Thursday, July 23, 2015

Art Thought: What Kind Of Artist Are You?

You hear it constantly in articles about art that you need to establish a regular schedule or routine when making art.  That is true.  If you don't regularly make art, it eventually will disappear from your life. But all too often, creating a regular routine can feel confining and actually become a barrier to making art.  I think it is more important to realize what kind of artist you are, then from there you can discover what kind of schedule you are able to maintain.

What kind of artist are you?

The Dabbler
You are a person that dabbles at art.  You enjoy occasionally taking classes and, when there is time, you often find yourself pulling out your art materials and making something.  You probably have a busy life (maybe there are kids) and you don't identify yourself as an artist.  There is something else you do that you identify with more – maybe your job, maybe parenting.  This is a perfectly acceptable place to be.  You enjoy making art and, at times, it is really satisfying and helps you think about yourself and your life in a different way.  These are all great things.

Pitfalls:  You think that you should be doing more with your art... which leads to guilt... which leads to bad feelings associated with making art... which leads to not making art... which leads to not feeling fulfilled.  Although, as an artist, I want to say “yes, you should always want to do more with your art,” I also understand that there are times to be a Dabbler.  For a time, I considered myself a professional artist, but then I had a kid and several years later I had a divorce.  After both events I basically became a Dabbler in art.  Sometimes life is too busy to make art the primary or secondary activity.  That's OK.  It is especially important to understand where you are at in your life and what you are capable of.  There is no shame in focusing on other areas of your life when you need to.

Joys:  You are making art and you are keeping creativity in front of you as a means for achieving happiness and self-identity. I have had several friends who have studied art in school, got a degree and then never really made art again.  If you are still dabbling away, you are doing as well or better than many in terms of having art in your life.  There is no one way to do your life – there is only your life.  Do the best you can and be happy because you are being the best you can be and you still get to do something you enjoy! Make art when you can and share it with others.

The Enthusiast
The next type of artist is the Enthusiast, someone who is actively making art on a regular basis by attending classes and making things on their own.  The Enthusiast is called just that because they are very enthusiastic about what they are doing and like to share it with others.  They try to get friends to take classes with them. They have tried many different media and are starting to settle into one or two that they really enjoy!

The Enthusiast tends to give more time and resource to art than the Dabbler and might start to think about becoming an Artist (see below) because they enjoy making art so much.  Yet, they are still creating each project as an individual project and their work is inconsistent in many ways.  An Enthusiast will still have another way of identifying themselves other than being an artist – it is not yet a primary activity of their life.  They might still be identifying themselves by their job, or as a parent or some other role.  Art is important to them, but again, not primary.

Pitfalls: Enthusiasts think they are on the verge of being a Professional (see below), yet have no idea of what that takes and how to get there.  They over-estimate their talent and under-estimate their ability to position themselves to become a Professional.

Joys: You are becoming good at a technique or media, are feeling confident about your ability and are excited with each new challenge.  It is an exciting time do be an artist and this feeling can carry over into other areas of your life.  How awesome is this!

The Artist
Well, this is what you wanted to be – an Artist. Congratulations, you are here!  Art is a primary activity of your life.  You may still, and most likely, have a job for making income, but art is more important to you and preoccupies much of your mental space and what spare time you have.  You have a fairly regular routine for creating art and your work is following a path.  You have become very good at a technique or two and have created a series of work. You have started to craft a style to your art, making a small body of work that has consistency to it.  You are in a show now and again, sell some work from time to time and may have received a grant or two.  You might actually make enough money to file taxes on your “art business.”  It is a struggle at times, but a very satisfying struggle.  You have other artist friends and you rely on each other to learn about grant and exhibit opportunities and commiserate with each other.

Pitfalls: Wow, man, this is hard!  Where's the money and the fame and the.. well, the fun! Now, instead of having one job you have two and one of them doesn't pay for itself.

Joys: You are becoming wise.  You are exploring parts of yourself that you have never given voice to.  You are becoming very proficient and confident that you can take an idea and incarnate it.  Others recognize you as a talented artist and respect your experience.

The Professional
What, there's another step?  Yep.  The Professional is not only known by other artists, but is know by the established art community: art dealers, gallery owners, museum curators and many individual collectors.  Selling art is a common occurrence, even if you're not quite making a living at it.  Your “other” job, if you have one, is a vehicle for you to pursue your craft via networking, creating opportunities or by providing resource (other than just money).  Your daily activities and interactions are focused on your art.  You are doing outreach to other venues, perhaps in other cities and everything is working toward creating income or opportunity for more resource.

Your work is consistent.  Any work done outside your main body of work is for fun or to explore a new avenue in order to inform your current work. Many people know your work when they see it.  The theme of your work resonates with established historical references, yet takes them in a new direction that resonates with current sensibilities in the arts and your societal culture.  You understand that your art is not only reliant on you, but it takes several people to put your art in a position so that it can support you – so you can make more.

Pitfalls: Some people will just be trying to use you and then cast you off.  Others will be jealous of you, even if you don't actually make a living from your art.  You most likely will not be making an extremely comfortable living, or you will, but only for a short time. You have to be a business person as well as an artist.

Joys: You will meet some of the most amazing and giving people who absolutely love art and see your work as being worthwhile, maybe even a little inspirational.  You can take pride in the life you have created, even if it isn't quite what you thought it would be.  You are making art on a regular basis and your creative energies are consumed by it. Yeah,... you are one of the few.

Every artistic person will be in more than one of these artistic levels during their life, if they actually keep making art.  As mentioned before, there are stages of life wherein you will be able to maintain your level of engagement or you will not.  It is okay to not focus on art for awhile if you need to focus on other things.  Even when you are a Professional, there are other parts of your life to maintain.  I think the important thing is to be able to take stock of where you are at and what you see as possible for you.  If you know your current level of engagement is all you will be capable of for awhile, be comfortable with it and have appropriate expectations.  If you feel you could move up to the next level, take stock of where you are at, what you will need to do to get to the next level and make a plan.  Hopefully, this bit I have written will help you get there in a realistic manner.

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