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I'm an artist and have been from the moment I held a crayon in my hand. I don't know why. Neither of my parents gave me "The Gift", I just always had it.

Sales mean nothing. Appreciation is the only reward, and that comes to me whether what I do is recognized or not.

I find calling myself an artist difficult, I teach textiles in the secondary school (11-16 years) and this some how makes other people not take me seriously as an artist. Because I rely on teaching to pay the mortgage, then people think I am only paying with my art work :( I strive to be taken seriously but am not really sure how

oh, yes. the 'artist' label nerve touched! i agree, very well stated here, the questioning of self, the fear, the...oh, call in the shrinks! where did this begin? with museums? the MASTERS? the mystery? i always have looked at work and wondered How did they do this? i didn't know where to begin. a friend and i began calling ourselves "practicing artists"...we're JUST PRACTICING. could be taken the other way, too. practicing physician. doing the work. i used to think it was some 'god'given talent to a few, making art. accepting what happens as i play with materials/media has helped demystify that notion. and yes. darger and other 'outsiders'...my brother with down syndrome was an artist to me. truly picasso-ish pieces game right out of his hand with crayon and marker. once in awhile, when he'd be working, he'd mumble: "oops, i goofed. OH WELL" and then he'd continue. he's gone, but i've taken his lead. i am an artist. and seth, your blog world/disco influence helps many of us realize that.

Very thought provoking and well written Seth... you covered it beautifully.
Some days I feel more like an 'artist' than others ... I have thought that I am not a "fine artist" as in someone who draws and paints, but I do create mixed media work that feels like art ... I have heard myself say "I am an artist" ... still a tricky business ... that ...
It is something I will continue to ponder ... can't wait to read the comments ... thanks as always for inspiring with your commentary and artwork Seth!

I recently met a woman who told me about how she had given up the violin playing she loved about three years ago when she had her baby. I asked her if she, as a musician, ever resented the fact that she couldn't find the time at the moment to fulfill that part of herself. She replied "Oh, I am not really a musician !" I was puzzled/saddened by her comment - anyone who plays an instrument like the violin is a musician in my book !
It made me think about myself, and how I have finally totally and completely claimed the title of Artist. That happened slowly as I realized that I could not have a whole and complete life without creating and losing myself in self-expression for at least some portion of my life. It was also confirmed to me just the other day when I found out I will have two pieces of mine in an upcoming book about creativity. This is the artist Kim leaving her mark on the world. I feel I am now an artist inside and out. And proud to call myself Kim de Broin Mailot, Artist.
Wonderful and thoughtful essay, Seth. Thank you as always for the brain and eye candy !
Cheers !

I personally have been wrestling with this very thing and have talked about it on my own blog. I was a suburban stay at home mum for 12 yrs before I picked up my art career again. I have all the necessary academic qualifications, a BFA and an MA in Visual Culture, I exhibit and sell my work, but I am still surprised when others introduce me as an artist! Even tho this is how I make my living, teaching and making art. I am always looking over my shoulder for the real artist in the room. I know I am creative, that arty things come naturally to me, I'm a good teacher, and I am still puzzled. I don't know what the answer is, but perhaps I feel it is too late to begin a new identity after so many years of being "mum".

My 2 cents on the subject...
I've never teally had trouble calling myself an artist. I did have trouble taking art classes so am self taught. For me, art has always had no boundaries, and art classes I tried to take years ago really tried to enforce boundaries. I really, really wanted to take art classes - thought I needed that to be "an artist". But after several failed attempts decided to be an artist on my terms. And that works for me. I've never really got the whole debate of craft vs art. You have to be artistic to craft, right? Atleast to craft creatively. But then, of course, art, craft, and creativity are all so subjective so I'm sure I've got people disagreeing with me on that! I may not be a master artist but that's okay with me. I want my art to always grow. If I was at the top of the heap and a master where would I go from there??? The journey is the destination. And if earning a living at art makes you a professional artist then I am not that, nor do I want to be. I want to make art for me, not for others. If I sell a piece now and then, there's more money to replenish supplies. I appreciate and recognize all forms of art and respect what it takes for each person to call themself an artist in their own right. And it is your own right.
I wish everyone felt that way...
Great work of art Seth! LOVE the texture!

I don't know if I would "feel" more like an artist if I sold some of my art or not. If I sold some of my art I would be afraid that it might become "work". I just enjoy creating. I haven't had any formal education either. So does that make me an outsider? I feel like an imposter if I say I'm an artist. Some deep rooted fear of failing possibly. Having to live up to the ideal artist.

Great article, Seth!
I think whether or not people call themselves an artist really has to do with fear and self-esteem. When you really know who you are (in all aspects of your life), it's easy to introduce yourself.

Thank you Seth for another thought-provoking discussion. While most of us struggle with this issue at times, I really think it goes deeper. A person with an artistic nature has a hard time living inside the boundaries that comprise the general daily social norms. Thus, an artist will naturally rebel against any labeling of their personhood. Once a label is adhered, it's natural to try to live up to it, but the nature of this particular label is change and exploration and breaking through limits. It also deepens the do vs be dynamic that often runs more deeply and apparently in creative souls, and that can be painful. The act of creating helps to relieve this tension. So, are we artists or are we arting? It doesn't really matter, let's just have fun exploring!

Ah, here I am, late again and haven't read comments because i'm at work and have to be brief

she said, blabbing on

but here's my deal with this deal:

I think what has happened in so many avenues of experiencing life (such as, in cooking, in writing, in training a dog, etc.) there are people who want to excell because it's their passion, and then, upon excelling want to separate themselves from people who may be excelling but don't feel the need to separate and so don't make themselves out to be more-than.


I'm trying to say that it seems that many of us don't want to call ourselves chefs or trainers or teachers or artists or writers because certain other people or organizations have given those exercises such loftiness (by way of their very legitimate achievements and discipline and contributions to the crafts) that those of us who do not need or want the label of expert or a sense of having 'arrived' thereafter feel not worthy to be called one such as those people who have been labeled artists, teachers, writers, chefs, or designers.

But, we are.

what a fantastic article, seth! a is also for awesome!

i've met so many people that have had this same struggle, including myself back in the day. when i was about 22 i lived in a small apartment above an antique art gallery. the most amazing place with the most amazing old paintings. the owner was (and still is) a wonderful french man who is to this day a very, very dear friend of mine. just after we met, he introduced me to one of his friends as "the artist who does web design that lives upstairs". i later told him that i wasn't an artist -- i just painted and dabbled in art. he laughed and asked why i would say such a thing. i told him that i had never taken any classes in art, had only sold about a dozen things in my life at that time and wasn't "good" like the paintings in his gallery. i added that i didn't feel i'd reached my full potential (does anyone?) and said that maybe someday i could be an artist. he told me that a peach is still a peach, even when it isn't ripe, just as i was an artist even if i didn't feel i was fully "ripe" either. i don't think that you have to have formal training or x number of sales to be considered an artist anymore. if art is your passion and you create because you love it, because you feel a deep need to do so to survive (like me), then you are an artist. i have volunteered to teach art to many children and school classes over the years and tell them the same thing -- if they have a passion for what they are doing, they are artists. the title has no limitation on age or skill or medium, in my book.

It's just a label and if you need one fine. Audiences are fickle and fads come and go. Truly great ones are timeless. Honesty and emotion may be at the heART of it. If you have a voice, use it.

well, i think in the world of art i travel in (mixed media) - it's sort of stuck between the cracks for people. they either really like it or don't get it. those who do get it have no problem addressing the maker as an artist. but for those who don't, they tend to think "that's not art". so often, for many just starting out, it's a confidence thing. they don't get support from families or spouse and co-workers find their art "strange". so no wonder, it's hard to call ourselves artists! often though, when it moves past the hobby stage and you start to getting noticed, maybe an article published, you begin to believe in yourself and then eventually when asked, "what do you do?" you proudly say, "I am an artist.

great article Seth, grazie!

I think the first time I said, with confidence (at least I tried to sound confident), "I am an artist" was the one of the boldest things I've ever done. Making that statement can open up questions & comments that I wasn't sure I was prepared for or wanted to deal with, but it was worth it!
Great article, Seth! Thanks, Joanie

very clearly written, seth, and i especially loved and agreed with the "having children = parents, no matter how good/bad u r at it", as well as "being at school = students, no matter what're yr grades". also, loved and agreed with Alicia's comment about "an un-ripe peach still being a peach".
i call myself an artist for many years now, even though i only had a 10 yrs period of being full time, self employed and living off it. the rest of my years it always was secondary to my full time 'other', 'real' job, but even then i saw myself as an artist 'trapped' in a 9-5 job. my recent idea was always the only thing that went through my mind all day long. i was always on 'auto pilot' at work, while i was really solving technical problems in my head. when asked - i always refered to myself as an artist, despite the looks (and probably gossip) i got at work for using such a 'pompous' title. it's similar to all the actors/pop stars/dancers (who do mundane jobs while for ever hoping to be discovered). it's also that we are flooded by so many 'wannabees' and delusioned people who mistake their idle dreams of fame and fortune - with the real thing that the humble, modest, real talented ones got. i think the reason behind many artists' doubts and insecurities of defining themselves as artists, stem in our childhood, and in the traditional up bringing that most of us got: most of our parents, teachers, and career advisors drummed into us: being an artist when u grow up? it's a dream! art is a nice HOBBY, but u need to 'grow up' and get a REAL 'responsible' job and REAL qualifications: something that is 'SAFE' and with GUARRANTIED income.

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