i understand this especially after listening to your interview with Rice (Yes i'm working backwards/catching up)... YEARS to finish a painting!!! Now THAT is an "Artist" in my book!

linda said...

ooo, interesting perspective. I was finding it hard to follow completely at first, but then you made the example of how not everyone is a musician... I see. I think sometimes for those of us into the creative artsy crafty arena... the proclamation of being an "Artist" and calling yourself that - it has been pounded into us to be sort of pillar of confidence. But I understand the distinction you are writing about here. It's just a label afterall... everyone has to simply come to terms for themselves what they want to do and be happy with it.