What Makes an Artist?

What makes an artist? Is it the mind–understanding how to question certain things and the way in which those questions can be translated into a visual format? Or is it the hand–knowing how to precisely re-create something in either a very methodological or natural way? Or, perhaps, it is the tools–unlimited access to oodles of knowledge and “professional” materials? I don’t think there is really a way to determine what truly makes an artist. It’s a mixture of all of these things in varying degrees. I personally believe that everyone is an artist because we all have a unique way of seeing things, interpreting things, translating things, and creating things regardless of how “good” we are.

However, there are some people who believe that an artist is truly an artist when they sell their creations.

I have some exciting news. And no, not just a “squeal on the inside” kind of exciting news. More like a shout-with-pure-enjoyment and run-onto-your-front-porch-to-tell-your-dad-as-he-waters-the-flowers kind of exciting news. Ready to hear it? I officially sold my first piece of artwork. Oh, but wait, there’s more. I officially sold my first two pieces of artwork!

I guess that makes me an artist then?

Let me back track a minute. In case you are unfamiliar, I am currently a visual arts student at York University. Although my love of all things creative is fairly broad, I have somehow managed to focus my art-making career on the more two-dimensional mediums. I am absolutely in love with print media, but also have an interest in drawing and painting. I just finished my second year in the program and have a whole slew of artworks to show for it (some loved and some not so much). Most of those artworks sit in the corner of my room, carefully organized by medium, squished between two pieces of taped together cardboard. But lucky for two of those bad boys, they are leaving the nest and are going to have to fend for themselves in this big old world.

For all you American readers–in case you didn’t know, Target is coming to Canada! You may be asking why I am sharing this tid-bit of information, but I shall tell you. Two of Target’s distribution centers and offices are being located relatively close to my area. As a result, they contacted my school in hopes of buying students’ artwork to hang in their offices. Students could submit any of their work to be sold and as I’m sure you have gathered–they picked some of mine!

As little appreciation my “shoved-in-a-corner” filing system represents, I truly am going to miss these two artworks. I am so happy that they are finding a home where they will be appreciated and viewed, but I kind of feel like a mother who is giving up her baby. Those art pieces are an extension of my innermost thoughts, my (sometimes naive and sometimes boring) experiences, my efforts, my lessons learned, and, most of all, my time. So as one last ode to the blood, sweat, and tears (maybe not the blood part, but definitely the sweat and tears!) that went into these pieces, I have decided to share them with you!

This big guy is titled Time in Perspective and was completed in my very first studio in university. The project entailed that we choose a small mechanical device, destroy it piece by piece, and draw each individual component in different types of perspective. Some of these pieces are done in one-point, some are in two, and some are even in three. If you’re a mathematical person and are perhaps in architecture, I will let you decipher which pieces are in which perspective. Needless to say, it is a very timely and intense process. I can honestly say that this project probably took me the longest out of any project I have ever completed. Tears and sweat were definitely involved in this one (heavy on the tears).

This piece, titled Brainwave, is my most recent artwork. It was completed for an abstract class (which is seriously not my forte) as the final project. The assignment entailed “creating space through texture” and required using “found” materials along with acrylics. It was completed at a time when my brain was in overload and so many things were piling up on me. Stresses of assignments, changes in my life, and a build up of ridiculous amounts of knowledge with no where to “put” it inspired this piece. It is derived from a contour map (geography nerd alert) which represents the varying dimensions of landscape through lines. It is made of all my old papers, essays, assignments, notes, tests, projects, doodles, and readings (hence the bits of highlighter here and there). It felt so good to release these things from my mind both metaphorically and literally as I ripped up the papers and layered them on top of each other. The build up in my mind was transferred to a literal build up on the canvas. The creation of Brainwave was such a therapeutic process.

Both of these pieces are so incredibly opposite of each other in their creation, but I’m okay with that. They represent two very different moments and as a result show the evolution of my thoughts and practices. That’s very special for me to be able to see. I appreciate where they have brought me and so I am ready to let them go to their new home in the Target offices. I hope they can bring something special to the people that work there, even if it is just a simple smile or a small glance. It’s better than in the corner of my bedroom.

I want to thank you for reading. I know that someone else’s art isn’t the most thrilling thing to read about. I also fully understand that you probably don’t find it very exciting that I actually sold some artwork, but I appreciate you reading through anyways. If you are interested, you can check out a post I wrote a while back about some of my other pieces by clicking here.

Now to leave off, I want to hear from you. What do you think makes an artist? Is it their minds, their hands, or their tools? Or is it the fact that they can sell their creations? Or maybe it’s none of the above. Let me know your thoughts!

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4 thoughts on “What Makes an Artist?

  1. Steve Authier says:

    Among other things that make an artist I’d add, that we are artists the moment we choose to intentionally do something creative simply for the sake of creating something we deem beautiful

  2. Congratulations, Amber! That’s very exciting. You are a very talented artist. As far as what makes an artist, that’s a tough one. Is the act of creation enough? Writing in a journal or drawing in a sketchpad is an act of creation. But I think that art also has something to do with shared experience. As soon as a piece of art is shared with another person and it evokes a reaction–whether it be positive or negative–I think maybe that’s the boiling point. I’m working on a post for next week that deals with an artist who never shared any of her work. Was she an artist before anyone saw her work? That’s a good question. I think, yes, her act of taking pictures was “art.” Her unique perspective was intrinsicly artistic. So maybe there’s a whole conversation there about art for art’s sake vs. art as a shared (and commercialized) experience. Very thought-provoking!

  3. amberwideman says:

    I believe that our “artistry” begins with our Creator! We are each a beautifully unique and complicated being, created to be a reflection of the love that our Creator has pored into each one of us. Every one of His creations has so many wonderful inner characteristics, like kindness and compassion and integrity etc, etc , all in differing proportions and allotments, according to His creative license for each of His original creations. And then it is up to us to choose to recognize them and share them with the world around us. Some of us realize our artistic abilities early, and others never come to
    recognize and tap into this wonderful gift. Regardless, to become an artist, we have to be willing to step out of our comfort zone and extend ourselves to truly become the artistic being that we were created to be…… made in His image……. never designed to hoard away our gift, but made to share it so that this world becomes a more beautiful reflection of our Creator!

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