On Being Considered An Artist

Sep 20, 2010 by Damon Eckhoff in Inspiration

Here’s my pithy quote:

Being an artist is not a state of existence, but rather a state of constant doing.

This post is a response to Escape From Illustration Island’s 3 Ways Art Students Hurt Their Own Chances of Success.

Thomas James makes the following point under the section Not Considering Themselves Artists:

After becoming an undergraduate student, however, many people insert the term aspiring in front of the term artist for some mysterious reason. It’s not that they are all of a sudden less of an artist, but there seems to be some sort of psychological reason for changing their perception of themselves that I’m not qualified to explain.

I must say that I had this experience.  For me, I began to equate being an artist, with having an art degree.  I felt that I wasn’t qualified to an artist until I had the degree that proved I could do it.  Is this an artifact of the education structure?  Possibly so.  But, upon graduation, I was clearly in shock..

Here I was an artist with a degree, but no idea what to do with it.  That felt awful. Since then I’ve been educating myself on how to become a working artist.

It’s easy to say that you’re an artist, but it is much more difficult to consistently make artwork.  Your true nature may be artistic, but being an artist requires that you put that nature into motion.

Likewise, if you are earnestly engaged in the making of art, then you are an artist.  One does not need to be ordained by a higher authority.  One must simply step into this role by making art.  I think where art students get hung up, is the waiting to be ordained part. It’s right there in the word “undergraduate”.  “Under.”  The under applies to the degree, not to becoming an artist.

Sure, your skills can always improve, but that is done by doing.  Start by believing you’re an artist, and then take the steps necessary to live up to that reality.

One Response to “On Being Considered An Artist”

  1. Sketchee

    Great post, Damon!. It really seems like school doesn’t really prepare us for being a working artist. That’s pretty scary and it’s something that should be changed someday. Until then, those of us who are out there doing definitely need to continue offering help and guidance to the new class of artists stepping into the world.