Are you Afraid to be an Artist? – Skinny Artist

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

If you would like to share this article the short URL is:

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.

Leave a Comment:

(48) comments

[…] between one artist and another is how we feel about them.  [Keep in mind that I'm using the term "Artist" here to describe any kind of creative […]


I felt like a liar when I said it.
Then again, I am not actually creating anything seriously (yet). I do wish to become one. One of many kinds of arts. Writing, painting, photographing, music… Maybe even digital art and film!

I am almost artist-to-be. :)


    I think we all feel still like that on some level. For whatever reason, most of us never feel qualified enough to label ourselves an “Artist” (with a capital “A”) because we are always comparing ourselves to someone who is just a little bit better or has perhaps done this for a little bit longer than we have.

    Art in its purest form, however, is more of an internal journey. It’s not about comparing yourself to another artist, it’s about comparing yourself to where you were six months ago as an artist. As long as you are making progress, growing as an artist, and working on your art everyday– I believe that you have the right to call yourself an “Artist” and not back down from it. It’s still far easier said than done, I know. . .

    Thanks for stopping by, I hope to hear from you again soon!


      “Art in its purest form, however, is more of an internal journey. It’s not about comparing yourself to another artist, it’s about comparing yourself to where you were six months ago as an artist. As long as you are making progress, growing as an artist, and working on your art everyday– I believe that you have the right to call yourself an “Artist” and not back down from it. It’s still far easier said than done, I know. . .” How are people seriously able to deceive themselves into thinking this way? It must feel wonderful I’m sure but it’s an indisputable fact that some people are better than others and some (like me) don’t have the potential to become as exceptional as others can become in certain fields, like artistry. How can any of you look up at the artists who are infinitely better than you and not curl into a ball and realize you can never become that good and give up and lay in bed for the rest of your life?!


        I concur with this and find the silence surrounding what is a important question troubling.


          I would reply to this that the issue of quality is subjective. Many successful artists (again a subjective term) get by on works which are not necessarily technically profound, but are rich with authenticity, and individuality.

          Being such an artist, however, requires immense courage.. because people will be doubting you at every turn, people including yourself.

          It takes a certain kind of madness and stubbornness to be able to stare down that kind of fear.


        I am going to agree with Drew and Jonas here…courage is a key factor. And guts. You have to step out of your box to get the job done, and the path to “Artist” can be a daily battle. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and our “art” will look different because of this. Who is to judge what is quality or not? Therein lies the beauty of being an artist. It’s freeing, don’t you think?

        The other night on the news there was a story about a famous painting which was auctioned at Sothoby’s and it brought an immense sum! The entire huge canvas was a beautiful shade of blue, and there was a single painted line down the center in a contrasting color. That’s it. And it brought millions. I’m not saying this piece of “Art” is better or worse than another – it’s different. And it’s value comes in it’s uniqueness, and maybe the name of the artist. Don’t ask…don’t remember.

        We all travel our road with our own set of talents and beliefs. We need to be allowed to do so no matter what the outcome is as far as title. “Artist”? Not a term I’m comfortable with. But it’s certainly not going to stop me from writing and photographing, my own personal forms of expression. I refuse to curl up into that ball, but I’m also not taking great risks. And I’m okay with that. “Artist”? I prefer “artistic.” Less intimidating:)


        Maybe it’s not that one person is so much better than another as you seem to think, but that one person is willing to work at it, persist, experiment, not be afraid to be seen as less talented, or just has no choice in that by creating something, anything, life is better than by doing nothing and blaming it on not being as good as someone else. What if Picasso thought, “I can never be as good as Monet”… and yet some would say he was better.


        because creating should bring joy towards your life, use that fear to authenitcally express yourself in your own music/art


Because we are creators of something, perhaps many see the label ‘Artist’ to be giving to the creator by others and not self-imposed. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I consider myself an Artist (capital letter included), but just throwing that out there.

I also see artists creating in whatever medium in order to communicate. So when we have “… that indescribable urge to create something that is completely unnecessary…”, I think it IS necessary to say or point out what you’re trying to express. I guess I would maybe replace “unnecessary” with ‘non-functional’. ?

Just food for thought. Just found your cool website; looking forward to more! Thanks Drew!


    Hi Tracy! First of all let me apologize for not responding to your comment sooner. From the date on it, it seems to coincide with the great Skinny website meltdown of 2010. . . Not that that’s really an excuse, but for whatever reason it seems to have gotten lost in the great database migration. . .

    I think you’re right that one of the roles of the artist is to communicate that which is universal in us all but so difficult to describe. Whether our tools are words, pictures, or colors/shapes we are constantly trying to build that bridge between the conscious world and that which lies hidden within all of us.

    Looking back, you’re right that “unnecessary” was probably a poor choice of words. I was attempting to describe the general public’s perception of art as a “luxury” or non-essential item — to the artist, of course, it is not only necessary, but completely unavoidable.

    Thanks again Tracy for sharing your thoughts with us and now that I know where to find you, I’m looking forward to reading more from you on your own site.

    All the best :)


I admit that I always feel weird calling myself an artist. I am one by all meanings of the word. But I tend to dumb it down and become specific by saying I’m a cartoonist.

Then again, I’m one to always compare myself to the next person. I know I shouldn’t do it, but I almost can’t help it.

At the moment I’m more of a hobbyist more than anything since I’m still a student. I’ve tried doing a little commission work on the side, but balancing animation work with commissions is a harder task than I believed it was. My focus now is just on the school side of things while drawing sparingly for myself in whatever free time I might have.


    I think we all feel a little weird telling people that we are artists, writers, photographers, or whatever because 99% of the people out there have no idea what that really means. . .

    If you think about it, virtually everything the general public knows about artists and writers comes from television or movies. This means that visual artists generally come off as a cross between a counter-culture hippies and raving lunatics, and writers are generally either alcoholic manic-depressives or pot-smoking slackers who are living in their mother’s basement.

    Sure these are just stereotypes, but it’s an image that seems to be firmly stuck in the public’s consciousness. So when someone asks us what we do, we either become defensive and apologetic, or we simply try to avoid the whole situation by never leaving our house in the first place.

    Since you’re in school in the moment, you have the luxury of working on your art and being an undercover artist while still being able to tell people you’re a college student, which everyone including parents love to hear. It’s the best of both worlds if you really think about it. Just remember that if you don’t have a job lined up by the time you graduate, start applying to graduate schools. . . . just kidding (kind of) ;)


Personally I like to tell people that I am a sculptor, even though I also consider myself a photographer and, at times, an amateur writer. I do this not because I am afraid of being an artist but because when I’m trapped in a small-talk situation I like to direct the conversation to something a little more bearable. I simply got sick of the same conversation over and over –

Random person making small talk: “What do you do?”
Me: “I’m an artist.”
Random person: “Oh, what do you paint?”

I’ve lost track of the number of times this has happened. Since I don’t even know the first thing about painting having not done it since kindergarten, I tend to get very annoyed with this response. It makes me feel defensive of what I do and who I am when somebody I don’t even know has already formulated an idea of me from a simple two-sentence conversation.

Personally I love the reaction I get when I say that I am a sculptor. Most people don’t have an immediate response. I watch them pause and think about how to ask their next question. I imagine when they think of “artist” they immediately think of the go-to generic version of an artist in their head (a painter, usually Picasso or maybe a cartoon image of a man with a beret and a palette). When they hear “sculptor” they probably don’t have an immediate image in their head so they are forced to think about the conversation or let it die. And in my experience I get much more interesting questions in response to the term “sculptor” than to the term “artist” – usually something along the lines of “What medium to you work in?”

But, then again, sometimes they assume that sculptor means potter and they start to ask me about my kiln. At least they are in the same neighborhood of art. I think that the term “artist” is too broad of a description in most situations. Think of the word “professional”. A professional can be any number of types of professions, but when you hear somebody say “this is a building full of young professionals,” it’s more than likely you will conjure up the image of business suits and early bed times. In my opinion, if you are trying to describe yourself during a conversation, especially in a networking situation, it’s better to be specific. Even within artistic mediums there is need to be specific. I once had a coworker do a whole song and dance about a large-scale metal garden sculpture she wanted to commission from me until I finally had to stop her to let her know that the polymer clay miniatures I created were a far cry from the type of work she was interested in.


    First of all, I have to agree with you on hating the whole “What do you do?” question. I think you’re right when you say that people seem to have a lot of preconceived ideas as to what an “artist” or a “writer” is, or at least should be.

    Not to mention the fact that, unless we’re on a first date and trying to impress the other person with our superior listening skills, we are usually having this conversation pretty much on auto-pilot anyway. It’s just kind of the script we follow to fill up the awkward silence after we run out of things to say about the weather. Usually you can tell is someone is really interested in “what you do” or if they are simply going through the motions. If they are really interested, I’ll usually go into more detail, otherwise I’ll give them the standard “I’m a writer” reply and wait for the inevitable “Oh that’s interesting. I have a friend who. . . “


The other day my friend told me that I’m a very talented artist, and I could feel myself cringing at the thought. Because I hardly feel like one at all. Even though, in retrospect, that’s exactly what I am. Especially because I’m not limited to a single medium of artistry. I enjoy all of it.

When I was a kid i remember telling my mom that I wanted to be an artist and she asked me what kind. I was confused and she said that there are many types of artists. My only response was that it didnt matter. I just wanted to be an artist.

Good to know that even at the age of 5 or 6, I knew what my life would grow to be.


hey I feel the word artist to me, is about creating wheather beautiful sculpter, paintings, literary, dance, theater is all wonderful art.
I am just emerging as a visual artist, but I have been told that I am a Artist in the form of short stories and poetry. It is easy for me to think of others that way, but not myself. i hope that everyone writing experiences the sense of creating in the written word…….


Hi everyone I so much work to share and contribute. I feel sometimes my passion is a curse I am diverse — all i want to do is create my art on a daily basis and this is what i endevour to do!

This blog is excellent and highly thought of here! :) :) Thanks Skinny artist for putting together so many of my thoughts about being an artist these days :)

Yours Jon Kania

Anyone else want to create work that goes against the norm and scared of being rejected? why oh why do we have this wretched fear?


    Thanks so much Jon for stopping by and sharing your kind words with us! I wish sometimes that it was easier to share our creative process with the world without constantly feeling like we have to defend ourselves. At least we got each other and we know what it’s like to put our heart and soul out there in our creative work and open ourselves up to criticism. You’re right it’s not necessarily the easiest way to make a living, but I don’t think most of us would have it any other way :)


      Hey Drew thanks a lot for your comment. Being an artist is who we are. It may not always be fully understood but i know it will be greater in the long run. Thanks again Drew! Do you know where we can share our work for comments etc? I have recently joined wetcanvas for feedback. Cheers :)


I admire the direction of this post. Our Australian government has recently cut funding to teach art in tech colleges basically stating that there is no money to be made by doing art.
One must wonder whether such a claim is valid simply because artists do not stand and stake claim to their identity.
What a loss! Besides, almost all famous artists were “skinny” until after they died… Then they became wealthy and famous. In this case it is easy to say that I am an artist.
Again, great post.


I’ve been training to be a scientist all my life. Science was the only track for me, I came from a family of scientists and so in my limited world view thought that was what I was most suited for. Lately I’ve been experimenting in the arts and while I do not consider myself an artist, this experience has opened my world view and allowed me to see I possess talents in all sorts of fields. While I do not aim to become a professional artist I do aim to include the arts in my life. And so while I would not necessarily say “I am an artist” I know that I no longer identify with only being a scientist.


There was a time I was very afraid of being an artist. But after working in the corporate world and hopping from one administrative job to the next, I am not afraid any more. I do admit that I have trained in different areas to see if I could settle into one, but music has always been my first passion…I realize now I need to follow it, no matter what…one day at a time. I have progressed slowly but still feel proud of what I have accomplished. It’s never too late to push on…


    First of all, congratulations on having the courage to follow your passion. Unfortunately, I’ve seen way too many people just let go of their dreams once their life starts settling into a comfortable routine. It sounds like you have a great perspective by simply taking it one step at a time. Just keep moving forward and don’t get discouraged. I think sometimes it’s too easy to focus on what we haven’t yet accomplished and not see how far we’ve come :)


I love your post because I have been seriously pondering this question (can I legitimately label myself an Artist?) for a while now. I am doing a lot of work with recycled and used items – recreating them into beautiful new products. Part of me feels like what I am doing is art, but part of me feels like what I am doing is “just fancy craft-work”.

Ironically, when I bring up this question with friends who are non-artsy or hobby-crafters, I receive feedback that they feel my work is “art”. However, when I broach the subject with people whom consider themselves “Artists”, the feedback I receive is that what I am doing is nothing more than being a creative crafter.

SO when does craft-work cross over and become “true art”? And when should I be legitimately able to label myself as an artist? I’m so confused and yes – I think I’m afraid to call myself an artist because I don’t want to offend “true artists” and I don’t want to be laughed at either.


    I think its always hard to define something as subjective as “art”. For years I was convinced that only painters were “true artists” but the more I was exposed to other artists, I began to realize that art is whatever you create that didn’t exist before. You can paint with paint (of course) but you can also paint with light by capturing photographs, paint with sound and create music, or even paint with words to evoke an image.

    An important part of art is going beyond the expected, pushing the envelope of what has been done before and I think that can also include our traditional definition of “art”. When we start saying that this is art, but this isn’t art — I think we are only limiting ourselves.


One of the reasons I used to shy away from tagging myself an artist is that I didn’t want people to think that meant I wasn’t working hard. To be an artist you need to care what you think most, not what you think others may think, and getting over that notion helped me to move forward and develop in my work.


Hello everyone :)

This is a lovely place to express. Thank you.

I had actually been hiding my artist side – much like an in-the-closet artist – until I got so incredibly frustrated one day in university, and asked my godfather in desperation what the heck type of a person I was, what the heck I was doing here in frustration, and he exclaimed, “why, you’re an ARTIST!” and that was probably the best thing ever, the best thing I could ever hear, period. It’s one thing to have this terrible feeling in your mind that you’re not recognized as the creativity that drips out of your pores, and a totally other feeling to be recognized so blatantly. I wonder if others can see it?

And so now I’m on this journey, after much shyness and hiding of my art, and slowly but surely getting over my fear of showing the world what I can do… one small step at a time. I write. I compose. I draw. I snap photos here and there.

I haven’t seriously begun putting my work out there. I’m a Spanish major because I couldn’t decide on any one major, and I suddenly realized that I just really needed to graduate ASAP, and Spanish would help me get there, as I was closest to finishing that when I decided it was the time to choose, and it also was the major that allowed me to read the most literature, apart from English.

I’m worried about how I’m going to live. I’m the oldest sibling in my family, and both my parents are immigrants. This was one of my fears of honoring my art; how will I be able to let my family know I can help them financially if they need me to? I thought it would be selfish to keep doing art.

But I found that I can’t get away – my art reminded me, again and again, that I needed to make it, I needed to create, just as badly as I need air, just as badly as we need love and water and hugs and flowers and bees and sunshine. I can’t get away, nor do I want to; it is as much a part of me as any other thing which gives me identity.

Onwards, and upwards! EXCELSIOR! :) On to whatever great adventure life holds next… even if I have to continuously get over my shyness and remind myself to let people know I do make art…

Keep being artists, you lovely loves, you :)


I just found your site and am intrigued. I will undoubtedly return:).


Yes. Yes I am. I’m afraid I’m not good enough. That no one will buy my stuff. That they’re all laughing at me. Crazy, huh? I’m also afraid that the title of “artist” will label me as some kind of freak because, as we all know, artists are a little freaky! Any suggestions on how to overcome my fears?


Calling myself an artist is a difficult task.
According to every type of criteria i should be an artist because im and architecture student, i work making design furniture, i create things trying to give things a meaning, i do architectural renderings and so on.
I love writing, poems more than anything, poems and phrases, poems and ways of thinking.
I write because i love expressing myself, perhaps i do it erroneously, writing is to leave something aside, is to forget you ache or increase your happiness. And as i say writing is to liberate and oppression i have in my chest, is to know that living my thoughts, my feelings, my soul, even my blood in a paragraph could help someone else besides me to tell a story or tell the story their facing and i faced. I draw and sketch for architecture reasons, we creat model to represent the future, but i still don’t consider myself an artist, i consider myself an aficionado, because being an artist is a tittle is person that contributes to the art but as an aficionado i can only try to one day contribute something like the people that once contributed something to any given art. But besides that i think I’m an artist because i sometimes are sitting and commuting and people ask me out of the blue due to either my cloth or something if I’m an artist and it catches me of guard all the time, so i inmideatly say no and tell them I’m in architecture, even if every project i do in school i do it as an experiment trying to mingle poetry and literature together to create something. And when i write as when i design i design to tell a story, to impregnate feelings, emotions, thoughts , lives and myself there, my oppressions and be reliefs, but i some times think of me as writer aficionado, and aspiring architect or and artist, but i guess i do consider myself an artist because i always say in a jokeful way that out of all the artist we are the once that starve the less. But sometimes thinking once way make you doubt about everything, you, society and cities, people and the world; and also people start thinking your crazy or something but it doesn’t matter you continue despite the judgmental eyes. As Bukowski said “if your gonna try go all the way, otherwise done even start.”
So every time something is difficult or judgement is around the corner and everyone doubt i think of this quote and push it one step further to maintain a liberated chest from sentimental, oppression or any type of oppression that is better written and on paper and/or drawing and or built or conceptualized but it to leave the aficionado mentality and finally one day be an artist and contribute to architecture or writing.


I see this is a rather old article but still new in the sense of it’s timeless relevance. Thanks for your question Drew.

I certainly feel safer and more confidant in saying and ‘admitting’ I am an artist but it was not always the case. A girl friend once (about 10 eons ago) could not believe I could not (or would not) defined myself as an artist after seeing some of my art works.

I could understand her confusion and slight hints of frustrations yet in my heart if felt ‘less then’ what an artist was suppose to be… let alone what I thought I should be. Oh, I could admit I could draw, paint well and was a good sculptor but the idea and the label felt too big or grand in my judgment(s)

The denial part feels far away now and not that I pretend be best there is (far from it) I’m now at peace with the idea I am good enough in my own skills and styles. I feel a lot freer in my creative process, mostly (I think) ’cause that self doubt and the ideal of perfection is out of the way. As a result I’m a lot more open to using mishaps and or allowing different directions throughout the actual process… Even if after a completed work I hear myself saying; “Wow, I did that?!” “Thanks man, that was great!”

It’s kind of a positive domino effect in a way and without the need to prove it to anyone else, this new attitude and beliefs only adds to my life and its enjoyment.

So yes I am an artist amongst other labels and identities. ;)


    Thanks Serge for digging through the Skinny archives and taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I think you’re right that with time and a little bit of experience, it does get better. Unfortunately, that little naggy “who do you think you are?” voice in my head never completely goes away, but at least I can sometimes shut it up for awhile ;) I agree with you that confidence, especially in the creative arts, tends to build on itself and eventually you get to the point where you are able to finally separate ourself (or at least our fragile ego) from our work and, for better or worse, just let the work live its life on its own.


      Ah yes Drew, Indeed that nagging voice in our head never completely goes away… but I dare say the more I recognize and thus know of its redundant yama, yama the more I can easily say; “Thanks but no thanks” to it. Thus I put it back in its place and take mine with authorship.

      To see and believe ourselves to be ‘less then or more then’ is from that same source IMO, the idea is to give it space enough to hear it yes, but not fall for it, so as to move on and take one’s place under the sun so to speak.

      In-other words we are no better or no less then anyone else… best to build on that…confidently.

      Thanks for your reply. :)


    Serge, I can relate to what you said in your Aug 22 post. I go in and out of the feeling of being “worthy” enough to say I am an artist, even though I’ve been at it for years. There are the ups and downs. I too have heard myself say when I complete a piece of art – “Hey, that’s pretty good!” Sometimes feeling like I just surprised myself, even though deep down I know I’m fully capable.

    More often than not these days I allow myself to take chances, not knowing what direction I’m heading down the creative road, which is quite freeing. Even though I hear the voices of doubt as I jump in, I keep with me the knowledge that somewhere inside me there is more just waiting to come out and I must not restrain myself. The more I allow myself the freedom, the more genuine the “artist” title feels to me. When my art comes from my soul, without restraint, I feel like an artist. No need to impress anyone but me.

    That has taken many years…

    I’m not fond of titles overall because they separate us, making more or less of each other. “Artist” can do that also, it just depends on how one wears it.


Firstly, I would like to thank authors of both the article and the comments for writing your thoughts. Personally, I tend to be afraid of doing anything creative that might be labeled as art, because I feel ‘under qualified’. As if to be an artist, you need to be born some special kind of person. It is very heartening to see that even people who make a living with their art don’t feel like artists sometimes.
And as someone being new to this I often compare myself to what I want myself and my art to become, and it is very discouraging. But if I compare myself now to who I was a year ago I feel very proud. And ultimately, happy to have found this article that put it all into perspective.


The big difference is that a writer can do other things and hatch ideas for their writing or brainstorm what to refine, if their job doesn’t require them to talk to customers or something mind-occupying. It potentially takes less time to get that writing out. For most (not all, maybe not even most) artists, you have to be there physically to layer paint on and draw out details and that is incredibly time consuming. People often don’t want to buy visual work that took two hours to make but days to come up with a clever concept, but this can work well for writers. You have to put in long hours to build visual art, and that often gets neglected and underestimated. Its so hard to work on a painting that takes eight ours per sitting when you’re also working 56 hours at a job, but I can crank out poetry that’s the same quality because I can “work” on writing while doing other things too. Sure, you can develop eye as an artist while doing other things, but you just can’t make up for hours you should spend on figure drawing study if you want your art to be realistic. That’s a huge difference when you think about your life, time, craft, and monetary value of your work.

The Legendary Ghettobilly

Hi Drew,

Just wanted to say that I think you’re site and ideas are awesome and very useful. In fact, I posted a reply on “Why Art School (may or may not) Suck” just now. It’s the lyrics to a song that was years in the making. Ok, so it was also due to procrasturbation, personnel changes in the band, life in general and a myriad of other excuses.

However, I’d like to point out that the song was inspired by much content from both of these sites and your ideas and the comments definitely rang through in some of the lyrics. Although the song leans heavily in one direction, I’m not saying that art school is a bad idea, but debt sure as hell is! If I were offered some professional music lessons for free, I’d probably take them as I would gain some valuable information (of course, if I forgot any of it, I’m sure I could Google my way back to enlightenment!) and perhaps learn the technical jargon to identify the techniques I have been applying for years on a stage. Which brings me to the point here. In this day and age, we have so much information at our disposal for the low cost of our Internet bill if not free. I recently learned how to airbrush ghost flames not from a school, but from a YouTube tutorial. With a bit of trial and error, I was able to apply those skills and GET PAID for it!

This is what’s known as human progress. Just as women no longer need to pay out the ass to have their cars fixed if they don’t want to, we as artists don’t really need to bankroll ourselves to receive a fancy piece of paper that says, “Yessiree, this person is definitely an artist alright…so sayeth the the school that this person paid to printeth the proof!”

I am NOT afraid to say that I am an artist. In fact, I am proud to say it. By now, I have enough physical and audible proof and witnesses. I may not have a piece of paper that says this but hell, did Jimi Hendrix have a music degree?!! Did all the great artists of the past who created epic works in their time have one? Exactly.

So in conclusion, I would just like to thank Drew, all the artists who commented on both of these sites and those I had the pleasure of speaking to personally for the inspiration I needed to write that song. If it makes you smile, it was definitely a successful piece of art, however obscure it may be.

Cheers to all artists, regardless of their financial decisions,

Toxic Mike.


The answer? Yes. I’m very afraid. I’m one of those people who really like to do art but know almost nothing about art and can’t even draw properly. I plan on being an Artist in the future, but I feel like I am running straight into an abyss. Besides that however, I really appreciate the idea of the site. Cheers-


[…] message. But today, for some reason, her message particularly resonated with me. It reminded me of this article, which I read a couple of weeks ago, where the author asks why creative people shy away from the […]


Hi Drew — I know I’m reeeeeeeeallllly late to the party, but I just wanted to add my thanks to all the other comments. I found this article recently and it resonated quite strongly with me. It led to a blog post in which I referenced it and “came out” as an artist. Thank you so much for your inspiration!


    Thanks Virginia for your kind words and don’t worry, you’re never too late for this party. Unfortunately, this problem of “shamed” artists hasn’t been solved since it was written so it’s great to hear your thoughts :)

    Great article by the way! I thought it was awesome when you said “I’m not entirely sure what “kind” of artist I am, but I am an artist.” Too often I think we’re afraid to say anything because we’re not always sure ourselves of what we are or even what we what to become. A lot of people don’t understand this ambiguity that is so common in creative folk. We know that we want to create something, but at the same time, it can be difficult to find our own path until we are actually walking on it. It takes courage to admit this and hopefully your declaration to the world will inspire others to do the same.



I just wanted to say that some of the things mentioned here and on some other blogs i have read do ring true alot.

I do believe that we need to allow ourselves to call ourselves Artists, in order to take ourselves and our Art seriously.

I do think it is up to me, to give my art the dedication that it deserves.

Thank you, this posting applies to all of us Artists.


Hi. I consider myself an artist. I like that the terminology includes so many kinds of artists. A few years back I started a website on one of my favorite topics….scrapbooking. I have been a crafter of many different things most of my life. The thought in my head though, is often how to make a living with it? I have an AA in English and a bachelors in management…..but the only full time job I have ever had so far is in housekeeping. Go figure. It has been my art…whether with scrapbooking, mixed media, or in writing poetry, that helps keep me going. I am not afraid to be called an Artist. Even now as I work through some issues in therapy, I do so also through my art. I love the mixed media. I would like to take this side of me more seriously. I would be glad to join such a community.


I’m afraid of singing and drawing in front of people, they all say Im good at it, but still I cant eye contact someone or even be on stage. Im worried that’s the whole reason Im afraid to audition for anything and I wont be able to have a artist career.


Saying “I am an artist” seems odd. I]m primarily a writer, but i am also a photographer and designer. It’s true, writer especially seem to define themselves as only writers even if their writing combines elements of other things – or if they do other things besides. It’s as if writing is seen as somehow separate from art – especially if like me you do it for a living.
We’re afraid of looking pretentious, of sounding frivolous, of aspiring to something we don’t have a right to claim – all these things go into the discomfort of calling yourself an artist.
The same issue comes up constantly among writers too – the fear of saying “I am a writer.”

But I think that saying “I am an artist” is really freeing. It lets you claim all the different aspects of what you do as part of a larger, whole identity. I’m an artist who tells stories using words, pixels and lines. Works for me.
I just found this site – wonderful home for artists of all kinds.


    Thanks so much Jean for your kind words and you’re right that it’s often not just saying the words, it’s claiming that larger identity as a creative artist (no matter what tools you use) that can be so difficult. These days being an “artist” comes with so much cultural baggage that we, as the non-conformists rebels that we often are, immediately reject labels like these because we want to be considered one-of-a-kind creative snowflakes. In the end, however, we are all storytellers using our own unique set of tools to describe the world we see around us.

Add Your Reply

Leave a Comment: