A few years back I was online looking for blogs and websites to support me emotionally and practically as I sought to step up my painting a bit. In my search I happened across an article called 9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist on a blog called Skinny Artist. A year or two after that, I noticed this post made its rounds through Facebook collecting thousands of comments – many of them outraged.
At first glance, and if not read carefully, the post seems to denigrate amateur artists (versus, say, “real” or professional artists). To summarize, it said that amateurs could be identified by the following 9 traits:
- They wait around for inspiration
- They work until something else comes up
- They are constantly changing their focus
- They believe that “if they build it, you will come” (i.e. an audiences or clients just happen with no work involved)
- They believe that success will happen quickly
- They believe they don’t need schedules or organization
- They never really finish their work
- They are too busy learning to do anything (i.e. actual works)
- They isolate themselves from the artist community
Insulting to us amateurs, right? Condescending, no? Well, no, actually. Upon a second read and a good think I realized how useful this article is. The author isn’t so much thumbing his nose at us non-professionals, but providing parameters by which to guide his own professionalism, competence and productivity as an artist. At the time of first seeing this article, I recognized all nine of these traits in myself.
Since that time I have continually had them in mind, and have used them to make little changes that have led to considerable improvements in my paintings. Inspiration? I now almost subconsciously look for it everywhere and all the time. Work ethic? I paint (nearly) every day no-matter how busy or tired I am. Change of focus? Nope. I found something I love and am working on development of my technique and “voice”. Isolated? Working on that also. (blog) OK, I have not exactly found an audience per se, nor do I see myself trying to market my work any time soon (or ever) but still, this simple list has done wonders for me.
So kudos to you, Skinny Artist. You have provided the most useful, honest and concise map for improvement for us amateurs (or pros) that I have found so far. And believe me, I have been looking.
What about you? What do you think makes an artist a “pro” or an “amateur”?