I always have an ongoing internal debate whether or not I qualify as an artist. It’s not hard to call yourself one these days when all you need is an Instagram account and a few hundred followers. But there’s so much more to being an artist than just being good at drawing.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of being in the company of some very talented and experienced local artists. From painters to sculptors to photographers to curators, I’m beginning to realize the costs, time and politics that go into having an art-filled career. They’re attending art galleries and showings, applying for prestigious awards and grants, teaching art classes, live painting, entering competitions, completing custom commissions, meeting with local clients and networking day in and day out. It’s a career. Having never done most of these things, it seems quite unfair that I should be sharing the title of “artist”.
It’s made me realize that there are two very distinct art worlds:
The Traditional Art World, where you formally study art in school, learn about art history and techniques, attend meetings and do all of the things I mentioned above. You likely also have a studio and travel often for work, constantly looking for opportunities to sell. This process is grueling and success is measured in artist grants, contest winnings and having your pieces on the walls of esteemed galleries or art collectors.
The Internet Art World, where you are self-taught, learn about Frida Kahlo from Tumblr and spend the vast majority of your time at your computer instead of at galleries. You likely use a room in your house as your makeshift studio, constantly looking for opportunities for “exposure”. This process is also time-consuming, but success is measured in follower counts, a currency called "likes" and having your pieces on the pages of popular blogs.
Up until now, I’ve been a part of the second world, naively believing that one day--overnight--my artwork would just “blow up” online and I would be able to quit my day job to sell prints for a living. But that is not an artist, nor is it a rewarding (or even realistic) career. As great as the Internet is for sharing, connecting and learning, some of that effort should be invested in the local art community. It's important to balance both--exercising your reach via the Internet while also establishing roots in the local arts. There are more opportunities for learning, evolving, mentorship and fulfilling partnerships.
This year, I really hope to transition into the Traditional Art World—develop relationships with other artists, participate in more exhibitions, challenge myself to paint bigger and better pieces, become okay with selling original drawings, experience the studio life and more.
This year, I want to become an artist.