Monday, August 17, 2009

Saying the "A" word in public

As most of my friends know I am usually not at a loss for words.  I especially enjoy talking to creative people and finding out about what they do.  The place that I often find myself sputtering and turning red is when I'm asked about the "A" word. " Are you an artist?"  There is just something about proclaiming yourself an artist that can leave you feeling like a pretender to the throne.  It seems like such a huge boast.  Often people think of artists as those who draw or paint.  Being a dancer or musician is seen as something separate.  If you are meeting someone new the next questions will be, " Where do you sell?".  Do you have a website?  What about a business card?".  Negatives to any of these questions seem to lower the plausibility of your claims (note: Business cards done on lined paper in crayon don't count. Go figure.).
I know I'm not the only one who finds it difficult to identify themselves as an artist so I thought I'd ask some friends of mine when they first felt comfortable using the term "artist" as part of their identity.  Sari McNamee, a photographer who is internationally recognized, says it was when someone else told her that she was an artist.   For others, they said it was when people started purchasing their work.  
Part of me really rebels against needing outside validation but I do get it.  Art, at its most basic, is a way of communicating and expressing.  It is a language and to have someone hear it and understand is one of our primary goals.  Can you be an artist without selling?  Absolutely.  Whether you are an artist by profession or inclination, I think when we have something to say and our work reflects our message we have the right to use the "A" word without blushing.  
All comments are welcomed.


  1. The darn A.. word.. why is there such a hang up about it? Creativity lives in us all. I dont know about in Canada, but here unless your hugely successful, ppl look at you as if your some jobless hack with no commitment to life. Strange.. considering to be an artist shows more commitment, drive and strength of character, as usually artists are the poorest economical group. the renaissance artists would turn over in their grave if they were alive today, how the world turns...

  2. I hear what you are saying and agree that art is a form of communication. It has been since the caveman days. For me there is truth to the saying that "art is in the eye of the beholder". I know people who say they are artists, but their very simple beadwork on strings doesn't send a message or communicate. I know others who deny they are artists and their work shouts with emotion and expression. If you feel you are creating something interesting that will put a spark of emotion in someones are an artist. And Deb, every time I see your baskets or the vibrant colors of your rugs I get that spark. You are an artist...and you should proudly proclaim it!