I struggled for many years with this question:
When do you call yourself an artist?
As a youngster, art was my favourite subject. It was the highlight of school, it was what i looked forward to the most. I continued to draw, sketch, paint, cartoon... doodle my entire life. However... if someone asked me if I was an artist, I would say no .... the image of an artist to me was someone who painted for a living... someone who everyone knew, who was famous... and wealthy. Even after I sold my first painting, I hesitated to say I was an artist .... it felt like I was claiming something I shouldn't.
I am more comfortable with it now... mostly because my image of what an artist is has changed. I've been thinking about this a lot lately and a couple conversations have really stirred the pot for me.... (the thinking pot)
In the first conversation I was talking to a friend about different artists who have passed, who were not recognized in their lifetime but who's paintings are worth millions now. She was telling me about how she enjoyed seeing how their work changed as they grew older, how they stretched ... this got me thinking.
In the second conversation, I watched a critique of an abstract painting. I liked the painting, I saw a lot in it and thought it was well done... it moved me. During the critique, it was suggested that there needed to be more contrast, that perhaps the eye was being led out of the painting etc... I was uncomfortable watching this unfold.
So....( and i hope you can see how I got here from those conversations).... I started to wonder if critiques, juries, awards etc.. perhaps limit an artist's freedom to just create art, experiment grow. I want to say that I do think there is some value in critiques... but perhaps not all paintings benefit from the rules of focal point, contrast, lines leading here and there. I fear sometimes that art becomes more about those rules of composition than about what the artist is trying to communicate. Can and do the rules of composition change over time? Should they be the first thing you think about when painting? I'm not sure... i know that I don't always think about those rules when i paint and it felt wrong to apply those criteria to this abstract... it felt like it would take away from what the artist was trying to communicate. Do you need to have a focal point it you want someone to just swim around in your painting for a while?? Sometimes all the rules of composition... make me itchy and irritable. Are they the golden standard for all eternity???? Did cavemen have composition standards of only using red or black paint, and only paintings of men hunting animals were acceptable??
Anyways.... back to my original train of thought. Artists are artists before they paint, make music, write, draw, photograph, or act. I think artists want to make sense of their world, they want to share the depths of their feelings and thoughts, and they learn and develop the skill to be able to do that. It is more than just coming up with a perfect picture... it is exploring, thinking... it is the process.
Have a great day. :)
Liz R. Derksen is an artist living in BC.