A daily dose of creative suspense.

What makes an artist?

My baby daughter: Sonnet.

Many artist struggle with this elusive definition of an artist. But I think that it is just like having a baby. If you create a baby, everyone including yourself labels you as a mother or father. No questions asked. So if you create anything- a painting, music, writing you automatically are an artist. See? Simple.
If your baby is bad or good you are still a mother. If your art is bad or good you are still an artist.






Here’s what some others think:

From Stop Motion Magazine interview with japanese Artist  Fumiko Magari    

SMM: What makes an artist?

Magari: You need to know what you like and don’t like. Art comes from feelings, such as anger. I’m still looking. I want to make change. It’s a very serious question because no one has asked me so directly before.

Defining yourself as an artist
The 20th century view, first articulated by Marcel Duchamp, is that artists define themselves, with no other external forms of validation required. I believe this to be true. From the time I drew my first squibble with a broken yellow crayon and sat back on my hunches to admire my work I knew I was an artist. Why? Because I made art. Which to me means I took nothing and made something. That’s all. That simple.
Why do I make art? Because there is nothing else in the world that feels as good as creating something. Many people have tried to analyze its meaning. In the early 20th century Sigmund Freud pioneered the study of art in its psychoanalytic form by considering the artist as essentially a neurotic who deals with his psychic pressures and conflicts through his creative impulses. Maybe. Freud may be right about some artists and some art. But sometimes I just see something so beautiful, I have to capture it. So it becomes mine. It’s a way for me to push the beauty through my veins, to become a part of it. But that’s only sometimes.
According to Jung, art and other forms of creative endeavor could access the ”collective unconscious” and provide considerable insights on not just the process of creativity but also the cultural elements in the mind that are carried across generations. In Jungian psychology art as a psychological process would be an assimilation of the cultural experiences of the artist so it is accessible to an wider community.
Humans have been making images of humans as long as we have been able to use our hands. There is nothing else I want to paint, draw, sculpt except humans. Once in a while an animal but mostly humans. I am fascinated by the behavior of people and I like to express it in art. I think it helps me sort it out in my over cluttered brain. Maybe I am taking notes.
“What makes one an artist? My friend asks because she is timid about calling herself a “real” artist. I have always agreed with Duchamp. If you say you are an artist, you are. No validations or explanations needed. It’s because being an artist is a state of mind, not an action. It’s like if you say “I am hungry.” Art is a feeling. A compelling urge to create something from your observations and ideas. I have heard people say that you are a real artist if people buy your art. If sales defines you as an artist, where does that put old Vincent van Gogh, who only sold one or two paintings during his lifetime but is one of the most recognized dead artist in present day?
Do you really want to put that kind of power in the hands of mere mortals? Just because someone has enough money to buy your painting does NOT mean they have the wisdom and insight to knight you a “real “ artist. Leave that power in the hands of the proper owner- YOU! Only you know the burning desire you have to create art. Only you can hold that branding iron in the fire and sizzle your skin with the courageous act of branding yourself an artist. Go ahead! What are you afraid of? You can be a bad artist or a good artist. But be an artist!

2 responses

  1. Lauren Malamed

    “If your art is bad or good you are still an artist.” I love this Kathy!!
    However, how can you define whether art is “good” or “bad”?
    Or rather, WHY?
    The words “good” and “bad” are almost toxic in nature when it comes to hesitant creators.
    So many are afraid of being considered a “bad” artist, and feeling disappointment and even shame, that they avoid even trying at all!
    This is a true shame, because there is nothing like being lost in the process of creation.
    Being an “artist”, in my opinion, is simply making things because it makes ya feel so damn content!
    As soon as you let your artwork stress you out you are loosing grip on what it truly means to be a “good” artist–a person that is proud of their work, simply because they are genuine expressions of their emotions, perceptions, etc.

    If we think from an evolutionary stand point, art ability, similar to musical ability, is an arbitrarily desirable gene. (Hence why all of those brooding painters are just so sexy with their unfortunate hair cuts.) Much like a male bird’s excessive plumage it provides us no phenotypic benefits, and yet it continues to exist! The capability to draw a beautiful line can be a trait that is sexually selected for! This is why artistic/musical “ability” is heritable! Skill sets such as these are generally considered appealing because they show high gene “quality”, rather, why bother sharing your genes with a genetic deadbeat when you can reproduce with a sultry sculptor?
    So, why is a proud artist a “good” artist?
    Pride is sexy, because it shows confidence–an indicator of superior gene quality.
    However, if you try to be a “cheater” and show pride in work that you genuinely did not put effort into people will catch on because you are FALSELY indicating that you have desirable genes.
    It can go the same way even if you DO put effort into your art! If you degrade your own work (Now this part is tricky because our cultures generally value humility) it is not sexy! Do not put off a FALSE indicator! (At the same time, let’s try to be modest ladies and gents.)

    LOVE YOUR ART, and love the person who makes it. YOU. I feel like those are the only requirements to be a “good” artist!!

    November 18, 2011 at 11:03 AM

  2. katdazzle

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Lauren. One thing I try to explain to people is: the experience of art is the pure orgasm of art. Even if someone is told they created “good art” then the importance is placed on the object and not the experience. The “good” artist then may feel pressured to keep producing “good” art pieces. This diminishes the pleasure of creation and places the artist in the position of a vending machine who when the money/praise is inserted the “good” artwork falls off the circular coil and out the slot to be consumed by the vendee.
    I truly feel the experience of creating is the valuable, juicy part of art.

    Very interesting concept about the desirability of an artistic gene. Why do humans crave beauty? I understand why they crave physical beauty ( because it is a show of healthy genes) but why have we evolved to crave beautiful objects? How did this benefit us in primal times? The first decorated pot, the first cave painting. Were they done just for sheer contentment? A way to pass boring time with no internet? Perhaps a way to communicate before the written word? A way to mark your pot to show ownership? And then jewelry was made and tattoos to make your beautiful body even more attractive ? Or to add interest? To entertain? Why are we the only mammals that create art? Are we?

    November 18, 2011 at 4:19 PM

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