How Do You Know If You Are An Artist?

Last week a colleague of mine, Patrick Mohr, sent me a bunch of links related to art careers and how artists see themselves. They were enlightening. But honestly, for a person who teaches art and design, they weren’t that surprising.


Here’s one: Sure, I Do Creative Work, but I’m No Artist

This information comes from a research group named the Strategic National Art Alumni Project (SNAAP). Generally, many artists don’t see themselves as such. Many, who often engage in artistic practices, don’t classify themselves as professional artists. Maybe it’s the term professional that skews the data. How much of your personal income do you have to make from art to classify yourself as such? Or, is it the term “artistic” that should classify our professional path. There are many “artistic” things we do at work now that for some reason, don’t add up to make us artists.

Maybe it’s because we’ve put too much weight on the term “artist” for it to be attainable. However, the romantic definition implies that you make almost nothing from long hours of labor and slight neurological disorders. But what artists do is observe, express, collaborate, empathize and design—among other things. So if your job includes these things, you might be more of an artist than you think.

Another way to put it could be “creative career.” If we classify ourselves as creatives, that makes it a little easier. Why separate art and design when they are so closely aligned to begin with? Just because we intend to make money off what we do, does that make it design? I’m sure Jeff Koons intends to make money off his work. And I’ve seen plenty of designs more transcendent than some work sold in galleries. So maybe all of us who make designs, films, illustrations, music, paintings, performances, sculptures, stories, and videos should just consider ourselves artists. As a bunch, I think we’ll have more leverage and reap more benefits.



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