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December 04, 2008


Mark Randall Kilburn


You are the best! This is one of my favorite topics in discussing artists and art.

People ask .."You made that?"..and when my response is "Yes" then they say
"Oh, you are an artist" I tell them "Dont call me names"
and the conversation/dialogue/argument regarding this subject starts.
My standard response is: "I pulled a tooth when I was 14 years old, does that make me a dentist?" I weld but I am not a "Welder". I cook but I am not a Chef.
Friends have chastised me for refusing to be called an artist, saying I am selling myself short. I wonder how others feel about this?


oh, please don't get me started on my own lifelong battle with a lack of self-esteem! i have a degree in music composition, have played piano since i was 2 and i'm 51 now, but i've never considered myself a 'real' musician—it was more like applied mathematics to me. i've been a designer of newspapers, magazines and books for close to 30 years, with many awards for my work, but have never considered myself a 'real' designer either.

what i DO know though, is that i'm an artist. i've been drawing forever, was always called the 'little artist' by my parents, have kept it up my entire life, and in the past 5 years have been working on pieces that actually hang on walls, putting myself out there. it's funny, i never needed to have any outside confirmation of my being a real artist like i kept looking for in music and design. i just always knew i was an artist.

whether the world agrees with me doesn't enter into the equation like it always did for me in the other disciplines/choices/paths.

of course, i hope the world DOES agree eventually, but that's not up to me.

does that make sense?

Mark Randall Kilburn

Often, I could give a rats ass about what anybody thinks regarding what I make as art. I certainly do not do it for them.
Architects/Engineers that build bridges are the worlds best artists. Function, form and INCREDIBLE liability are challenges that are daunting to say the least.


I think (maybe) the title of artist, musician etc... is a title that others bestow upon an individual. I work with a lot of artists and the reason I call them “artist” is because they create art for a living... it’s what they do and it’s pretty straightforward. And yet there are other artists who are sensational and yet don’t sell their art (for whatever reason) and they work at other professions. Are those people not also artists? Yes of course.

My son wants to be a music tech. He lives, eats and breathes music and has for some years now. Is he a musician? I don’t think so... he’s an aspiring musician yes, he has talent, yes. But in some way I think there needs to be a period of time (a right of passage, if you will) involved before one earns the recognition of “artist.” Having said that... does this mean that an “artist” who pursues his craft for years and sucks is an artist? Or is there a level of proficiency and acceptance that comes with the title?

I am a business woman, a mom, a housekeeper, a girlfriend. I was a wife, a daughter and for a time a Construction Coordinator. These titles all apply because they are fact and self evident. I also work as a graphic designer, and yet I don’t believe that I’ve risen to the top of my field and I don’t know everything about graphic design....yet! So in fairness to all the incredible talented graphic designers out there who really know their shit, I don’t feel I can give myself that title....yet!

When I am working with artists, some have upon occasion said to me “Well you are an artist too.” I find that to be the highest of compliments...but I don’t think I’m an artist...yet! Yes, I’m creative (most days) but to me an artist is someone (in any given field - graphics, fine art, sculptor, engineering, mathematics, music) who sees things a little bit differently, who has a different mindset and is able to express that view or opinion accurately in a fixed form. They have an “artist mentality” that sets them apart from the rest of us.


I should also say the artist pursues his/her art despite all obstacles.

Bonnie MacKenzie

When can you call yourself an artist? NOW and always!

By universal standards, our very essence is creation and we are here to "create" ourselves every day.

Our thoughts, desires, dreams, goals are all creative energy that puts in motion the beginning of whatever we think about. What thoughts and feelings that follow determine whether we actually MANIFEST what we want. But we are all creating every moment, every second.

So then by universal definition, if artists "create" then we are all artists.

However, our culture likes titles and specific ways to define each other and so it has come to pass that the term "artist" has become a way to define a profession with, unfortunately, very specific actions to be accomplished in order to use the title of "artist".

I don't subscribe to any elitest attitudes about being an artist or to any of those "actions" to define myself (or anyone) as an artist. I encourage everyone to find the artist within themselves.

For I believe that anyone who honestly expresses who they are to create "something" is an artist. Using the term "professional" artist could be used to distinguish one who creates as a source of income versus those who create only for the joy of creating. But to me they are ALL artists.

We artists often deal with insecurities and lack of confidence and it has been my experience that those who would like to deny the title of artist to someone who isn't doing it for money are the ones with the most fragile egos.

Does that make someone more or less of an artist if they do or don't sell their art? How can that be? What does money have to do with the process of expression?

Are you not a baseball player if you play high school ball? Are you not a poet if you write a poem? Are you not a writer if you write a story? Are you not a teacher if you teach someone something?

When I was raising my two children,(who incidently are now both professional artists..) I always referred to them as "artists". I saw it as my job to ensure that their creativity wasn't stiffled.

They came here (as do all babies) with a natural ability to express themselves without judgement. My job was to not screw that up! Not an easy task.

It was my most important responsiblity so that as they grew, they would feel joy in the process of creating; of being an artist.

It was my job to allow them the freedom to try, and try again, and again... without influence of an adult deciding if it was "art" or "good" or "needs improvement". Every piece of art they created was the "artist" in them expressing who they were at that moment. My job was to stay out of their way. They would figure it out.

I knew that as they continued their educations, there would be plenty of people who would critique, judge, and criticize their work.

So I decided from early on that they would always find 100% adoration from home for every mark, scribble, song, dance, writing they created. They were always "artists".

THEY decided they wanted to pursue the arts because they had a love for the creative process in and of itself and not to please anyone else.

They see themselves as artists without any question and although they may have professional challenges at times, one thing they very rarely do is judge their art as good or bad. Some "creations" they like better than others, but all just work in progress; no failure, only feeedback and learning. How refreshing!!

So I understand that being an artist is an internal energy that must be expressed for one's own well-being.

That expression can come in any form and as long as it is a true expression of who you are and what you feel, then by all means, call yourself an artist!

Ted Mikulski

This is a really interesting topic. Truthfully being called an 'artist' is simply a label. I agree with Lisa about musicians having a right of passage, however are they still not musicians? Certainly social status weighs heavily here and the more people that recognize you as an artist, the more it seems to fit.

Ultimately visual art is its own special game and it is difficult to compare it to interior design, architecture, or anything else. An artist is a prominent NYC gallery-repped socialite, or the high school kid who likes to stay late in art class. The label of an 'artist' is certainly a special thing but like everything else in society, it is overused and over-applied.

I think we can all agree that most could be called an 'artist', but few really deserve it.

Eric Karjaluoto

I painted for years and never really felt great about the term "artist". As such, I said "painter", and then people thought that I painted walls.

In my mind you should call yourself whatever you want. If you feel good about it, there's no harm done, and who really should question how you define yourself.

That being said, I think that I'd feel differently if you started to use the term "doctor" without taking the standard steps. ;-)

Bonnie MacKenzie

To Lisa...in response to your post:

An artist sees a challenge, situation, an idea and says "What if?"...You do that every day.

So I think it's time you gave yourself a pat-on-the-back, and called yourself an artist...if that is what pleases you.

Because the last time I checked...no artist ever knows ALL their shit! So you may as well enjoy the ride while trying to achieve an impossible goal!!! LOL!


Bonnie... What a lovely thing to say. Thank you. In particular I love the "enjoy the ride while trying to achieve an impossible goal." Well said!

Elisabeth Eberle

As an artist I am driven to reflect and to express personal answers creating my individual work independently on purpose.


I have been reflecting in this question for the last couple of years---
I has several conclution, one after another,
many of them were similar to the previous post.
how ever that questions make think deeper,
and more coherent. so before I have and answer of what is an artist , I must answere the question of what is art?
currently I am not satisfy with the concepts or definitons of art. when my reflection unveil for me the answer, ..........
of course your own definition is what is valid for you.:-)
I am re-enveinting my world all over again.
it feels so beutifull to re-invent;;;;;;



you know lately I've been wondering the same thing- anymore everyone considers themselves an artist when most of them aren't. I recently joined this etsy site to try and sell some work and I'm shocked at what's been called artwork. It's becoming harder and harder to find a niche for real artists with all the glut of mediocrity around...

Brian Sherwin @ Myartspace Blog

I prefer to call myself a painter. The only problem is that sometimes people think I mean house painter. On the other hand, when I say 'artist' people will sometimes ask if I do music or visual art. It is a tough call. Again, I prefer painter.

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