If you’re a self-teaching artist (I’d use the phrase “self-taught” but, thinking about it, “taught” implies that you’ve already learnt all you can), if you’re new to creating art and/or if you’re an amateur artist (in the technical sense of the term) then you might feel some anxiety or uncertainty about calling yourself an “artist”.
Like whether or not someone is a “writer”, whether or not someone is an “artist” is one of those distinctions which everyone feels that they understand and, yet, there aren’t really any clearly defined boundaries or rules.
Some people say that you can only call yourself an “artist” if you’re a professional, if you have an art degree, if your preferred form of art involves paint, if you’ve had something you’ve made exhibited in a gallery, if you’re famous etc…
Don’t listen to these people. In fact, ignore them as completely as any other lazy strawmen argument made by a journalist who is trying to sound dramatic. Hold on, did I just call myself a journalist? I’m not a journalist! Oh God! WHY would I call myself a journalist?!?!?
Anyway, for every rule which someone might come up with about when someone can call themself an “artist”, there are almost always enough exceptions to it (if you look hard enough) to render it completely useless.
That said, here are my rules about when someone can call themselves an artist. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll turn them into a handy questionnaire which you can print out or copy or whatever.
The Artist’s Questionnaire:
1) Do you REALLY enjoy creating art?
2) Do you create art regularly?
3) Do you feel like an artist?
4) Are you proud of your creative work?
5) Are you still learning how to draw/paint/sculpt etc…?
6) Is creating art something which you just feel innately drawn to doing?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then, congratulations! You can call yourself an “artist”. Well done 🙂
I think that most of the anxiety that people who are new to art feel about calling themselves an “artist” has to do with all of the cultural ideas which surround the word. Because, let’s face it, the word “artist” usually conjours up mental images of famous painters, trendy social cliques, berets, tutleneck jumpers, galleries, large studios and a whole bunch of other culturally-created things rather than the actual process of creating art itself.
But, to quote from Wiktionary, the first definition of the word is simply: “A person who creates art”. In other words, if you create art (preferably on a regular basis), then you are an artist – at least whilst you’re actually creating things.
Yes, it might sound slightly pretentious to call yourself an “artist” if you can only draw stick figures – but, if you’re drawing stick figures quite regularly and putting a lot of effort into drawing them and/or learning how to draw other things too, then you have much more of a right to call yourself an “artist” than someone who doesn’t even draw stick figures.
If you still feel uncomfortable with calling yourself an “artist”, then just use a more specific word to describe yourself such as: “cartoonist”, “comic artist”, “caricaturist”, “painter”, “photographer”, “sculptor” etc…
But, to say it again, if you create art (notice my use of the present tense here), then you can call yourself an “artist”.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂