Who is an artist?

Who is an artist?

This is a question that I have thought about many times. When is the moment that you can start label yourself as an artist? Is it after you have completed an Art degree? Or after you have sold your first artwork? Or perhaps anyone can decide it themselves at any time?

I read an article today by James Clear, where he defines the difference between an amateur and professional artist in a very concrete way. An amateur is someone who creates art whenever he or she feels like it. A professional on the other hand, shows up in his studio everyday and gets to work. This distinction really caught me, as I am a strong believer in consistency and continuity for success. You have to work through a row of bad ideas before you reach the magical ones. But it’s tuff. As creators we are probably the hardest critics of our works. It has been many times that I have fallen in love with one of Charles’ artworks that he doesn’t particularly like and vice versa. The same goes for photographs of ourselves.

Self-consciousness kills creativity 

To be self-conscious is an inspiration and creativity killer. With these factors in decline your motivation will soon come after and you will end up not producing any art. I have read some biographies of great artists who also admit a fear of not creating great art. But truth is, we are not more than human – we need to make some bad works to be able to identify the great ones. As we all hear while growing up: “It is from your mistakes that you learn the most”.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I truly understood this concept. Charles and I were at the Louvre for my first drawing lesson with him. As the formally trained representative in our duo, he is teaching me the academic theories of drawing. As we walked around the Denon section of the Louvre, Charles asked me to choose a sculpture to practise drawing proportions. I chose one and began. After 30 minutes I was sweating and felt unnecessarily stressed that my drawing was turning out so “bad”. I always had the idea that I was good at drawing and this was the first time that I truly realised that art is a never-ending education. Charles circled almost all parts of the female body as he concluded that I have to start from  the beginning.

Is it necessary to go to Art school to be an artist? 

I ask this question to every person that I meet within the art-world and I have never heard anyone say “Yes you have to”. This doesn’t mean that art is an easy way out if you don’t want to study. It rather means that art is, as aforementioned, a never-ending learning process. It also implies a greater deal of self-education, curiosity and discipline. Curiosity about subjects outside of what traditionally is labelled as art can add a deeper dimension to your artworks.

Charles, who did both a Bachelor and Masters at Beaux Arts de Paris, is one of the artists whom you could expect to support a proper Fine Arts education. In reality he often tells me how much he respects my work and input into his creations. I became so surprised the first time he told me and answered:

“But I have no formal training”.

“You don’t need to go to art school to have talent or ability to create art”.

It was the best confirmation I could have ever wished for. It is oftentimes institutions that limits creativity. We learn in schools and at work how things are supposed to be theoretically. But once you get out into the world, the reality is much more complex. The year that a particular painter made his fame in history has no real value when you start your professional career. It is the practical, creative and problem-solving practises that will help you excel.

Is being an artist synonymous with being an activist? 

It is interesting that many artists are also participants in activist movements. I was interviewed earlier this week and was asked about my political involvement. As a student of Politics, Philosophy and Economics, I guess I have to consider myself as politically active. However, I have not yet reached an activist status. A man I used to coach in tennis once said to me that observation is key. Observe your surroundings as much and as long as you can and don’t ride on high horses before you even have a horse. In other words, don’t utter your opinions publicly about topics before you have thorough knowledge about it. It’s an interesting lesson in today’s open society where people take the freedom to express whatever they feel like in different medias.

One of the motivations of artists is that one’s artworks will have an impact. This may be an explanation for why artists become linked to activist movements. Artworks speaks to the public. To create radical art will also increase the chances of exposure. Today we listened to a documentary on freelancing, where they said that to gain followers you must be provocative. I may sound old-fashioned, but my goal as an artist is not to get more followers by provocation. Imagine the false expectations that must arise from dishonest statements in the strive for fame. My goal, which I know I share with my other half, is to gain recognition by hard and genuine work.



Elin is a 23 year-old Swedish girl who is passionate about creation in various forms. She spends her days best doing embroidery, illustration, writing or having long walks with Charles of course ;)