The definition of an artist is simply someone who creates art or is highly skilled at some activity. Many people enjoy creating art, and might not even think of themselves as an “artist”. They may be hobbyists who have no intention of going through the rigors of selling their work. Putting your art work on display for all the world to judge can be a frustrating and disheartening experience. It is much easier, fun and fulfilling to create art for your own enjoyment as a hobby; maybe giving away your work as presents to friends or relatives.
There are a lot of amateur hobbyists who just want to make extra money by trying to sell their “art” on the internet – especially on eBay. Just because family or friends tell you that your drawing or painting is nice, does not necessarily mean that you can or should try to become a professional artist. Just because someone is a great cook, doesn’t mean they can or should open a restaurant. I’m sure you have seen some amateurish “art” on the internet or in art shows, which illustrates that point. Every human being has the capability of being creative, but not everyone is an artist.
Calling yourself an artist may sound romantic and glamorous, and you may think you will be the next Van Gogh or Pollack, but do not fall into the false notion that all you need is a lot of talent and success will find you. There have been thousands of truly talented artists who faded into obscurity or mediocrity because they were too wrapped up in being a “talented artist”, and would not do the practical work necessary for a successful career. Besides, being talented is not an automatic ticket to success in any field. Remember that most artists who became famous and whose work has sold for millions at auction, were unappreciated in their lifetime and died poor. That is because it is the public – not the artist – that judges whether you are truly talented, according to the tastes or social environment of the time.
Fortunately, in this century you do not have to cut off an ear or be dead to be successful. In the old days, artists did not have many options for selling their work. They depended on artist agents, business managers, galleries, patrons, or even street vending to make a living. In the 21st century, to be a successful professional artist, you have to be willing to assume the roles of artist agent, marketer, bookkeeper, and business manager. Yes, you even have to learn about technology, including website design, search engine optimization (SEO), and about the various online venues for selling art.
Another reality most artists prefer to ignore is that Art is a nonessential commodity that has minimal value to the public. In today’s world market, the public can easily purchase cheap prints, digital reproductions, and imported mass-produced art. Professional artists are just like any other vendor of goods or services, and it is up to them to work hard at marketing their art to beat the competition.
So, if you are truly serious about a career as a “professional artist”, be ready to work hard, endure criticism, deal with frustration, expose yourself to rejection, handle difficult customers, deal with tedious bookkeeping and business processes, and face possible financial hardship. Yes, the old clichés about being an artist are still true. Being a professional artist can be fun and rewarding, but it is also serious business.
A true artist is driven by internal forces to be the best artist they can be, no matter what. They will gladly do whatever it takes and seize every opportunity to take charge of their life to create a career doing what they love most. Perhaps this is the best definition of what it really means to be an artist.