Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dedicated to Art

Hurry Up Vincent! I want to work in My studio today.

There are days when I am in my studio and I'm alone, or I feel alone, and the work may not be progressing as I would like and I wonder what the heck I'm doing! This is really kind of funny because there isn't anything else I'd rather be doing but still the question does pop into my head.

Despite that thought, I've always known that I was lucky to have discovered my passion and I've known for a very long time that I was fortunate to have this passion and the ability to pursue the same. As I looked ahead in time I knew that my work would be something I could continue after my Paid Job was done and things have worked out just as I imagined.

Some time ago I read a blog article on the topic of what it ment to be a professional artist. There were a huge number of comments on the article and a range of thoughts on the topic. The most interesting point for me was that many people wanted to define a professional artist as someone whose primary goal was to sell the work. All I could think was, "If you make the work, put the work out for sale and it doesn't sell, does someone come and take your artist license away?" I decided right then and there that I didn't like the word "professional" attached to the word artist. Made me feel like I needed to put on a suit and tie and grab my briefcase.

I think I prefer the word dedicated in front of my title of artist. I work in my studio most days. I enter exhibitions. I have shows. I do have work in a gallery. I read about art and study. etc. While selling work is great, I decline to alter my work to suit the desires of others. I did that as a designer and it's a totally different way to work. Been there, done that.

Here are some great things about being a dedicated artist.

You never have to retire from art. You may need to work in another medium at some point. I bet Henry Moore had assistants. You may need to work on a smaller scale. I love working large but there may come a day I don't want to be standing on a ladder in front of my design wall. The good news is if you can hold a pencil you can still express yourself through the making of art. I was going to mention if you still have good vision but I know of two artists who are legally blind and there work if fabulous. I also know one artists who has extreme color blindness but is know as a colorist. This artists has learned a value system which allows them to create sophisticated color relationships. The point is you make adjustments so you can continue.

Your friends and acquaintances will always admire your accomplishments and give you a kind of recognition that can be hard to come by in the work-a-day world. If you make anything you have had people say to you, "I wish I could do that. (paint, sew, print etc.)" Likely these folks could do these things but our culture is focused on comparing ourselves to others and often people are fearful about trying something new and not being "the best".

Your local art supply dealer, hardware store, fabric store etc. will break into a big smile when they see you coming. Yes! Artists and art are good for the economy. I'd rather have some new art supplies than a new dress anyday. (Actually I don't wear dresses. Haven't owned one for years. Comfort is big on my agenda and if you are an artist people allow you to wear jeans almost anywhere.)

Your local museum, gallery or community art center will (or should) be thrilled to meet you. YOU are the person who makes all the art that fills the walls and pedestals with items which attracts visitors, customers and new members. YOU are the person who is asked to donate work for the auction which raises money for the kids art camp, new display furniture, etc. YOU create work which must be professionally matted and framed. YOU make the lovely gift items which are given and long remembered. You might find yourself a very popular person!

Your area schools and community organizations will also be interested in what you are doing. Artists are often called upon to work with children for a special program or give a lecture to groups of all kinds. I've done lots of this. It hasn't made me famous but I feel I have made a contribution to my community and my state.

Being and artist also gives you a bit of cache whether you refer to yourself as professional or not. The very mention of your interest and skills can be an engaging topic when meeting new people. I don't think I've ever had anyone who wasn't at least a little interested in what I do.

You aren't getting older, you're getting better. A dancer may be the best in the world but at some point they must become the teacher. An athlete may be highly skilled but those skills will be dimenished over time. While you can certainly find examples of artists who peek early and fade, the more common story is the artists who works a lifetime and blooms as they mature. Let's hear it for old blooms!

I suppose what I'm telling you is how lucky we are to have a passion that we can pursue all our lives and pursue with intense dedication and not be overly concerned about the idea of "being a professional". Even if you live in a tiny apartment you can have a tabletop studio. You don't need anyone's permission to make something. You can stack your art to the ceiling if you like or sell your work so you can buy more supplies.

Art professors are famous for telling their students to "go drive a cab" and make your art in your off time. So, if you are still working a day job you can make art at night. It's hard but plenty of artists do just that. If you have given-up the day-job, WOO Nellie....get out of my way I'm headed to the studio!

I'm sure I could make a longer list and perhaps you'd like to add something to the list yourself.

Have fun today in your studio. Discover something new. Make something exciting. Make something ugly. (ugly is good....it challenges you) We are the lucky ones!

** Painting by Vincent Van Gogh titled Madame Roulin Ricking the Cradle.

Thank YOU for spending time at
Studio 24-7!

I love hearing from you and remember:



  1. Thank you Gerrie. We are part of a great tribe ;-)

  2. Great post Terry! Having been an art teacher most of my professional life your words ring true. A little skill can go a long way and even if you have a nine to five job that is unrelated to the art world it doesn't prevent you from making art. Being a professional artist is tough and I admire those that have made a living at it. I loke your idea of a dedicated artist better. And thanks for pointing out all the many ways that we are appreciated.

  3. Thank you Tom! I appreciate your comments and I love having you in my Tribe!

  4. I'm one of the many who are stuck in the dreaded day job whilst making art in the afternoons. It's great to be reminded occasionally how lucky we are to have creativity and the freedom to express it. Thanks

  5. Very nicely said, Terry. I keep on hearing the words of some 20ish artists who were teaching at the Battle Creek Art Center when I was taking classes in high school. They were denigrating someone who scheduled time to work (paint) every day. Without fail, this artist scheduled at least two hours to spend at the easel. "She isn't a REAL artist"
    sneered the one. "Yes!" Said the other, "Real artists work when the spirit moves them for as long as it moves them."

    Even at 16 I thought this silly as I knew that the other person had other responsibilities and s/he prioritized her studio time so that s/he HAD studio time. However, I still hear the echo of these nay-sayers.

    Long live those who make commitments to art and are even willing to make ugly art!

  6. how about Monet, whose water lilies were all watery because he couldn't see

    and let's don't forget Matisse, who when he was losing his sight cut those marvelous leaf and flower forms out of construction paper.

  7. Terry-
    In my circle of bloggers, we have had this discussion in the past though the comments mostly deal with what do you call yourself: artist, fiber artist, mixed media artist, etc. Labels (not in the pejorative sense) I believe help people to qualify something they may not understand. So if you say "professional artist" someone can qualify what you do but it leaves out a whole lot of information and variety. (And may even give a false impression.)

    For me, my problem comes in with saying that a professional artist sells their art. The word "professional" has its own set of images right? This seems restrictive though and what happens to me when I don't sell something? (Which happens.) Am I fraudulently stating what it is that I do? My creativity and drive isn't diminished but I don't fit that particular label if I don't show in a gallery or sell something.

    Your post made me think so thank you. I very much like the idea of having something to hold on to and have for the remainder of your lifetime. Something that you could peruse, practice, and enjoy. So, I am now off to ponder the term "dedicated artist." Love that very much so thanks:)

  8. Thank you to everyone for such thoughtful responses!

    Libby I thought your comment about labels was interesting because I often find that people do use them in negative ways. In the context of the online discussion I mentioned there was definitely an attempt to "sort" people in regards to how much they are able to sell.

    Carrie. You'll be full-time in your studio before the cat can lick her whiskers! Really.xo

    Michigoose. Isn't it amazing how powerful that kind of negative talk can be even when we know it isn't true.

    Kathy. Those are fantastic examples of making wonderful art when you aren't a "young lion". Last night Tom was telling me about artist Wolfe Kahn who has macular degeneration. Kahn says he is doing his best work as the condition has made me loosen up. Neat! I think he saw the article here: http://painters-table.com/

    In any event, the link is to The Painters Table and it's a great site.

  9. Hi Terry, Thanks for this post. Art is a lifetime commitment. In a recent post I called myself "a high priestess at the altar of art." I think I'll put that one on my tax return and see if Uncle Sam concurs!

  10. Nancy I love it! I'm as sure about Uncle Sam.

  11. Terry, Great post ...... and it is often that I feel grateful to have a passion that is so satisfying... that makes me eager to get up and into the studio each day..... that keeps me up at night thinking of new ideas. I frequently hear comments from people who have retired and are looking for something to fill their time. How sad is that! I feel I don't have enough time for what I want to do. After 40 years of teaching art I am grateful to have the opportunity to create in this way and I love the description of "dedicated artist".

  12. I love your post! I'd also like to adopt your terminology as being a 'dedicated' artist. This has so much more depth,feeling,commitment and meaning, than using the word 'professional', which to me is quite impersonal and does not describe giving the energy needed for art making.

  13. Thank you Maggie and be my guests as to the use of Dedicated Artist. I like your interpretation of this word combo and I agree. Thank you for taking time to share.

  14. Recently at the ripe age of 40 I have been studying fine art for the last 2 years and hope to go to college soon. Very inspiring post..!

  15. Hi Shane. Thank you for the comment and congratulations on your decision to pursue your passion...you will not be sorry. When I was in graduate school the median age of the other mfa students was about 35. Most had studied other things and worked in the Real World but found that their need to make art was strong and they left made big life changes in order to study. They were great students, wonderful artists and tremendous people. You've joined a an excellent tribe.

  16. I am coming back to read this post again. I love it. It is really fitting for me at this time. I am back to being very creative after a dry spell. I feel like a true artist again and working at it. It is a great place to be.

  17. Hi Cathy! Congratulations on finding your way back to your creative self. All of your effort will be well repaid.