Are you Afraid to be an Artist?

“But you’re a writer, you’re not an artist!”

(insert mildly derisive tone here)

I hear this from people all the time when I tell them that I help run a website called “Skinny Artist”, and then reveal that I am a writer and not a visual artist.  To many people (mostly non-artists) it seems almost blasphemous that I would have the audacity to lump myself into this “Artist” category.

After all, writers think of themselves as writers, musicians think of themselves as musicians, and photographers think of themselves as photographers.  Even among the so-called visual artists — painters generally think of themselves as painters, illustrators are illustrators, and crafters are. . . well most crafters are just plain crazy :).  My point here is that no matter what we do, none of us really seem to think of ourselves as a true “Artist”.


So what’s the big deal?!

This may seem like a ridiculous topic for a post, but there’s a reason that we didn’t call this site Skinny Writer (although we could have).  In the end it just seemed so limited. I mean why would we want to exclude visual artists, composers, photographers, and musicians from our little community?  Sure some of the specific gallery sites differ from one art form to the next, but the overall theme of branding and selling yourself as a working artist is essentially the same.  

“The young artist of today need no longer say ‘I am a painter,’ or ‘a poet,’ or ‘a dancer.’ He is simply an ‘artist.’ All of life will be open to him.” ~Allan Kaprow

  • How do I build an online presence?
  • How do I meet and connect to other artists?
  • How do I setup an effective website or blog?
  • What’s the best place to sell my work online?
  • How can I use YouTube to get people to know who I am?
  • What can I  get my work noticed online?
  • How do other artists get through creative droughts?
  • How do I use Twitter, Facebook, and gallery forums to build my identity?
  • How can I be more productive and get more done as an artist?
  • What tools or techniques should I use to display and sell my art?

The more we talked with different kinds of artists, the more we discovered that these questions applied to any type of creative artist whether they are a painter, photographer, musician, or yes, even a writer.  Besides, just didn’t have the same ring to it.

Why are we afraid of the word “Artist”?

Why do we insist on calling ourselves writers, artists, photographers, musicians, etc.. Is it the fact that we are really that intent on defining ourselves, or is it the fact that we are afraid to call ourselves “Artists”?

If you think this is completely ridiculous, take a moment and say the following sentence out loud a few times and see what you feel:

“I am an Artist.”

How does saying this make you feel? Do you feel confident and worthy of this title, or do you hear that little voice inside of you saying “Yeah right, dream on”?

If you’re like most of the artists we’ve talked to, I would guess that you’re probably a lot closer to that second answer than the first.  It seems that most of us tend to shy away from the “Artist” tag because we just don’t feel worthy of it.  True artists are people like Picasso, Clapton, Leibovitz, Lennon, Hemmingway, and Versace.  In  comparison, we feel more like wannabe artists.  So instead we end up calling ourselves “Creatives” a word that carries far less emotional baggage and responsibility.

“One would never undertake such a thing if not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”  ~George Orwell

This is a shame because in reality we are all “Artists” because we share that indescribable urge to create something that is completely unnecessary from a practical standpoint.  It doesn’t matter if we are creating books, pictures, poems, fashion, drawings, or necklaces; something inside of us demands to create and be heard. This is remarkable because we would much rather struggle to pay the rent every month and create our art, than live a comfortable middle-class existence working 9-5 as a corporate drone.

So what’s your point here, writer man?

My point is that we started Skinny Artist to create a community not just for writers or painters or musicians or photographers or crafters or whatever else it is that you do — Instead we wanted a site where all “Artists” could come together, share their ideas, and figure out how we can eventually live our art without all of the ramen noodles or smelly roommates.

In order to do that, however, we need you to become an active member of our community.  We need to hear about your successes, your failures, and the lessons you learned along the way.  We want you to use the comment section to share your thoughts, ask questions, tell a story, or simply to say hello to your fellow artists.

Keep in mind that none of us are experts here and we’re all just figuring this out as we go along, so please don’t ever be afraid to share your thoughts. I mean I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I don’t have all the answers.  In fact, I’m just here to fill the dead-air until enough of you get sick of hearing me talk and start taking over the site.

The choice is yours. . .

Photo courtesy of Mattox

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About the Author

Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book “Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work” is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.

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