A question that many of us have struggled with or are still pondering, even now!
I was lucky in that, when I was turning this question over in my mind, a good friend addressed my birthday card to, ‘The Artist, The Studio.....’ for all the world, or at least the postman, to see. I was touched by that gesture of confidence in me which provided an answer to my questioning - but not everyone is so fortunate.
So what is an artist? How can you decide whether or not you are an artist without a definition of the word? Dictionaries give various definitions and I expect you have some personal definition in mind when you ask that question and it may well be different from mine but here’s what I’ve come up with:
‘An artist is anyone who is drawn to and is comfortable with expressing their thoughts, ideas or feelings through visual images.’
You may want to suggest alternative wording and maybe you can improve on my choice of terms. But my attempt at a definition is very inclusive. As well as painters, it can include sculptors, photographers, designers, illustrators, architects, embroiderers, quilters, film-makers, choreographers - and lots more!
I suspect that there are many people who don’t count themselves as artists because they don’t believe that they can draw. You may have noticed from this post that I believe that anyone who can write their name can draw.
But I’ll go even further and suggest that we are all latent artists, even if we haven’t overcome the challenges to our drawing abilities (which I think are mostly lack of confidence and practice). In her guest post, writer, Joanna Paterson, suggested three alternative ways in which we can communicate through visual images even if we believe that we can’t draw.
And there are many more ways in which we demonstrate on a daily basis that we have the ability to express ourselves visually. Whenever you put together an outfit to wear, you are ‘being an artist’. Even more so, I think, when you plan the decor of your living space. Of course, if you’re colour-blind, that could pose some difficulties, though they are unlikely to be insuperable!
I’m sure you will immediately remind me that some people’s decor is not in the least bit ‘artistic’. I agree, but that doesn’t prove that we are not all born with ‘artistic’ ability. It only suggests that the person is not sufficiently interested in their surroundings to take the trouble to ‘design’ it so that it becomes an expression of themselves. It may not be their priority.
Of course , we are not all ‘professional’ artists, a term I would use to describe someone who makes their living through their artistic pursuits. But I do believe that we all have that capability – what we lack is maybe the opportunities that training would have provided, or more often, the ability to market our work and perhaps more often still, the genuine interest and determination to make it our priority to succeed.
Looking back, I wonder why the question of whether or not I could call myself an artist bothered me so much. I take it for granted these days. But I do understand that it’s an uncomfortable, burning question for some people.
And I’d be interested to hear whether what I’ve suggested has gone some way to resolving it - or how you arrived at the point where you knew you were an artist!