Do You Call Yourself An Artist?

by Barbara Burns on March 13, 2017

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Barbara Burns weaving “Amandaconda.” Photo credit: Michael Wilson

According to the English Oxford Dictionary an artist is: a person who practices or performs any of the creative arts.

I didn’t call myself an artist for a long time. I would skirt the idea and say things like: “I design and weave tapestry” or “I’m a weaver.” I just wasn’t comfortable with the label “artist”.  What changed? Well, some people were calling me an artist, so I decided to try it on for a while. It felt like a new pair of shoes: a bit stiff at first but, after wearing them for a while they mold to your feet and feel comfortable. That’s how it happened for me. So now I say: “I’m a tapestry artist, I design and weave tapestry”. I’m still getting used to my “new shoes.”

There’s a great blog post written by Luann Udell in California, USA 

WHO IS AN ARTIST? (And When Can You Call Yourself One?)

I’ve quoted a few lines from Luann’s post with her permission:

“If you are making something that makes your heart sing, if you enjoy it, if it connects you to your higher self, if it connects others to their higher self, even for a few brief moments, then yeah, you’re an artist.”

“And you can start calling yourself that right now.”

“You have to SAY “I’m an artist” before you can believe it.”

“If people are curious, and it’s hard to explain what you do, hand them your business card (which absolutely should have a bit of your artwork on it, if at all possible) that has your website (because you need to have an online presence of some sort so people can see/hear/watch what you do).”

“And let them decide for themselves. Don’t doubt what you are. Don’t second-guess what you do. Just constantly strive to make it as good as you can.”

“After all, only you can do it.”

“Say it loud, say it proud, “I’m an artist!” right out loud.”

 You can read the full post here.

For more reading try:

Huffington Post article: How Do You Define Artist?

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10 comments

  1. Donna M Graham says:

    Calling myself an artist was difficult. Your are right on in explaining the process.

  2. Barbara Burns says:

    Donna, I just wanted to make it clear that the article “Who Is An Artist” was written by Luann Udell. She did do a very good job explaining the process. Thank you for commenting,

  3. I must agree that wearing the mantle of ‘artist’ has been difficult for me to do. I draw, do leatherwork, beading to some extent, embroider, cross-stitch, designed some of the wood furniture in my own, designing the floor plan of my home. Some designs from of all of this being my own, others from other sources. Tapestry is my own and i proudly consider myself tapestry weaver but still hesitate in saying artist. If others choose to use that term, I do not disagree or correct them. They are describing what they see in even if I don’t always see it myself. Guess I’ll get used to it eventually, but I’m afraid it will inflate my head if I do. Anyone else feel that way?

  4. I was always considered ‘the artist’ in my family and was more a maker than a painter or person drawing all the time. I have worked in many different mediums but never at a constant pace and switched from one medium to another frequently. I am mostly a dyer but love to do anything that involves working with color. I am a tapestry weaver but never considered myself a tapestry artist. So many weavers are way more experienced and productive than I am. However, if you do something that involves work you love and you do it well and it is something others think is of artistic merit they will call you an artist. We need to be willing to call ourselves artists as well.

    1. Barbara Burns says:

      I agree Linda. There’s an old saying I’ve heard, though a strange one, and I’m paraphrasing: If one person tells you you’re dead, laugh. If two people tell you you’re dead, think about it. If three people tell you you’re dead, lie down! So, if people perceive you as an artist, you must be one. The eye of the beholder.

      1. Wendy Regier says:

        Artist versus craftsperson, I’ve heard this most of my productive life. I consider myself a craftsperson, someone who excels in fiber knowledge, finds creative ways of looking at the universe and works through solutions to design problems. If someone else wants to call me an artist, that’s okay with me. I just want to get on with my work!

  5. Terri Bryson says:

    I’ve considered myself a “dabbler” because I like to try different things. “Artist” sounds so serious when some people say it. For me, the important thing is the value of participating in the process of making. Defining the term “artist” sounds very confining and maybe an attempt to define something that takes far more forms than there are words for. Maybe “art” like “infinity” just can’t be easily defined, Creating is a part of human nature. Many of us never reach superstar status in the art or craft world. Practicing as many forms as possible while having some favorites stretches me the most and helps me appreciate what others do in their work. One thing just informs another. I prefer to just enjoy and let others worry about defining and sometimes I do get defined as an “artist.”

  6. Nancy Dugger says:

    I am an “artist”. I say that because I have a Bachelor of fine art degree and I made a living designing high end hospitality carpets and hand tufted rugs for commercial and residential spaces for almost two decades. All were custom designs, never two alike. I developed some drawing skills before finishing college but many years of designing helped to fine tune those skills. I am limited in the style of what I do which is a source of frustration at times. I am a realist but I don’t like to do photographic style work. I want my tapestry to look like a textile more than painting but be somewhat painterly. I’m always striving to improve my skills, which means I am also learning new and better ways to do what I do. I can draw well enough, but I do not paint well. I was once told by a professor of art that I should go into craft work because I wasn’t “good enough” to be an artist. No one should ever tell a young student something like that. It made me doubt myself and give up for awhile. So, eventually, later in life I gained more self confidence and began again to pursue my first love, after working many dead-end jobs. I believe you are whatever you see yourself as. And if you continue to be creative in any medium you are an artist in your heart. Even crafts people are artists in their medium. Human beings were created to be creative in His image. When I let God lead me I can do anything. I just have to get out of my own way.

  7. What you said about a professor telling a student (you, in this case) that you were not good enough to be an artist struck a cord with me. I guess I have had difficulty accepting being an ‘artist’ because I lack any kind of professional training, be it high school or after. I was always taught/told that to be an artist you must have real training in all kinds of media or else your efforts would simply be a waste of time for any potential audience. I have since found that to be a very false, stupid, and narrow mind set from the peer group back in the day. So glad that crap is over. The general public appreciates what it takes to make fine art and fine craft no matter how you learned it. I know many artists have had to work quite hard to do what they do and do it well, either to make side money or to earn an honest living and support their families. I appreciate and rather envy those who manage to achieve that level of success. I love weaving tapestry and although I know I won’t make a living at it, it will not stop me from creating the imagery that lights my fire and hope that others see that when they look at my work. I’m still not comfortable with others calling me an artist but I don’t cringe at the word anymore.

  8. Ros Wilson says:

    When exhibiting, I describe myself as an artist in yarn and paint (I usually exhibit a mix of tapestries and painted works). Feedback is positive and I have overheard the comment “Oh, I do like the woven paintings”. We tapestry weavers are artists twice over. First we create the coloured design, then we have to do it all over again in the medium of yarn.

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