On being an artist

What’s the difference between an artist and a craftsman? I’ve always wanted to be an artist but my dad is adamant that artists are born, not made, and the most I’d ever be is a crafts person, which is better left as a hobby. I’m 27, is it too late?

Your dad is a dream-killing asshole. He’s also wrong about artists being born. There’s nothing magical about being an artist. Artists make themselves, so if you have art in you, go make it. That’s not to say it will ever become your career, but who gives a shit? Just because you keep your day job, that doesn’t mean you’re not an artist.

(Oh, and since you asked, an artist masters a medium for the sake of the artist’s expression. A craftsman masters a medium for the sake of the mastery of the craft itself. It’s a subtle distinction with quite a bit of overlap.)


3 thoughts on “On being an artist

  1. Art Dad says:

    Gotta call bullshit on the dad. My 6 yo come home and draws for an hour every day. Her art is better now than it was before. My 15 yo started writing stories a year or so ago. Thise stiries are better today. Because of the sweat put into it. Not the inherent ability to draw or write.

    It’s a stupid notion. Like saying contrarian idiots would make a great lawyer because they love arguing.

  2. Chris says:

    One artist I was doing a book signing with (she wrote bad poetry to complement her uninteresting paintings) told me how she didn’t like her kids’ teachers telling them they were artists.

    “They aren’t artists,” she said, “and I told my daughters so.”

    She later proved to be really weird. Her husband had to drive her everywhere, and she kept asking me to send her my personal writing, the stuff I wasn’t planning to publish. Eventually, I sent it because her husband had gotten me into some chain stores. He then emailed me “never to contact [his] family again,” and then told me that my writing wasn’t art (I hadn’t asked).

    Those kids have since grown up always knowing the only real artist is their non-driving mom with her terrible poems and boring paintings.

  3. Artist sometimes says:

    This distinction has kept me motivated for years, reminding me that making art is ultimately about internal framing. And even when I feel like shit and have no ideas I can just be a craftsman for a day, which is still pretty damn noble.

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