Who is an artist?
Is it a generational thing that causes people to say “You aren’t an artist, you aren’t making a living at it.” Or is just a preconceived notion about what an artist is?
According to the dictionary an artist is a noun and consists of the following definitions:
A person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby
A person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker
A person skilled at a particular task or occupation
– a surgeon who is an artist with the scalpel
A performer, such as a singer, actor, or dancer
A habitual practitioner of a specified reprehensible activity
– a con artist
– rip-off artists
Wikipedia has an entire page dedicated to defining an artist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artist
I think Americans get hung up on the fact that artists don’t work ‘a regular job’ it completely goes against our puritanically driven culture and mores. The Cambridge dictionary defines puritanical as:
Believing or involving the belief that self-control and hard work are important and that pleasure is wrong or unnecessary
This belief is completely embedded in the American culture. It is why there are so many stressed out workaholics in the US. In most corporations we have 2-4 weeks of vacation, people who want to succeed are anticipated to work more than 40 hours a week, you have to fit in to a defined set of rules, and lunch is at the most an hour a day. In Europe they have much more vacation, lunch is longer than an hour usually, and while they work hard, they also play hard to balance their lives.
So getting back to being an artist in the US-based on this idea that one must work hard to succeed it leads one to believe that if a person is not engaged in making art and making a living from art at least 40 hours a week and producing works from this time that this person so is not truly an artist perhaps? Is this person just pursuing something that is pleasurable and is that wrong?
I grew up around artists, my grandmothers were both artists. Our parents made sure we did something musical, I sang, attempted playing the trumpet and learned how to play the acoustic guitar. I was also involved in theatre. My father who is a chef could be considered an artist, you should watch him cook and stay away from his grill. My oldest sister is an artist, she is one who works hard to actually make a living at her art.
A few years ago I attended a discussion on the Creative Class and its influence on modern culture. This idea of a Creative Class is far more encompassing than just someone who paints, sculpts, sings, acts, etc….The creative class is a considered a socioeconomic group which has an impact on our society in this post industrial era. Richard Florida has written extensively on the Creative Class and its rise in today’s society. Based on his definition I feel extremely comfortable calling myself part of the creative class, but am I an artist? I create things using a fabric medium, but I don’t make a living at it yet and probably never will. There are people in today’s society who say you are an artist only if you actually succeed at making a living. But really Who is an artist?