9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist – Skinny Artist

9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist

Are you a “Professional” Artist?

I’m not talking about if you have a corporate sponsorship or whether or not you are earning the big bucks.  I’m not even talking about quitting your day job, if you have one, and living on ramen noodles and Starbucks (because even if you’re poor you still need your Cafe Mocha) What I’m talking about is changing your attitude and the way you think about your art.  What you’ll discover is that more often than not people will take your art about as seriously as you do.

So what are some of the warning signs of an Amateur Artist?

1) Amateur Artists wait for Inspiration

While a professional artist will make a point sit down and work on their art every day, an amateur only works on their art when the “mood” is right.

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ~Jack London

Professional artists/writers/musicians know that you can’t just work on your art when inspiration strikes them or when the moon is in the seventh house of Aquarius, the true creative professional shows up and does something every single day.  It may not turn out to be that great and it might eventually find its way to the dumpster or recycling bin, but a professional shows up and works no matter what.


2.) Amateur Artists work until something else comes up

A  professional artist does not simply sit down for an hour and write half a chapter or paint a few strokes on the canvas and call it a day because their favorite television show is starting in ten minutes.  A professional artist/writer/musician continues to work until their muse has used up every last bit of creative energy in their body and then keeps on working just to make sure that nothing is forgotten or left behind.  A professional knows that the first hour or two of work is simply a warm-up exercise until their fickle muse finds them worthy of her attention.


3.) Amateur Artists are constantly changing their focus

A professional artist knows that it takes years if not decades of experimentation and practice to perfect their craft.  While an amateur tends to change their style or medium as the mood strikes them, a professional artist knows that a “jack-of-all-trades is a master of none”.  Even though professional artists have been known to change their focus as their work and skills evolve, they do this only sparingly and often only within their chose medium.  In other words, painters continue to paint, writers continue to write, and musicians continue to play.  Of course there have been professional painters and musicians who are also very good writers and vice versa, but they are the exception rather than the rule. The vast majority of us would be far better off focusing our time and energy practicing and honing our chosen craft rather than risk diluting our creative power.


4.) Amateur Artists believe that if they build it, you will come

A professional knows that there is more to being an artist then simply creating art.  They know that there is only so much macaroni and cheese and spaghetti their family will eat before they will be dragged down to the employment office to get a “real” job.  Professional artists never get too attached to their artwork because they know that someday they will have to sell it in order to have the opportunity to create more art.

Professional artists understand that they not only need to know how to create their art, but they also have to know how to market and sell their work as well.  They make a point to find out who their potential customers are and where they hang out. They also know that they need to develop a relationship with these potential customers before they ask them to pull out their wallets.  Professional artists understand that in the 21st century they will need to create and build their reputation as an artist online as well as in the real world.


5.) Amateur Artists believe that success will happen quickly

While an amateur artist believes that it will only take a year or two to create their reputation and have their career take off, a professional artists knows that this process will often take much longer than they imagine so they understand the importance of getting started immediately.

For a professional artist, art is not a hobby or a pastime, it’s a business which is why they insist on treating it like one. They not only show up everyday and work at their job, but they also know that they will need to work their way up from the bottom just like they would in any other profession.  They are in it for the long-haul and are willing to work on all aspects of their business (creating, networking, marketing, consuming) a little bit each day because they understand that true success will arrive in years not weeks.


6.) Amateur Artists believe they don’t need schedules or organization

While the amateur artist embraces the idea of the artist as a hippie free-spirit who doesn’t need to follow society’s rules, the professional artist knows that one has to be organized and disciplined in their life in order to be reckless in their work.

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. ~Gustave Flaubert

A professional artist knows that it’s  important to honor their creative productivity time and save routine time-sucking tasks like answering e-mail and updating their Twitter and Facebook accounts to a later time. They know the importance of scheduling their activities, organizing their work space, and avoiding distractions can have on their creative  productivity.


7.) Amateur Artists never finish their work

An amateur artist is always busy editing, revising, reformatting, redoing, and re-recording their work to ever consider it finished.  This not only keeps them from moving on and working on the next piece or art, but it also keeps them from having to release it to the world.  They tell themselves that they are simply “perfectionists” and with just a little more time, they could get it right.

“The seed of your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece. Such imperfections are your guides–valuable, objective, non-judgmental guides to matters you need to reconsider or develop further.” ~David Bayles

Professional artists have learned that their art is a process and nothing they create will be perfect.  They have learned to accept this and they continue to put their work out there anyway knowing that some people will criticize and not understand it.  They understand that the sooner they finish one piece the sooner they will be able to begin work on the next piece.  Each work therefore becomes not a destination but simply a stepping stone on their journey.  They don’t make the mistake of overly identifying with a piece of art or making it part of their identity as an artist.  They simply let it go, knowing that the experience will have taught them what they needed to know.


8.) Amateur Artists are too busy learning to do anything

Amateur artists are often so busy reading books and attending workshops that they rarely have any time to create art. Professional artists know that there will always be more to learn but that does not stop them from making the mistakes and learning as they go along.  They know that the best teacher is almost always experience, and the faster they make these mistakes, the sooner they will learn what they need to know.

Books, classes, and workshops are great as long as they don’t prevent you from actually creating your art.  A professional doesn’t worry about knowing every technique in the book and doesn’t get bogged down by the “what-ifs”.  They simply learn the basics and then get to work discovering what they need to know as they go along.


9.) Amateur Artists isolate themselves from the artist community

As artists/writers/musicians etc.. we are not only creators but we are also consumers. We must surround ourselves not only with the work of others artists in our field but also the artists themselves.  

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”  ~Stephen King

If we are writers, we need to read other people’s work.  If we are musicians, we need to listen to other people’s music. If we are visual artists, we need to look at other people’s art and photography. We don’t do this in order to become envious or to start another round of pity and self-loathing.  We do this because we need to get outside of our own heads and see the world from a new perspective.

We also need to connect with other artists and the larger arts community.  Far too often amateur artists tend to isolate themselves from other artists because they either feel envious of their success or unworthy of their attention.  We have talked extensively on this site about the power of artist peer groups and about the importance of going out there and connecting with your artist tribe.  Specific strategies on how to connect and build valuable relationships with other artists is a topic that we have covered in detail throughout our latest Skinny Art School Series “How the @#$%! Do I Get More Traffic to My Website?!” as well.


Being a Professional Artist means. . .

Being a professional artist means, above all, taking your art seriously.  If you want to become a professional artist, writer, photographer, musician, or any other type of creative genius; you need to do what the professionals in these fields do.  Being a professional is not about having fancy business cards or making lots of money (although that’s pretty cool too!).  Being a professional simply means that you have decided to take this creative obsession of yours and make it into your career.  Let’s face it, we create our art because we want and need to.  We don’t do it for the money, but we also have to realize that without the money, we won’t have the time or energy to create our art.

Strive to learn from those who have gone before you, do what you have to do, and always Live Your Art!

What do you think it means to be a “professional” artist?


About the Author

Drew is a writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist creative community. You can also find him online at OutmatchFitness.com where he writes about fitness, nutrition, and his continuing battle with father time.


After talking to several of you on Twitter and Facebook about this post, I was curious about which numbers seem to be giving you the biggest problems?

For me personally, I definitely need to work on #6, #8, #2, and #1 probably in that order. Not that I have any of the other numbers mastered by any means but these seem to be my biggest issues currently.

Which numbers do you think you may need to work on the most?

    Great post and I absolutely agree. Art is a passion and has no age barriers. As passions go, it is all consuming with time, thought and energy. You can’t be feint hearted but you have to persist! Keep the fire burning within :)


    I can surely identify with ALL the numbers as I have dipped in and out of them over the years. I know I have to stay disciplined and enjoy the journey, through the highs and lows.

    No. 9 is a good for me as it’s good to be part of this artist community.

    Great though provoking post Drew. Thanks Sonia

    My biggest issue is the social aspect of #9.

    Not being a particularly social person combined with my day job schedules (3 part time jobs plus the online selling of my work) combined with my rather demanding significant other…. sometimes socializing just doesn’t get as much attention as it probably should.

    Terrific post, btw, Drew. I really enjoyed the read and it was very interesting as well as educational.

    – Twist


      You’re right, It is really hard to find a healthy balance with all of this stuff without blowing something else off in the process. Like most people, I find it hard to accept the fact that I’m never going to get everything done that I think should be done when I think it should be done. My goal these days (and you already know my feelings on “goals” in general) seems to be to simply try and move forward a little bit each day and not worry about when or even if these things will get done. Thanks again for the smiles Twist!

    The one I have the biggest problem accepting is #7.
    I mean Frank Frazetta was notorious for going back and working on his originals (even after they had been “finished”) because he always knew there was something he could fix on it.
    This never stopped him from releasing a piece, but it daunted him, and would literally keep him up at night going back and tweaking it.
    So I see nothing wrong with edits and revisions, as long as you meet your initial deadline and get the work out there.


    Speaking to #3 As a young designer i and a lover of all things art i cant help but disagree. Trying new things is a great way to learn and grow overall Working in one medium is fantastic in that you can really hone in on that particular skill but if that was the end goal there wouldn’t be personal style. Which to me is the artistic expression with all skills earned . Experimentation is self exploration.

      Kayla Suverkrubbe

      The truth is you often don’t have time to specialize in 5 different mediums. It’s easier to master when you at least go down to 2 (we will count mixed media as 1 ) …You need to figure out which medium will be best for your work and to explore it- and then you don’t need the others. The problem with amateur artists is that they often do a lot of every little thing so they can’t actually grow in one. If you figure out a way to combine mediums in a great way then fine, but if you are trying to make 3 bodies of work at the same time it isn’t going to work. You have to narrow down and dedicate to one set of work in order to fully develop it . I am not saying you can’t combine or do another medium when you feel like it, but art needs focus and so it’s better to just use the medium that will work for that particular set of pieces.

      I don’t like to put ‘rules’ on work but hardly anyone I have ever seen is able to truly make good work in two separate mediums at the same time if they are not part of the same work. One suffers because it’s a lot of dedication and thought to try and split it into 2 at the same time. I mean I paint so many hours in a day (though I do go to school so i can’t paint everyday) and I can’t imagine trying to make a sculpture or ceramics or whatever at the same time…and in my other classes like printmaking I can’t possibly make the work as good without my painting suffering.

        Blake Sutton

        If you really think about it, any “medium” or “genre” of art is just classification by artists of the past. Who needs these barriers? Break them down and experiment with new styles, whatever happens. Don’t ever hold back from trying something because you should be focused on trying to perfect a past-time idea. The only way we can stay fresh and new is to forget what we’ve learned and start new every day.


          You are completely and totally correct and I thank you so much for saying this.. I have pinned this on my desk and thanks to you I can go into this industry with the security in knowing that if I choose one path it isnt because a makeshift rule of thumb has commanded me to, but because this world through an artistic paradigm, is all what you make it to be. Again, thank you so much I really needed this.

          the big thing is not to be making 5 different unrelated things at the same time. I think the right person can do 5 different mediums but they all have to work together…and honestly, I took most of my beginning classes in college after I took at least one advanced painting, and everything else has sorta fallen into place much more easily. Still, you really don’t have the time to be painting, sculpting, all of that at the same time, unless you are okay with getting less paintings done and less sculptures, and less whatever else. if they combine, sure okay…..

          I think it’s a move best saved for people who have some more experience under their belt with one medium, but I think you can develop two or three as long as they are all part of the same line of work.

          The big issue is that a lot of starting artists have this mind set of projects that are not inter related..so they just do a lot of random stuff with different mediums instead of figuring out how each can further the other.


      I’ve been a Creative Encourager for multiple decades,yet I too,thought I needed many mediums since I also taught.I have found unless you have specific focus on one or two areas nothing ever seems to get finished.
      Of course,I can elaborate on the unique qualities of inviting different materials to engage…B.S.
      It’s imperative to find that one or two good ,no super good things and run with them.
      Never stop experimenting but make sure that when all is said and done; it’s what you can readily teach without hesitation to others,(no matter how difficult a student) the love of imparting yourself as a Creative Encourager,is your legacy.
      This is how I learned even though I taught,I didn’t have to be perfect,a know it all and sometimes just saying”I don’t know,” was the best answer.

    Jesse Corbett

    I am ‘in the process’ of trying to illustrate a Chidren’s book. I am so passionate about my ideas, and confident (mostly) in what I draw, I am very guilty of #8. Sometimes, I think it’s just an excuse to not face the music. Other times, I think I am not confident enough, and maybe there is something ‘more’ I need to learn before I proceed. I certainly don’t consider myself a ‘professional’ yet, but I know that I have more skill, and knowledge than I think I do, and I prove that to myself every time I complete a drawing, painting, or anything creative. I would have to say that I have been or am guilty of all of the above. I am just glad for websites like this, and your knowledge behind it! I am so glad that someone can relate to what I am feeling, and that it’s no unheard of LOL!! Thanks Drew!

    I’ve had this article bookmarked for a while and every now and then I reread it so I can keep myself checked. It’s quite helpful. :)

    For me I think I have the most trouble with #2, #3, #6 and #9 – in no particular order. I definitely haven’t mastered any of the numbers either. If anything I feel that I should improve myself in all aspects. I just think the 4 I mentioned needs special attention.

    I’ve recently gone freelance so #6 should probably my top priority. I’m also working on #9 by trying to be more active in communities, both online and offline. (Just that I tend to be very awkward and self conscious in large crowds, especially if I’m the only newcomer around.)

    Thanks for this article. :)

    Bobby Marlow

    My biggest foes are #8 and #2.
    I am a writer. Creativity has always been my friend and even if nothing comes of it I will always be writing.
    Unfortunately I don’t have any friends who are big writers or readers so getting help with editing (my dyslexic downfall) or second opinions. I can normally inspire myself but if something comes up my creative ventures get put to the side for a moment.
    Great Article.

    Nancy J MacWilliam

    I am not really a working artist in any way. I am someone who used to be artistic as a young person, but after a disappointing early adulthood ( too long to go into ) I walked away from my art, believing I wasn’t good enough, not unusual enough or any number of reasons. Now, as I am in my early 50’s I so miss that person I was. I try other forms of expression and they haven’t filled that void. How do I even attempt to rediscover that part of me, and is it even still there?

      Unfortunately this is an all too common problem. We tend to start our lives as artists until life gets in the way and then (as you said) we look back and miss the person we once was. The only way to get back is to jump back in and see what happens. Maybe it will seem pointless at first, but creativity has a way of reawakening our soul. No creative effort is ever wasted so just do what you can do now without worrying about the final result. Have fun Nancy rediscovering that part of yourself and welcome back :)

        Matt Crunk

        I completely relate to that, Drew. I have always wanted to be a fine artist, specifically a painter: to be represented in galleries, to travel around to art shows and competitions, to make my living selling my originals and prints. The only problem with that is in the early stages of such a career there’s not much money in it. It takes most artists years to be able to earn a living at it at all, much less a decent one. Although that’s where my heart was, reality led me into a commercial art field. Though not as creatively fulfilling, it did at least come with a steady paycheck.. Although I’ve had a few forays into the fine art world, a few gallery shows some 20 years ago, it is not until now, as I’m nearing my fifties, that I’m finally able to set my sights on that full force.


        I would like to add a hearty Amen to that! While growing up, I’d spend hours alone in my bedroom writing stories and poems, painting or drawing or at the piano writing music. I lost those parts of me when I got married and had kids. Fast forward a few decades, and I’ve rediscovered the writing and music parts of me (the art part is still on hold). Terrifying at times (I joined a few songwriter’s groups, and had to actually perform and sing in front of people–yikes), hard work and dedication, but incredibly fulfilling. I still wonder if I’m good enough, or if this newest song with be my last song…do I have anymore inside of me…but music and art and writing…it is who I am and it feels SO good to be back.

        Norman Haslop

        Maybe this is all too common a scenario – getting involved in “life” and having little or no time for our art. I’ve had a 40 year gap and now I probably don’t have time to become known widely or represented in galleries, but still I consider myself an artist and am reaching out in my community especially for other artists. I am a professional artist….it is what I do and who I am.

    I feel that I need to spend more time working on my artwork/ finding a way to make it look more finished, My art always looks kind of sloppy.

    I also want to have more time for my art but school and family likes to prevent that

    Matt Crunk

    Wow, even though I have spent over 30 years working as a professional artist, and have at times earning a good living at it, this list really hit home.

    I have struggled with just about every one of these at one time or another and still do. Number 8 in particular: I feel like I spend way too much time reading, researching and dreaming up projects than creating them, and I say this as someone who has conservatively produced over 10 thousand works of art in my professional career. I still sometimes feel like, and am, a slacker.


    Drew, I would add a 10th one that says something like “If you read a this list and feel like giving it up, you’re an amateur, if you read it and feel like improving yourself, and moving on stronger than before – you are on your way to being a pro”

    Great list. I feel better for it!


      There’s hope for me yet!! I’m a professional tattoo artist, but an amateur painter. As I was reading the article, I was already thinking of ways to improve my professionalism.

    This pretty much hit me right on target.

    #1 is probably my biggest obstacle because I treat almost every aspect of my life with this attitude.

    “If I don’t feel like doing it. I don’t.”

    Nairin J. Avery

    There are no rules to art. Whether you fancy yourself a professional is merely your own perspective. By writing such articles you make people feel that there is a certain criteria that needs to be vaguely followed, this is simply not the case because many of the greats did not even do these things ( e.g. Dali, king, Jackson). Everyone is different; I do not need to become obsessed or focus on my scheduling, I do what I like and because of such I feel it makes my art all the more unique. You are a joke.


      Yeah exactly. I’m not a “professional artist”, even though I’ve been drawing for 15 years and I have to say I’m pretty proud of not being one. I’d say the list shows everything a real artist isn’t. Art isn’t about being all about profit or creating art for the customers. You can use your skill to earn money. It won’t be actual art. Scratching a pencil on the paper=/=art. I’m not a sellout who draws stuff just because people like it, I draw to express myself, to show what words and conversations can’t. Also giving overrated artists like Da Vinci or Picasso (in other articles) as someone to follow is a big sign that the author knows nothing about actual art and is nowhere close to being an artist. Why should I strive to be like them if I can be much better?

    I feel a little “beaten up” by the “10 requirements.” Listen, I AM an amateur artist working hard to become a more professional painter. Shit, I’ve known a lot of singers, composers, dancers, actors, pottery workers, designers, THAT HAVE STRUGGLED AT FIRST TO MAKE THAT LEAP FROM AMATEUR TO PROFESSIONAL. It ain’t easy Skinny. Can you say f—— anything encourageing to me?!

      I hear you Michael and after hundreds of comments on whether or not this post was a source of inspiration or just another depressing pile of crap found on the internet, at this point the jury is still out.

      At the same time, I’ve continued to think about this issue of what it means to be a professional writer or artist, and I actually went back and wrote a follow up piece once I realized that some readers were interpreting the article in a way I had not originally intended. If you’re interested, you can check it out here: https://skinnyartist.com/for-the-love-of-the-game/

      Originally my only intent for the post was to get creative artists to take themselves and the their work seriously. To get them to see art/writing/music as a valid career choice in our society that is obsessed with more practical and financially stable careers. In order to do that, however, we have to be willing to work our ass off in order to eventually become good enough to make a living from our art. It was never intended to be a draconian list of requirements that everyone has to meet if they dare to call themselves a “professional” artist, it was simply a call for artists to take their art seriously and then be willing to do what it takes to become a successful creative artist.

    I have to say #3, 2 and 4 in order. My wife says #3 is ADHD, I cry fowl! Oh squirrel lol. When creating pens is sometimes hard to find inspiration for some new design that I have not tried or trying not to recreate am old design.


    Definitely #2. I own a small business with 5 employees and am a phd candidate. I write in my ‘free’ time (ha ha) until I have to get back to work or school.


    #3 and a few others. I love painting/doodling and drawing- but I love writing too, way too much to give up on it. I really would love to become good at all of this and a few other things.
    This is a cool article :) I think i disagree with a part of the general gist of it- (haha and thats probably why its a good article)- and thats also probably why I label myself as an amteur artist/writer- I think its great being one.
    Also I beleive that creativity runs together with all our human experiences- one’s pictures may be inspired by a scene from a classic book, or a piece of prose from the sound of music- I think that one way that one can create truly great ( in comparision with one self and ones own abilities) art is by always doing what you love- and theres no way anyone would love just one general thing. :)


    How’s it going Drew. Hope all I well. I would just like to comment on here that I am an aspiring electronic dance music producer and I just have to say that this is so accurate! You’ve put the meanings into words. You know what it takes to be a professional. If you ever want to go anywhere with your art, you have to treat it like a job. I struggle personally with 2 and 3. By bringing to light the actual issues that’s holding me back, I’m able to look at them objectively , fix them, and progress forward! Thank you for this post!

      Thanks Brendan, and I think you’re right that in the end, it does come down to how seriously you take your creativity. Do you treat it like a real job, or do you treat it as a hobby and work on it only when you get the chance? I think this is something that most of us struggle with on a daily basis. How much are we willing to give to our art?

Great stuff Drew..thank you…most definitely #6 for me .. i am working on it..thanks for reminding me…

    Great information. I am looking for professional artist to come on my show to be interviewed. If you are interested or know somebody please ask them to email me.

    Thanks, great information. I will be changing the name of my show for 2013….to professional artist or upcoming artist

I could write pages in regards to this wonderful post, but for now I will leave it at this:

Almost all but primarily #3.

Focus, discipline, tapas…whatever you want to call it, I have serious issues with finding “my path” within the art world. It’s calling to me – I just have to decide when I’m ready to answer.

Thank you for a very thought-provoking post!

Lucky number 7… Well, letting go is an issue sometimes, thank goodness there are tough deadlines often enough so I’m forced to practice ;)

Yet it feels weird when someone loves a piece I think is unfinished, not “perfect” or can’t be good because it was “completed” very quickly (in my terms).

Great post, although I think there might be more than 9 signs…

Great post, I printed it out to keep on hand as a reminder. #1, #2, and #6 are the ones I need to work on the most. I spend way to much time waiting for my muse to show up and lead me to the studio.

Fantastic post! I struggle with #3 mostly. I’m like a magpie and new, shiny things tend to grab my attention. I need to focus my work. I have made great strides in this area over the last year, but I still need to work on it.

#9 used to be a problem, but I am slowly working on coming out of isolation. :)

Well, all of them at some point, but I felt truly trapped by #1 for the longest time. And, ahem, pesky #6…sometimes a struggle. Darn enjoyable social networking!

Drew, for me #3 is the culprit. Because I function best, creatively, with many irons in the fire. Yes, #3 would definitely be the one I would need to work on. When I have a lot going on I am inspired, but then I lose my original focus. Thanks for such a great article with so many good tips, reminders and so much good information!

Painful at times but true. It’s not just an adventure, it’s a job, J-O-B. Still, the rewards are so far beyond monetary compensation, it’s kind of ridiculous at times. Excellent piece, Drew.

Hi Drew! I’m gonna chime in on this one and say #3 for sure. Often my style bounces around because I’m trying to fulfill my own artistic vision, appeal to the general public, and respond to commissions. Maybe one day the three will find common ground. ~ S L Donaldson


Wow! Thank you all for sharing your numbers with us :D

Sometimes when I write these kind of posts, I often wonder (in retrospect) what the hell I’m thinking telling everyone about how I can’t seem to get my act together. Usually the biggest problem I have with writing these posts is limiting them to a manageable number, but I figured that if I wrote the 62 reasons-Drew-doesn’t-have-a-publishing-contract-yet post, it would end up being a pointless and sleep-incuding exercise.

Who else has got some numbers to share??

Very interesting post. For me it is definitely number 3 that is the most difficult one, I keep changing focus.
Number 6 used to be difficult and can still be but I am able to switch off completely when i am in the studio – alone. At home it is a different thing…

Well this post has kept the cogs clunking since I read it yesterday. #1 and #6 continue to challenge me. I find working through low energy days can be disasterous and have to find a balance whereby I can still work without backwards. And when it comes to #6 – well I absolutely have work to do! #3 remains a conundrum for me however. I understand that from a marketing point of viewpoint – having a focus is a key to finding your audience.

From a more personal view, however, I find that focusing my creative energy on one skill set can leave me feeling trapped and uninspired. I think that one creative pursuit can help develop and feed another – like flexing your creative muscles. As an individual I feel like I need to keep doing this, even though it might make it harder in the long run to market myself as an artist.

Thanks for a great article that got me re-evaluating my commitment and direction.


You two bring up an interesting point with #3 — It’s hard to find your niche without exploration and experimentation, but the rules (and even Buddha himself) tell us that we need to focus our attention and energy if we are ever hope to achieve mastery of our subject.

So when and where exactly do we draw that line? When is it time to stop exploring and start focusing? And isn’t focusing simply another name for exploring more deeply within a smaller area?

Rebecca makes a good point when she says that sometimes her personal and professional creative needs differ–which one are you supposed to listen to? Is variety really the spice of life or is it simply another distraction?

I certainly don’t have any of the answers to these questions, but if any of you would like to share your thoughts on this, I would love to hear what you think!


    Perhaps the answer to #3 is allowing yourself to express and explore different art mediums in your FREE time and sticking with your medium of strength during your WORK time.

    This way you don’t feel restricted, but your work / life / financial situation doesn’t have to suffer.

    What do you guys think?

      nancy m

      Yes, Dimitri – I think that is definately a good strategy!

great article. i found myself nodding a few times, and considering new ideas while reading. so, thanks!

Really good post, Drew, thanks for being so open.

I think there’s two qualities that underlie all the issues you’ve identified: confidence and commitment. Both can take experience and time to establish, and I imagine they wax and wane for artists as we grow into our art (they certainly do for me). I’d like to believe eventually the amateur cycle will stabilize, though of course new issues arise with growth. #9 is my downfall, I know it will take a lot of effort to work through.

I try to balance personal v. professional creativity by painting for myself when the wild need calls me. Focus is important, but so is exploration. I don’t see why my art can’t be means to a hobby *and* a profession, as long as I can clearly identify my body of professional work.


Thanks Lisa!

I think you’re exactly right when you say that it’s often a matter of confidence and commitment. In order to succeed, we need to find the confidence to get started and then we need the commitment to continue following the dark path wherever it leads.

Like you, I do see my level of confidence and commitment to my writing change far too frequently. I’m hoping that you’re right and eventually things will begin to “stabilize” and even out these highs and lows. Time will tell. In other words, if I’m still bitching about this in thirty years, please find me and take away my keyboard!


I just discovered your blog. It’s just what I needed to help me keep going. It affirms that “the dark path” is dark, but it’s a path and will lead somewhere light. I have to just keep going, keep moving forward. Thank you for the encouragement and the advice. I’m also glad that I’m not the only one out there.

warm regards,


Thanks Kyle :)

I think sometimes just knowing that you’re not alone and the fact that other artists may be struggling with a lot of these same issues is helpful. So many of us work alone in our studios or with our noses buried in our laptops that we forget that we aren’t the only ones who are struggling to find our place out there.

We all tend to hear about the ones who struck it big in the media, but at the same time, there are thousands of artists like ourselves who might be just as good, but for whatever reason they just haven’t reached their “tipping point” yet.

It’s good to hear from you Kyle and I hope to talk with you again soon.

This might very well be the BEST art blog I’ve come across in, well, forever.

It’s like I pushed all my swirling thoughts out into the universe and someone was kind enough to pick them up and put them into words. Thank you for your eloquent teachings.

I get so many emails and msgs each day from artists asking questions about how to make a living as an artist…from now on, your blog will be one of the first places I send them for research! So happy to discover you Drew!


Thank you so much Chandra for your kind words :)

I was kind of wondering where all those swirling thoughts had come from, so thank you for sending them my way! Since you’re obviously my swirly muse, I would really appreciate regularly scheduled updates of inspiration, preferably on weekdays during working hours due to the fact that I can no longer interpret my middle-of-the-night inspired scribblings ;)

Thanks again!

Good stuff, Drew! I’d like to think I stopped being an “Amateur” many years ago, but some of these points STILL seem a little too familiar.

I love to learn almost as much as I love to create, so I still wrestle with #8. I also think #1 is essential (and challenging) – Sit down and DO the work, regardless of whether or not you’re feeling inspired.

Glad I discovered your blog. Look forward to connecting on Twitter and Facebook, as well.

Best, Nikolas Allen

Wow. I am going to confess, this is the first of your posts I’ve ever actually read. I have a talent, I am damn good at what I do and it has a huge market potential, but I have been guilty BIG TIME of the working when I feel like it. This was the wake up call I needed to act like the professional I should and can be.
Thanks so much! I will stop ignoring these invaluable posts!
-Jamie Noel


Hi Nikolas–Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us!

I think we would all like to think that we’ve stopped being an “amateur” at some point in our lives, but at least for me, I always seem to regress back to amateurville on a regular basis. Maybe it’s just nature’s way of keeping me humble ;)

Thanks again Nikolas, I look forward to hearing from you again soon!


You know what they say, Jamie that confession is good for the soul. . .

I love your attitude and self-confidence! I know that their would be a huge market potential if you could somehow bottle that and sell it to the rest of us self-loathing and overly-critical artistic souls. Perhaps you will be our motivational leader here in the Skinny Artist community – kind of like the Jillian Michaels of the Art world.

Keep smiling :) (and working)!

These are great reminders! I struggle with each of them, but I’d have to say the worst one is anti-#2: I work on everything ELSE and THEN I make some art. Why does that suddenly sound like I’m in college, avoiding studying?? Ha! But at least I’m catching myself doing it and trying to turn it around.

Thank you for a great site! I’m seeing lots of posts that catch my eye and resonate with my situation. I’ll get some art done just as soon as I’m done reading… :)


    Thanks Liz for stopping by and sharing your numbers and thoughts with us!

    I know at least for myself, that I struggle with most of these on a daily basis. I think you’re right, however, that even if we just “catch ourselves doing it”, we can start making a conscious effort to “turn it around”.

    So keep reading and working (in that order) ;) and I hope to hear from you again soon!

I’m going to have to disagree with #3. Picasso, DaVinci, William Morris, Michaelangelo, et al worked in many, many mediums. I know the popular trend is to believe “jack-of-all-trades is a master of none”, but that is a contemporary view which has been propogated for the last 80 years, not the historical view of the artist. In fact, just producing art in the same medium with the same style can limit in ways that are crushing to the soul for the artist and only “allows” these certain kinds of obsessive artists to flourish in the limelight of the art world.

I have been determined my whole working life to turn that limited 20th century “vision” of the successful working artist around for myself and for my (and other artists’) clientele. I purposely promote myself as a multi-dimensional artist more in keeping with the vision of the artist of the days of yore. Although I am not in a trendy gallery in NYC (and don’t care if I ever get noticed there), I have been successful in branding myself as an artist who works in many mediums and is open to all kinds of inspirations and it has worked enough for me to keep going down the path.

For me, inspiration happens all of the time, more than I can keep up with, just not in the same medium and in the same style. A truly “human” life is like that: we are built for many tasks.

I’ve enjoyed reading your site today and glad I stumbled upon it!


    Hi Lise!

    Just so you know, disagreeing with me on this site is strictly forbidden ;)

    I do agree, however, that there is also more than one way to look at this issue of “diversifying” as an artist. Obviously there have been numerous examples (yourself included) of successful artists who have transcended the bounds of one particular medium.

    Now having said that, I have also seen far too many artists who constantly shift their focus from one thing to the next and never quite reach the depths of any particular medium. I’m not just talking about visual artists here — but this includes writers, musicians, photographers, and any other type of creative soul as well.

    Keep in mind that I’m not talking about a painter who is simply shifting from oils to acrylics here — I’m talking about those people who go from writer to photographer to crafter to potter (and back again).

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for trying out different things out especially when you are young and I’ve certainly done my share. Sooner or later, however, I truly believe that you’re going to have to focus your attention if you ever want to become truly proficient at something. In other words, there’s simply not enough time to become great at everything.

    Rebecca made a good point above (and you echo its sentiment here) that a “truly human life” does not like to be limited. Sticking to one skill set can often make a person (especially a creative one) feel “trapped and uninspired” As you mention inspiration happens all the time and does not necessarily limit itself to one particular medium and I completely agree.

    In the end, I guess it’s more a matter of finding a healthy balance that allows you to both develop your primary talent fully while still allowing yourself the opportunity to explore creatively.

    So of course we’re both right! :)


I am an artist who is trying to re-enter the “art world” after six years of being absent. All I will say about the six years is that it was a dark time and whatever kind of work I would have been doing would have suffered, including doing art. However, that’s past. The time out did give me time to think about the direction I would go with my art once I did return to doing it – and I always knew I would return. I am happy with the new direction that I’ve taken with my work, even if others aren’t. Before stopping work six years ago, I did not feel satisfied with where I was at with my work. It had grown stale and boring in my opinion, even though the gallery I was in kept wanting me to paint the same things over and over. Art is supposed to be something the artist needs to express. Instead, it became about trying to please others and express what they wanted to see expressed the way they wanted to see it expressed. I have shown in a number of galleries and am now at the point where I want to please myself first and express what I need to express in the way I want to do it. If someone can look at my work and see and feel what I’m communicating to the point they may even want to buy it, okay; but if not, that’s okay too. I don’t care at this point about galleries, or recognition or any of that. Showing my work at small shows is just fine. If a gallery likes my work and wants to show it – fine, too, but I don’t need it. Been there, done that. This time, for now, is simply for me.


    Thanks Rebecca for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us!

    I think that if you took a poll of working artists/writers/photographers/etc.., I think you would discover that so many of us (including myself) have taken countless detours and unplanned sabbaticals along the way.

    For whatever reason, life just doesn’t seem to be set up to allow the creative professional a smooth career path. Whether it’s parental disapproval, financial pressure, family responsibilities, or simply career indecision; we all seem to bounce around a bit before we are able to accept who we really are and really understand what kind of sacrifices that requires.

    Your comment about your gallery wanting you to paint the same thing over and over is not uncommon. This kind of thing seems to happen all the time and is certainly not limited to visual artists. It’s similar to a publisher (or their reading audience) expecting an author to follow the same formula for every book (Nora Roberts, James Patterson) or a music label expecting their bands to make an album that is eerily similar to their previous release.

    In the end, of course, galleries/record labels/publishers are in the business to make money not foster creativity. It’s up to the individual artist to hold their ground with these business partners and give themselves the freedom to grow and evolve as artists. As you said, you’ve “been there, done that.” and “This time, for now, is simply for me.”

    I couldn’t have said it any better myself. . . :)

Excellent write up. All the stuff I knew already but had to hear.

My art is a hobby for me but I want to make it a part-time job (ie, continue to improve and get to professional level, even if it always remains second-fiddle to my full time work). This was the kick in the pants that I needed.

Cheers and thanks again!


    Thanks Kristi for your kind words!

    I think to some degree, we all have the same crazy thoughts and fears running around inside our creative little heads, and sometimes it’s just nice to know that we’re not going through any of this alone.

    I wish you all the best on your journey as you continue to grow as an artist and discover your own path. Also, feel free to stop back by here anytime because creative kicks in the pants are always free ;)

    Love the name of your site by the way!

haha! I probably fall into most of these categories. But am I a “Professional Artist”? HELL YES!

Just to add…

Unfortunately most artists are not blessed with the unerring confidence of people like Damien Hurst. We are riddled with self doubt and an unsynchronised relationship with the world. That’s how it is. No quick fixes. No 10 steps to the right path. This journey is ours and our work marks the way. Trying to categorise artists amateur or professional is wrong, in fact trying to categorise artists is wrong in any way. That’s the whole point art is what it is and we are what we are. Some of us will find favour and possibly make money others may not. But we must do it, as a hobby, a job or a way of life.

Don’t get me wrong I like the idea of making artist recognise what they are and their value to the world. Just not the way this will feed into the artist’s psyche.


    I think you’re right Tony that most of us aren’t blessed with the type of unerring self-confidence of Mr. Hirst, but then again, who knows what exactly goes through Damien’s mind as he searches for his next provocative bit of livestock to display. . .

    My point here is that I think we all face these personal demons of fear and self-doubt, but few of us are willing to admit and debate them in an open forum such as this. I also think there comes a point in your career where you’ve invested so much of yourself into your art that to admit any type of self-doubt would perceived as a show of weakness to one’s peers and a “turn-off” to one’s fans. After all, no one likes a whiny celebrity. It reminds of that old Robert Benchley quote:

    “It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous. ” ~Robert Benchley

    Of course you’re also right that there is no “quick fix”, or really any fix at all, to solve these problems. Unfortunately for whatever reason, it appears to be hard-wired into our DNA that we tend see ourselves as less capable than others.

    For me personally it’s kind of the “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” type of thing, where if we can recognize these as universal problems and not something that’s unique to us individually, then perhaps we can confront them head-on knowing that these fears will never completely leave us.

I’m pretty much guilty of all of these.

Aside from believing that success comes quickly that is. That’s only a bit of wishful thinking. The real world unfortunately doesn’t work in such ways.

I’m the worst when it comes to time management as I tend to switch between tasks whenever I want to. My attention span doesn’t tend to lend itself to sticking to one project and seeing it through to the end. As for isolating myself from an artist community, I try not to. However even online I tend to be a bit shy (which tends to be the opposite from many people as the interwebs grants a level of anonymity that allows people to be a bit more outspoken). My school is pretty much the only art community that I’m a part of. Though I’m a member on deviantart, I have a habit of not commenting a lot. I could work on that a little bit more.

What I really need to work on is finishing what I start. There’s picture, upon picture, upon picture…just so many documents on my computer (as I’m mostly a digital artist) that I’ve started and for one reason or another I stopped and never started on them again. Or I might work on them sparingly. Usually it’s the pictures that I know take a long time to finish that never get finished. The bad thing is I like them all and they’ll look fine when they’re done. I have a terrible habit of just getting frustrated with the process of actually drawing/painting/animating something. I like starting projects and I like them when they’re done. That entire bit in the middle tends to annoy me. It really makes no sense…


    I know exactly what you mean Ashley, time management has always been a bit of a problem. For me, it’s not so much the following through on a particular project, as it is ignoring all the other shiny objects along the way.

    In fact this is the reason why I had to remove TweetDeck from my computer. You see every time it dinged in the background, I instantly felt the need to see what was going on just in case there was an urgent matter in the Twitterverse that needed my immediate attention. As if that’s not bad enough, I have also had to turn off my e-mail notification “ding” because I’m apparently like some kind of rabid Pavlovian dog that just can’t help himself from reacting every time the damn bell rings. It’s quite sad actually. . .

Well I agree with almost all of it.
My big criticism is the idea that a professional artist works ‘every single day’. Perhaps it was just sloppy wording on your behalf? “While a professional artist will make a point sit down and work on their art every single day no matter what”
Even professionals are allowed to have weekends, etc. I haven’t met an artist yet who works ‘no matter what’…..illness, hospitalisation, vacations, there are things that crop up that require attention over our careers from time to time.
The belief that ALL professional artists must work ‘every single day’ is a rather outdated viewpoint that precludes those who have any intrusion into a 24/7 art practice (“sorry you’re a parent of a young child?, no you can’t possibly be a professional artist”).

Yes artists do work a lot, and you are absolutely right that waiting for inspiration is not a sign of a professional artist. But surely there is room for flexibility in career practices (as we see across all professions in 2011) Perpetuating the nonsense that anything less than every single day is not enough to be a professional artist discredits rather too many excellent professional artists.


    You’re not the first person to notice this bit of hyperbole on my part. Of course, nobody is required to work 24/7 in order to call themselves a “professional artist”. Other than being an obvious poor word choice on my part, it was intended less as a literal truth and more as an explanation of what it means for an artist to be “living their art”. . .

    To me, an artist who is living their art doesn’t necessarily mean that they are chained to their easel or word processor 24/7. It simply means that they are approaching their world from a unique perspective. It means that even when they are not actually painting, writing, or creating their art — they are still out there gathering ideas, playing around with new concepts in their imagination, and closely observing the world around them. They encounter the world as an artist — searching for unexpected beauty, searching for unintended meaning, and searching for a way to translate and incorporate all of these slippery ideas into their creative work.

    I think what I intended to say with the “every single day” comment was that when you become a professional artist, even if it’s only in your mind, you stop “clocking out” when you put down your paintbrush, turn off your camera, or shut down your computer. Instead when you are “living your art” it is always with you, it becomes a part of you and it affects the way your approach the world around you. The final step of translating your art onto that blank canvas or piece of paper is only one step in the larger creative process.


      This is encouraging to me. I am a feeble meat being who has to do dumb stuff like eat and sleep and occasionally goof off in order to remain sane, so all the talk about “YOU MUST BE WORKING 24/7!” from professionals kind of scared me. I worried a lot (and still worry) about whether I am dedicated or passionate enough. But since I started my education, I never really take off my artist goggles, which makes the world around me at least 300% more interesting at any given time even if I’m just staring at my own feet. The boyfriend is getting used to hearing things like “sit still, you have a great shadow on your nose right now” and “did you know you have really interesting shoulders?” So I guess I should stop fretting, because I am really living my art.


      “Living your art” — wow! Can’t agree more. I misunderstood your comments. For a real artist, hardly a moment passes by, in which he doesn’t think about his art.

Brilliant, thanks. The bit that struck me the most was that art is a process and nothing you create will be perfect… I knew this but it definitely helps to hear someone else say it – I always see flaws in even my best works but of course there has to be. Just this thought will help me be more free and natural in my work.

… I’m even re-re-reading that paragraph I just wrote, to make sure it’s perfect and perfectly gets across what I mean, and perfectly portrays a correct image of me… It will take work but I will be trying to be less concerned with perfection and just get on with it!


    You’re right, perfectionism is a killer. It not only stops your momentum and your ability to move forward to the next work, but it also gives you a perfect excuse to go back and revise/redo/rework endlessly because you want to “perfect” your work.

    You can blame it on your high standard of quality, or you can say that it’s simply not done yet — but whatever you choose to call it, in the end it’s only an excuse not to move on and face your next empty canvas or blank page…


No offence, but I think this list describes a BEGINNER artist. Beginner artists, kinda like myself, experiment on different styles, work until something else comes up and when inspiration strikes, never finish work, and are too busy learning. It’s, honestly, a bit rude for more experienced artists to treat beginners/amatuers like they’re something you don’t want to be when they should be helping.

My definition of amatuer is someone who claims they’re an artist when they’re only beginning. 9, 6, 5, 4 are stuff an amatuer artist, I think, probably does for I don’t have those.

Rushing amatuers and beginners isn’t very helpful. Amatuers will not be 9, 6, 5, or 4 eventually and beginners are just learning and just practicing.

    i guess i would be considered an amateur artist because im still a student. in general, people dont take students seriously, not in the sense as a professional. i can see why, because most of us are constantly changing and evolving, thus not having a quality of ‘certainty’ and ‘reliability’ both in our work and manner towards working. not to mention i do fall short on a lot of things on that list.
    but i dont think this list is being rude or rushing people who are starting out, but rather teach beginners how to operate on a system that you can function as an artist at a steady pace, producing work on a regular interval and also finding commissions/sales in the long haul. i think the earlier you feel comfortable and learn to grasp on functioning as a professional, the earlier you are on the road to being a successful artist.

    i used to not finish a lot of my drawings and took a lot of time perfecting everything, spending so much time on one thing made me bored and move onto another without completion. but lately i create and finish work without thinking about it too much, treating what i illustrated as work and not as hobby (enjoying it along the way of course) that i create some of my better works that people respond to very well.
    i get ideas and inspirations and i jog them down (un-organized-ly) but when i start creating them, i try not to over think and really just finish what i set out to do without distraction. i can always carry on that last bit of inspiration to my next illustration.
    there is one thing that i enjoy about my way of working is that, once i decided i finished one illustration, i dont want to go back and edit or change it even if i see things i don like. i move onto improving my next piece instead.


      I don’t agree upon this point either with you or the author. I think those who just go on doing without ever bothering to come back and correct mistakes are amateurish. Indeed, most of the amateurs (hobbyists) that I know are of this sort. And, I find no significant improvement in their paintings even when they boast they did hundreds of paintings.

[…] Art Fair Raw Vision magazine INTUIT: The center for Intuitive and Outsider Art 9 warning signs of being an amateur artist Outsider Art Pages Detour.com (built […]

Jacob Ellinger

I agree with all of this with the exception of number 7.
I myself am an terrible artist. I could not draw myself a bath if I had to.
BUT when I do draw I spend hours on a single piece until it looks good, untill I cant make it look any better than it looks.

I find that I remember my mistakes better and remember what I did to fix them if I spend more time working on a single artwork as apposed to pumping out lots of really crappy ones,
I’ve don’t that before and I just move on to the next art piece without really remembering what I did wrong with the old one.

so for number seven I respectfully disagree with the author.


    I agree with you Jacob that there is definitely something to be said with spending some time with a piece and continuing to work on it until you feel like you’ve done the absolute best you can with it. I do think, however, that creative artists, and especially writers, sometimes tend to hang on to a piece too long not just because they are trying to make it better (although that is what we will convince ourselves that we are doing) but because we are unwilling to let it go and face the prospect of having to start over and stare at that blank page or white canvas once again.

    I think in the back of my mind, I’m always wondering if this will be the time that I’ll discover that my creative well has finally run dry. So I guess for me, it’s sometimes easier to hold on to what’s in front of me and keep reworking it rather than having to courage to go out and find that next idea. I often call myself a perfectionist, but what I’ve realized is that more often than not, it’s simply a way for me to put off having to dive back into those cold dark creative waters.


Well Drew,

-It’s seems you are the King and you got a court buttering you up…… I’m the princess who wants to kick you -metaphorically-

The post is really good but painful and cruel at the same time. In general I agree with you but after reading you post it’s seems that WE -AMATEURS- live in wonderland, we are a bit stupid and we don’t know that the only way to have a job is work, work and work.
Maybe are different types of amateurs and you didin’t talk about this. There’s a kind of amateur who works hard but the system, the organizations doesn’t give him or her an opportunity. And this is my case. In fact I’m working on an illustrated book which reflects the hard beginning of this. And fortunately there is a foundation which could give me a grant to publish it.

Belive me Drew, If i get it I will send you a copy. And now I will continue my work, cause you were my break.



    Dear Princess Berenice,

    First of all, let me apologize for the cruel and unusual punishment of this particular post (well, all of them really). I do think that anyone who dreams of creating art/literature/music/etc.. for a living has to live in a slightly altered state of delusion otherwise none of us would have the guts to pursue our passion in the first place.

    There are of course many different types of amateurs, but the dirty little secret that no one seems to tell anyone, is that we are all amateurs to some degree — Nobody masters all of these steps all of the time. Heck even on a good day, I can usually only manage 3-4 tops (and it’s rarely the same ones twice)

    In the end however, it’s not about crossing these steps off your list, it’s more about understanding that despite our shiny confident veneer all of us still have work to do. Unfortunately, it’s a journey that never ends. So hang in there and feel free to stop by the kingdom for a chat anytime ;)

    Now get back to work!

    P.S. I’d love to see your book when it’s finished


      HI Drew!
      The princess again. What about your Kingdom?
      Well, regarding my project I tell you. I sent it to the foundation and at the end of february I will know the result, that is: if they give me the grant to edit the book. The big question is: should I stop drawing If they don’nt give me the money? Or Should I continue drawing whatever happens?
      Sometimes I think It makes nosense to continue, it isn’t worth it… But on the other hand…
      I created a character, he’s got a history and sometimes I think he’s crying in the night, cursing me out, wondering why I left him behind…

      Yes, I’m a hopeless romantic..

      By Drew

      See you!!


        I meant “bye” of course!


          I do hope the grant ends up coming through for both you and your character’s sake. As far as the possibility of abandoning the project if it falls through, that’s a tough one. In the end, you just have to follow your heart regardless if your bank account may tell you otherwise. Maybe the funding for this particular project will work itself out, or maybe it may show up in an unexpected form down the road — but either way, your art is ultimately yours and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time a creative artist completed a work just to see where it leads….

          I wish you all the best!

          P.S. By the way, that is one of the coolest generated avatars I’ve seen on this site. It’s like the angry alien Christmas tree that I’ve always wanted ;)

Sana Bharani

Dear Drew,

Thanks for a very useful post. I am an amateur painter. I took a break from a full time job, to pursue painting. I put off painting thinking, someday I will pick up the brush. I made that ‘someday’ happen. I still find excuses / distractions rather than paint. I feel shy or inadequate, to go out and mix with artists.
Thanks for reinforcing what I should be doing,

Sana Bharani


    Thank you Sana for your kind words :)

    I think when it comes to something like creativity, you’re right that it’s often far too easy to keep putting it on the back burner as we attend to the more urgent matters that demand our attention every day. How do we prioritize our time and our energy between our responsibilities and that soft (but persistent) creative voice inside us? In the end, we need to find a way to feed our creative soul while still being able to feed our families, which is unfortunately something that so many of us struggle with on a daily basis. Good luck and be sure to let us know how things are going!

I guess I am an “Ama-Pro.” lol Yes, it is a real word. Oh no, you didn’t just look it up did you?
My art? Poetry and now painting. I am not “me” unless I am writing. It’s therapeutic. And now, painting has driven me. I am totally emotionally driven I confess. The images that come to my mind are not settled until it’s painted. Then a rush of relief and thrill follows with the brush and the completion. I may be a bit insane. O_o

Thanks for the post~


    Thanks for stopping by and making me scramble to the Googlenator to look up “Ama-Pro” ;) I think when it comes down to it, you’re right, we are all “pro-ams” (ama-pro’s big brother) because all of us are stuck somewhere between where we are and where we would like to be. For some of us the journey is relatively short, while others like myself still have a great deal of traveling to do before we’ll even get within shouting distance of creative competence. I guess all we can really do is to just keep creating and see what happens.

Very good list. A professional absolutely has to be organized, on track and ready to work every day. The image of a professional artist is much different than the general public perceives.


    Thank you for your kind words Becky and you’re absolutely right about the public perception of what we actually do all day. Sometimes I think the general public imagines us creative types sitting around all day sipping our chai tea and waiting for the inspiration fairy to deliver our latest project in its final magnificent form — If only that were the case ;)

Gina PT

I sent this post straight to my husband. After 17 years in a very disciplined business/mktg environment, I’m really one for schedules, to-do list, charting progress, following through. My husband thinks it’s totally killing my creativity (I paint, draw, sew, bake, cook) by confining to schedule (paint and cooking is for daily, sew on sundays, bake on Saturdays). This way I ensure I spread the love around. But my truest occupation is painting and when I first started, I learn to draw on my own and reached a statisfying level by ensuring that I draw everyday. Painting has proven harder and I question my path all the time and constantly thinking I should just quit. It came to a point I stopped painting altogether because I couldn’t bear to be responsible for another ugly painting. I buried myself in theory and research believing I shouldn’t paint till I understand fundamentals better so that I won’t produce another ugly painiting. But in doing so, I realised that I’ve stopped progressing by not painting but worse, I stopped doing what I love to do and everything came to stangnacy and dullness. So now, I’m back to ugly paintings…But you’re article defintely helped me see I’m right in some ways. There needs to some regiment. It clarifies my doubt about too about research/theory learning versus practice. So I guess it;s back to self-loathing for a bit more huh? Thanks to your site, I can come back for some healing chicken soup.


    Thank you for your kind words Gina, I think we can use some healing chicken soup once in awhile :)

    As I mentioned in Becky’s comment above, I really do think the general public (and newer artists to some extent) tend to underestimate the amount of time and organization it actually takes not only to create something, but also to get your name out there as an artist especially in this age of blogs and dozens of social media sites demanding a piece of your day.

    It seems you have discovered what so many others, including myself, that creating “ugly” art is far better than creating no art at all. Not only from a creative perspective, but also from a learning perspective as well. I believe it was Samuel Beckett who has been quoted saying, “Fail, fail again, fail better”, which pretty well sums up my entire creative process.

    Thanks again Gina for stopping by and keep that paint flying!


the worst is 1 and 2 that i suffer from but i got a job in 2D art as a concept artist…..maybe, now i’ll have to work on art every single day 8 hours, my art will improve and as its a really small company it dosent need all that high quality art so i was able to get the job. im hoping for the best.
and BTW
thanks!! :]


    You’re lucky to have landed a job where you can actually use your creative skills. So many of us have, at one time or another, had to work another “day job” that had nothing at all to do with our creative talents or ambitions. So good luck with it and we hope to hear from you again soon!


im having most trouble with #3.. i am not considered a pro yet and find myself still at the amateur level.i am trying to find my main focus medium even though.i love all mediums.. in my artworks and would like to master all of them.but i just wonder about the artists that are considered multi media artists(has artworks in both dry and wet)..are they still considered amateur if they haven’t stuck to one or 2 mediums in their creations?


    You’re right Amanda #3 is tough especially for a younger artist who may be still trying to find her niche. It also happens to be the one that has caused the biggest uproar in the comment section because it appeared as if I was encouraging artists to somehow limit themselves and not venture out of their chose niche, which was not at all what I intended. There are, of course, successful artists who have worked in one genre their entire careers and there are others who have completely changed course midway through. In fact, I wrote an entire article on the value of starting over and seeing things from a fresh perspective called “A Return to Innocence”

    What no one really seems to tell you is that so much of what differentiates a “professional” and an “amateur” artist is in their mind, not what they do. It’s in the way that they see themselves, it’s how they approach their art, it’s about what else they are willing to give up in order to pursue their art — it’s not really about how many hours you spend sitting in front of the easel or at the keyboard. It’s more about your attitude and your resolve to take your creative passion seriously. It’s a kind of mental switch that separates the two and only you know which side is currently switched on. Silly articles like this one are simply intended to get you thinking about your own attitudes and the way that you approach your art. So don’t waste your time worrying about labels or who thinks you should be doing what, just go out there and create something awesome and the rest will take care of itself :)

Fantastic work again Drew! Loved reading that!

As a professional artist (by definition I refer to that statement as one who earns a living from it and nothing else) I find that there is only one thing that makes the difference between playing at it and going for it and that’s the level of desire you carry. How much do you want this? How much are you prepared to sacrifice? I turned my back on a complete life to do this and every day I battle with my own demons, just like everyone else. Every point you make is as relevant now as it would have been if I had read it five years ago. Awesome post Drew!

Nothing to do with hours spent painting, as you say, or fancy marketing ideas or how many re-tweets you can get. No, as someone who has put absolutely everything into his craft it is the level of desire to succeed that dictates the differences between us.

Do I sound conceited? Hope not but it’s the truth. I still worry about everything looking the same, about the colours I use, about the next sale or the next commission and when it will come. I never take anything for granted and I endlessly push myself to do things I don’t want to do but have to (love the quote about an ‘orderly life’ – so true…)

Every artist should print this post whether pro or amateur; I find it very aspirational, even after years of standing on my own two feet. This business teaches you to be humble and respectful of it’s twist and turns but to always be true to what you do and never give in.

You always provide so much honesty and accuracy in your prose Drew and I am forever thankful that you are there as a key part of my art journey… Thankyou Sir…

Wow there is so much in this article that made me think.
I recognize too many things in this that hold me back as a creative ‘artist’.

I guess this thing can help me out quite a bit.
Thanks for posting!

[…] So what are some of the warning signs of an Amateur Artist? […]

This is a very well written piece; for my personal perspective it is a combination of a few things garbled with a very hefty dose of simply not having the amount of time I want to dedicate to my obsession. I do not consider myself “professional” for many reasons, though the main simply being that it is not my profession. I do earn some wages here and there from commissions, but that does not make me a professional. It makes me someone that others have saw fit to honor by purchasing some works that I have put out. I do not consider myself an “amature” either, however. I stared in the traditional medium when I could hold a pencil and find a wall for my canvas, and have migrated toward digital- this has been my obsession for nigh on 3 decades.

I have inspiration every day; the way the light plays in fog that covers the ground. How architecture takes on certain moods in different lighting during different parts of the day and even the year. How things decay- brick, stone, wood. How they feel under my fingertips. People walking and conversing in the street, at the park, on the bus. Posture, gesture, facial expression- the sheer amount of variety of the people themselves and the collection of colors in their attire. I take photos of brick walls, cement walkways and stairs, rusted steel beams of overhead bridges, anything that catches my eye.

These are also my resources. Can I actually draw this and make it work into something else? Can I use the brick textures to accent and distress the leather texture I had been working on? Is there a way I can incorporate how that light bleeds through the stained glass window into the ruins I have painted? How can I do it if so? I have resources everywhere- among them tutorials on not only 3D but 2D subjects as well.

I do not have a personal brain to pick through in ear shot, so I rely on the community of artists that have become my friends to hopefully bounce ideas off of, ask questions on how to achieve a particular lighting set up or tweak that posture into something “more”, or to just toss out a work in progress to have a fresh set of eyes to look over. I do not use tutorials continually, but I have spent a good year and a half in the past sifting through everything I could get my hands on to find the few that I could reference back to on certain things. Transferring from traditional paints to digital wasn’t overly difficult, but the processes were at times difficult to get a grasp on.

I cannot sit down every day to work on my art; I have two jobs. The time I carve out three times a week are precious, and everything is shut out while I have that two or three hours to work. I have been known to take a two week stint, remove most of my sleeping hours and obssessively pound on a piece until it’s almsot complete- it’s never truly ‘finished’ in my view. Nothing has been, even the works that had been displayed or published. That was simply how I was taught- no matter what you accomplish, you never know everything. You are not the owner of your passion, but the rider.

I had hopes of having success in my passion, yes. I will admit to the dreams of glory. They were fleeting. The reality of the entire scope of life kicked in and what I had hoped to have was put aside for over a decade. I do not have those dreams of glory any longer at least- for me, this is simply how and who I am. I create simply because I cannot not create. For me, it has saved me the expectations of success at least.

Am I a professional? No. I hope to take my passion in a professional manner, however. I -am- an artist. It’s that simple.

    Wow! What an amazing comment. Dead on.


#4 struck a chord! I remember my first jewelry sales, and my unexpected reaction to good results. I looked at my cleaned-out table and felt like people had stolen my stuff, not bought it. My lovely things were gone forever!
I had not been aware of how much I’d bonded to the jewelry, and how connected I was to it.

Also, not making many sales these days is a confidence-buster! Some family members insist on calling my art a “hobby”. It’s ignorance on their part, but still drives me nuts. I just get up every day and do something, anything: research, design, photography, writing, whatever.

Also, getting over being a very private person who actively dislikes socializing, well, I don’t know if I can do it. I love creating, don’t mind writing, photography, webmastering. But people: not so much.

    I think you’re right Barb, it is far too easy to get emotionally attached to your work. As a creative artist or writer, we spend so much time nurturing our work from its infancy and watching it grow over time that it does become a part of us. The longer we spend on its creation, the more difficult it becomes sometimes to let it go.

    On the flip-side, however, most of my creative children (manuscripts) are sent off into the world and inevitably return back home to live with me so I’m not sure what’s worse ;)

A fantastic article! Very valuable points on how to make the transition from amateur to professional artist. It all seems to be in your mind set. I liked the the point made in number 7 about knowing that each artwork is part of the journey and doesn’t need to be perfect.

    Thanks Amy for stopping by the site and sharing your kind words :)

    It’s true that so much of it is in our minds and the way we approach things. This is something that’s been echoed in some form by every enlightened mind throughout history. Just by changing our perspective, we effectively change the world around us. Unfortunately it’s also one of those lessons that is far easier said than done….

Excellent article, Drew!

    Thank you so much Holly! It’s always a pleasure to see your smiling avatar :)

      This subject has confused me for a while now. I never really called myself a artist until the last couple of years. I am realistic I have saw some great artist out there. Wow.

We’re all amateur artists deep down. Even the professionals.

    Amen! Even the most successful creative artists never completely outrun their inner doubts and fears.

I find this kind of articles funny. They secretly represent what the author hates most about himself.


    agreed. making a list like this seems like procrastination from actually working on art, no? :) don’t be self-righteous. every artist has a different method and a different path. it’s funny because in the beginning, you talk about how it isn’t about money and recognition, but it clearly is. that’s all “professional” means here. you’re talking about the ultimate goal of being marketable and profitable. the use of the word amateur is insulting in this context b/c you’re not being truthful. you tried to say that it wasn’t about “success” when this list definitely is. so if professional vs. amateur is just about who is making money and gaining followers, then ok. but if this is your list for an actual “amateur” artist who is somehow less than a “professional” artist, then you are very wrong. the only thing that separates an amateur with a professional is passion. if the passion isn’t inside of you then just sitting to work every single day isn’t going to make you a good artist. there are a lot of brilliant artists who ONLY work when they are inspired (ie: fiona apple). that doesn’t make her any less professional than some dude who is working and marketing himself every day or week.

      I agree with both you that this list is not only a bit of procrastination from actually doing any type of real creative work, but also a revelation about some of the things that I need to work on in order to get to where I want to be professionally. And yes, a lot of the things on this list do scare the crap out of me, but then again, that’s the entire point of the article. We all have these fears to some extent.

      If we are completely honest with ourselves, I would have think that virtually all of us have at least a few of these things we still need to work on. I know at least for me, as soon as I seem to get a handle on one of these things, one of the others comes back to haunt me. It’s almost like a neurotic whac-a-mole kind of thing.

      Having said that, I have a hard time believing that any of us have reached (or will ever reach) that point in our creative development where we won’t have to worry about things such as running out of inspiration, feeling inferior to at least a few of our contemporaries, or having to deal with creative procrastination. If in fact you have somehow managed to reach this level of artistic nirvana then I congratulate you and wish you all the best, however, I also know that there are thousands of us out there who continue to struggle with these issues every single day.


        I agree with the above comments.
        Foremost Art and Work are two things that doesn’t really have to coexist.
        Real Art is not about a set of academic rules to learn. Ultimately in all reality Art in itself isn’t even teacheable. I think that here you might be making confusion between Art and Artisanry.

        But beside the point I always had quite of a hard time with the community trying to define what the artist has to be as if some sort of colorful and self torturing rare animal. This is another example of the uniformization of intent I see all around me. Most artists are seemingly proud of being a bunch of obsessive compulsive people killing themselves to get more and more work done where for me art sprouts from serenity and oneness. What about individuality?!?

        Ultimately the question is who are you making art for? Is it a tool for ego flattery or money making and, in general, combat in the art arena or is it a tool to study your inner self and find some secret meaning in the reality around you and crystallize a piece of your soul in the real world.

        A child’s drawing might hold more meaning than a piece of art reinterpreted over and over and over in the compulsive mimicry that affects the art scene nowadays.
        In general art is about passion and originality and desire of seeing the world with a different set of lenses than one’s own eyes.

        Your list is valid but it’s more valuable for an Artisan than an Artist. Art is about the soul! Why industrializing and capitalizing something so inherently beautiful and anarchic????

        After all Picasso wrote that it took him 4 years to learn to paint like Caravaggio and a lifetime to remember how to draw as a child.

        And yes Inspiration is paramount. What about changing #1 in strive to have as much as an inspirational life as possible free from boundaries set for you from the social requirement of others.

        I could keep writing forever but I think I made my point!

        Thanks for giving me the opportunity to organize these thoughts in my head!

Sun Crown

A rather pretentious article. Art and artists cannot be defined. Maybe if we are talking about cheap hotel throw-away ‘art’, but an artist can be, quite literally, anything without silly ‘guide-lines’.

[…] 0 Are you an amateur artist? The warning signs: […]


I would replace the words “amatuer” and “professional” with “premature” and “mature”, respectively.


I’m an amateur and I’m sooooooooooooo guilty of a few of these– the waiting, in particular. I often wait for the drawing mood to strike me and I waste a lot of time reading about drawing when I should just be drawing instead. But l know I can do better than this, because when I get into the swing of drawing, it’s hard to stop. I think the hard part is giving the boulder that first shove, you know? Even when you don’t feel like drawing– even if you’d rather be playing Minecraft or watching bad movies on Netflix or anything BUT drawing today– draw anyway. Chances are, you’ll get into the flow and wonder why you were so reluctant to start in the first place.

3 give me the most problems


7 mostly, and 1,3, and 6 in small amounts.


i have a lil question …earlier i read someone posted that “I quit my job so i can focus on art and practice”
what i dont get is that how is that possible?
i have a pretty sweet job and im happy with it ..salary is good and so is the environment and we work among doctors so its a respectable job …… but i’ll happily quit my job any day to properly start practicing art. But the question is…. if you do that how are you going to pay your bills?? i mean i dont have a wife and kids. i live with my family [parents and brother] but if you live alone ..how would you do …stayt at friend’s? even that would become a little burdning…enlighten me on this matter plz ..
thank you!!

    Hey xCarbon!

    I did that too, I quit my job 6 months ago and ever since I’ve been trying to focus on making art my life.
    It’s been 4 years since I moved out from my parents’ and got a pretty well paid job. I have set aside money every month “just in case”, you know.
    This spring I realised I don’t agree with my employers’ views and that I generally got sick and bored of what I studied and of my work field (I’ve been working for 7 years in total).
    I know that I don’t want to be a house owner any time soon – renting is fine for me, I don’t want children – no daycare or schools to pay for, and generally I have no big spending in my near future.
    The money I have put aside allow me to live at the standard I had as an employed person for about one year and a half. If I lowered my standards a little bit I could probably do it longer.
    I might return to my old career or maybe I’ll succeed and make a living from creating and selling art. Who knows? I, for one, am still waiting to find out :)

I could be wrong, and I am making a generalization, but all the “famous”, “successful” artists I know of waited tables, worked as assistants, were illustrator grunts, and in the case of one of my artistic idols a door-to-door appliance salesman. I believe the spirit of this article is that as a “professional” anything… even door-to-door appliance salesman… you take what you do seriously, but then if you have a passion for what you do you would naturally take what you do seriously.

From my now aging memory of collegiate art history, I doubt seriously any of the artistic greats of the modern era (after artistic patronage died with the industrial revolution) ever considered themselves “artists” much less “professional”, though I have no doubt “obsessed” with what they did. We paint, draw, sculpt, write, dance, play music because we have to, and we do it despite the fact that we work as waiters, office assistants, IT professionals, or door-to-door appliance salesman. Sure we need to support our obsession and ourselves and very few can do that through their art, but does that make any of us who work traditional jobs and obsess about our passion at nights and on weekends less professional?

We all have character imperfections, challenges that God… or whatever universal creator you believe in…. has given us to help us learn our lessons in life. These of course include things like procrastination, distractions, laziness, self-absorbsion, lack of self-worth… etc., etc. etc. all of which are alluded to in this article, just pick a number. But having these character imperfections/challenges don’t make us armature artists.

Being a professional, I believe, is not about schedules (though that helps the character imperfections/challenges), working hard on what you do, or marketing… being a professional is about being passionate about what you do, being passionate about what you do will keep you focused, will keep you producing quality work (whether that is one piece a year or 500 pieces a week), will bring attention to what you do, will help you overcome your character imperfections/challenges no matter what number they are. Being a professional is about respecting yourself, what you need to do as well as respecting others and what they need to do. I believe that is at the heart of what this article is getting at…. are you passionate about what you do or do you lack passion and you’re just doing it for the immediate thrill/recognition?

This quote by Robert Henri, in “The Artist’s Spirit” continues to inspire me as a professional artist as well as an IT professional:

“Art when really understood is the providence of every human being. It is simply a question of doing things, anything well. It is not an outside, extra thing. When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature. He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and he opens ways for better understanding. Where others who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it, shows there are still more pages possible.”


I can’t really agree with 5, the actual global connection has showen us recently that there is more and more one week stardom peeks, is it good in my perspective?Nooo, but it is real that it is and as usual does not lasts… about the other’s I tottally agree, it really strikes me a nerve when people speack about muses tho, can’t help but to laugh inside as I think about history of art from the virtuosos to Picasso which worked night and day unstopable, Muse which muse? It’s The artisan sweat tears torn fingers and tired brain.

Wafer Thin Hulk

I paint graffiti on walls. I paint graffiti with a brush on canvas. I draw graffiti in a sketchbook. I paint graffiti on clothes and shoes. I draw on windows. I create vector graffiti. I etch graffiti on metal. I do this because I enjoy getting the ideas out of my head. I don’t care if someone would buy it, it’s not for sale. I don’t care if other artists dig it, I do it for me. I don’t care if people can’t read it, I’m communicating with myself. I create art on the go. I’d cover someones house in graffiti SNart if I had the time. Am I pro? Sure I’m pro. I’m pro doing my own thing. Pro at creating my own label instead of letting someone else straddle me with one. Pro letting my art punch you in the eye until your brain begs to be shut off. Make money from the sludge spattered all over my brain pan? No thanks. Work, kids, life is where my aerosol dreams spray from; those are NFS.


I would add that amateur artists are overly critical of their own work. They fear rejection or failure so much that they simply don’t even create any except in their own heads where they tear it apart and examine it’s failures without ever actually producing it. A professional knows that in order to succeed you must show up and actually make the stuff and accept that the experience of trial and error and possible failure or rejection along the way is how you learn and grow as an artist.

This is the kind of stuff I try to convey to students/recent grads all the time. Glad it’s helping a lot of people here in this format. Stuff like keeping track of expenses and invoices and researching marketing to build & test my own theories have been as rewarding as the creative work often because they help create financial stability and bring in cool new projects and collaborations. Keep up the good work.


I have struggled with number seven my entire life and has crippled the last 10 years of it. Over the past year or so, I have indentfied my inability to be perfect. My freedom to enjoy my art has come back and I am working frantically to keep up withmy liberated self.


A more appropriate title for the article would be “9 Habits of a Highly Effective Artist.” “Professional” is a term used to separate the hobbyist from the business person and draws no correlation to skill, success, talent, or wealth.

While I agree the points are idealistic work habits, history would prove otherwise. The most accomplished artists in the last century are valued for their level of work, rather than their workflow. Unfortunately, the most prolific fine artists have typically been fueled by some affliction whether it be isolationism, disease, mental illness, or substance abuse.

By and large, the #1 most important thing an artist needs to be is GOOD. It doesn’t matter if “good” is accomplished through effortless talent or years of study, an artist simply needs to be good at what they do. The rest will come easily.

    You’re right Nate, the “9 Habits” would probably have been a better title although it’s not nearly as ominous and spooky sounding as the “9 warning signs” bwahahaha! ;)

    Professionalism is of course little more than a state of mind or a shift in perspective. I mean honestly if all it took to become a “pro” was to print up some business cards than we might as well all become corporate executives. As you well know, a title or label like this is virtually meaningless. We can call ourselves whatever we want, but usually it’s our work habits and our attitudes that ultimately unmask us.

    Thanks again Nate for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us. I really appreciate it!

I suppose the signs that apply to me, in particular, are numbers 8 and 9. I gotta work on those!

    You and me both! :)

Agree with all but #2-you can spend TOO long on something sometimes. I once drew for 72 hours straight only moving to use the bathroom with no sleep…

…only to a lukewarm reception for the finished animation, lol.

    Isn’t it funny how those projects where you find yourself completely obsessed and spend all this time working on quite often turn out “okay” but not as great as the ones that just kind of flowed and seemed to require the least amount of effort on your part? It always reminds me of that quote my Andre Gide that says, “Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.” Sometimes I just need to get out of the way and let it happen…


Sadly I have to admit that i relate to everyone of the 9 signs of a Amateur Artist. I’m in my second year attending the Art Institute and I’ve gotta say I’ve learned a lot but in some way or another I don’t put it to good use. I’m probably mostly afraid and feel unworthy to do so and what people tell me that I’m much to hard my self. Expecting good work from my self now, right this minute but never putting in the work that it takes to do so. In so many ways it makes me sick to my stomach working a 9 to 5 and every moment I spend there, all I can think about is wanting a career in the entertainment art’s. Yet each day I find my self with serious doubt and waste my time not doing anything about it besides attending school and falling behind due to lack of taking what I want serious. Its clear to me that I’m amateur wanting nothing more to be a professional artist. I know now that going to art school with no real clue on what I would really like to do with my art was the best choice I ever made. With that being said, It’s time for me to make the next best choice and work my to be a true professional. I thank you for writing this article. I’ve know now for sometime what keeps me from being a professional and never really doing anything about it. Reading the reality that I am armature artist with excellent words of guidance and wisdom brought back that fighting spirit that I had when I first started art school knowing that I wanted a career in entertainment art. Thanks again Skinny artist and I shall live my art.

    I’m right there with you DroopyEyes — However, the more I think about this, the more I realize that there has to be some kind of middle ground here. Somewhere between being the 24/7 always on creative a**hole that no one wants to be around, to being the procrastinating can’t-focus-on-anything-for-longer-than-three-minutes scatterbrain creative slacker.

    I know that most people I talk with tend to fall somewhere in between these two extremes depending on the day. We all seem to have good days and not-so good days. We have those times when creative ideas are flooding into our brain faster than we can write them down, and those times when we could stare at our keyboard or easel for hours and come away with nothing but tears. For whatever reason it just seems to be the way our brains work. Unfortunately no one’s invented a foolproof focus-inator yet to keep us consistently on track. All we can really do is to keep trying….and trying….and (you know the rest)

What do you do when suffering from an insurmountable affliction of number three?

    Welcome to the club! I’ve got a serious case of shiny object syndrome myself. Not sure what exactly the “cure” is but they say the first step is admitting that you may have a problem…

Joffa Kurseth

There are amazing, famous professional artists who fit every one of these. This isn’t a list of ways to improve, it’s a collection of false insults designed to keep people reading your site, clinging to you for advice. If you want a warning sign of an amateur artist- It’s that they write up filth like the above instead of creating art. You’re a liar and a fool, and I pity anyone who takes this baloney seriously.


The list makes reltive sense. Frankly I will have days I don’t work on my art not cause I don’t want to but because my hands wont let me disablity sucks at time. If I’m struggle to hold pencil to sketch idea before complete work or to sit up I will say fudge it. Also if have seizure the day for art or much else is pretty much shot. Yes people jumping from one extreme to another in art world is crazy but slight change n medium example from colored pencils to makers is fine. I think anyone is almost always thinking about wt they do but u do think on Christmas we should shut most of our thought centers down and just enjoy time with those close to us and if believe say happy birthday to Jesus thru out the day as we chose that day sense we don’t know when he was born to say happy birthday. Weekends are peoples to do what they want with which is actually Friday and Saturday (Sunday is 1st of week) is yours to do away with if want to shut down thougjts go for it don’t don’t.

[…] This morning, I chanced across this very interesting article by the Skinny Artist – 9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist. […]


I’ve been a serious artist for 30+ years. NOT RICH …but at least I have my soul.
I try very hard -but there are days when I feel so low inside.
I make art that is thoughtful..sometimes intense…BUT.. to make ” a living”
I have to do other things to pay the rent. I have to make,… as I call it “happy art for the masses”
which drives me nuts.
Then I stop-go into the studio and make work I feel worthy of..
I know compromise is part of living but it can really be tough..
I’m being honest…I think there are a lot artists who are full of s–t in this world making oodles of money because they know how to play “the game”
I just can’t do that…So ……Soul over “lack of truth “is my motto Just my thoughts


Sounds like every other profession out there.

Wow, other than 9, I don’t exhibit most of these traits. For some reason, it’s just come naturally for me to work my muse off every day even if my favorite show’s on TV, knowing that it probably won’t sell, but as long as I can keep experimenting and find my way to stop, I think I’m on my way to becoming a pro one day. The only reason I can’t be adept to the art community is because I have a form of Autism and that makes things like social interaction and rejection SO difficult for me but I am working through my fears of this, which I’m glad about.

Example of 9 of Signs of an Professional Artist

David Jakupca, the “Spiritual Father of the Environmental Art” Movement.

American Cultural Ambassador David Jakupca is officially credited and accepted with being the Spiritual Father of the Environmental Art Movement by many organizations including the United Nations, Earth Island Institute, Time Magazine, State of Ohio and many others.

Full Story with Pics


Oh I definitely see some of these in me. I have the natural born skill to draw,however almost all of these describe me. Although,I dont care about #7. If I’m going to work hard on something it might as well be close to perfect if not perfect.I also keep procrastinating,I’m doing a picture of scarlett johansson: http://www.last.fm/music/Scarlett+Johansson/+images/4360671
for my boyfriend’s dad as a birthday present(which was december 9th of last year.I KNOW! haha) and this for my boyfriend: http://www.last.fm/music/Thin+Lizzy/+images/72908700 (as a christmas present) I came so close to finishing scarlett but I got the idea to change her facial features to be more precise then ended up messing it all the way up so I had to erase he wholde face. Now it just sits in my drawer. Keep saying I’ll work on it but end up doing other things:chores,eating,watching tv,etcetera. I haven’t even started the other picture yet. I need help in the procrastinating area.

Charles Jo Harder

#7. But I have set a deadline! April 1st!

    You’re right Charles #7 is definitely a tough one. Good Luck!

Every single one of these has contributed to my stagnancy. But #3 is not just a symptom, but probably the greatest contributing factor to my lack of productivity. I studied creative writing and ultimately got an MFA in fiction writing, but I also paint, and other people have been a lot more responsive to my paintings than to my writing. So when I write, I feel that it’s futile and that if I have any real ambition, I should paint more and try to do something worthwhile. At the same time, I know I am a long way from that and even when I just paint, I don’t have a distinct personal style and can’t seem to stay in a single lane. I also have a mood disorder, which accounts for a lot of the switching gears, I think, but I’m going to consider all the factors you listed and try to use them as guidelines. Even if it’s bad, I’d rather be doing something than nothing. So thank you for this post.

    Thanks David, and I do think that a lot of people deal with this same issue. It seems like on one hand we are told to focus and keep moving forward no matter what, but on the other hand, we are told to be flexible and always open to new ideas and new opportunities. So who’s right and where exactly do we draw the line between persistence (a good thing) and plain old stupid stubbornness? Unfortunately I don’t think there is really a one-size-fits-all answer here. In the end, you just have to follow your own creative voice and do what’s right for you.

    I can tell you that the one thing that’s helped me more than anything else in this article, are all of the thoughtful comments we have received from people like you. Sometimes what helps me the most, is just knowing that I’m not alone and there are other people out there dealing with a lot of these same issues. So don’t beat yourself up about any of these. For whatever reason it just seems to be a part of the overall creative process.


I am an amateur artist, i still do almost excellent work.
it doesn’t matter whether you are an amateur or a professional, you still have talent and are willing to make art.
you shouldn’t be doing this, because what if an amateur artist (like me) comes here?
that is making us feel bad, making us feel like we will never be good enough.
you should support amateur artist, not degrade them!
art doesn’t have to do with how good you are, it has to do with imagination and creativity, and everybody has that.
we are all artist in our own way, even though we are not the best.
god make us to accept one another for our faults, not point them out (like you are doing)
so get a change of heart think about it.


I’m guilty of big ole #1. I need to get out of the idea that just because I don’t feel like working, that the work will suffer. I don’t like thinking of myself as an amateur artist, so I better get with it. :D


I go well with more things than I don’t and might fit more into the ‘professional’ category than an ‘amateur’ (though painting is not my profession and I haven’t had a chance to any art school yet). However, I find 4) as a limitation of being a professional artist of today, rather than as a great quality. Art should not be seen as a mass produced item but rather as a creative piece of work. So, there is no harm if you find yourselves attached to a piece. You needn’t sell each and every piece of work, but can keep some (not all) of your masterpieces for your own private collection. As you know, the great masters like Da Vinci was so attached to the work, Mona Lisa, that he took years to paint it. And still, it was unfinished too (according to him)! And, that’s today considered as the most valuable painting ever painted. It doesn’t really matter if you are an amateur or a professional. What matters is ‘You should be a master in what you are doing’. That requires lots and lots of practice as well as knowledge. That’s where 8) comes — the limitation of not going to an art school may result in a lack of knowledge about many basic things. Those who have gone to art schools have already got that basic knowledge that they needn’t spend that much time researching on how to create or improve their art work (that’s actually a limitation of not going to art schools). But even if one has attended the best art school, he should not totally ignore that there is a lot more to know and improve and it’s a life-long process of learning.


Interesting how the article fails to offer any suggestions or help for people that may be “amateur” artists. Seems like it just wants to be negative and put others down.


    It does seem that way with a good deal of the comments but not all. Good observation!!


What a load of bullshit. True art doesn’t follow all these stupid definitions and being a “professional” artist doesn’t make you necessarily a true artist. The amateur is not “professional”, aka not commercial, but his art might be more genuine than all the cliches that sell ad nauseam.


    i agree with you, being a professional artist doesn’t make you a true artist.

Rich Tewell

This was out stand!!!! I have not shown my work in years and I finally decided to start showing my work again. I do work in different media’s, stain glass, oils, and have just started in Watercolors painting. I will be showing all 3 areas. I have found each media builds into each media, stain glass builds into watercolor design, which building into beautiful watercolor painting, watercolor paint building into oils painting. I feel that all 9 areas of this post applies everyday, to every pieces of work that you do. One of the biggest this I fight with myself is it is not about myself it is about the piece that I do. When I quit fighting myself the pieces just flows out. Then I hope that others enjoy what I did.

I am going to keep this and when I start fighting myself then I will re-read this again to help me get over myself.

    Thanks Rich for stopping by and your kind words. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us. Keep up the good fight (but not with yourself) ;)

The following question is an extremely important one to me at this very moment,and this seems to be the one forum that might be able to help me.

Just because you are good (or so I am told) at creating a piece of art,should you keep doing it even if you get no passion or satisfaction for it?

I am fine if I have a commission,or contract to do it,but I keep starting and not finishing paintings (for myself),as I am never getting anything out of it. I feel like I should keep it going because I have been given a “gift”,but it just seems like I’m expecting something that never comes.
I always get the “why aren’t you doing this full time?”,as I am content in making the rent in another field.
No subject matter stimulates,or inspires and has caused some depression in certain points in my life.
I consider myself an artist who is also a musician,and last I check,I don’t have these same feelings when I pick up the guitar.

Are we supposed to be something that maybe we aren’t?

    That’s certainly not an easy question to answer Dan because the motivations of every creative artist is so different. Some artists create because they have the passion, while others do it simply because they have the ability. Some create because they are curious, while others do it because their parents were writers, artists, or dancers.

    So what do you do when you feel like you’re just going thorough the motions?

    Do you take it as a sign that maybe it’s time to move on, or do you try to push through it? Of course no one is really able to answer this for for someone else. All you can do is take some time and think about the reasons you started creating art in the first place. Did you do it because it was expected of you or because you loved doing it. I don’t know how many creative artists I have talked to who have told me that art just isn’t fun for them anymore. For them, their art became a chore like any other job and the constant demands and criticisms eventually drained whatever joy they once found in creating their art. Other artists and writers have told me that as the excitement and newness of being an “Artist” (with a capital ‘A’) wore off, they discovered that it was their creative curiosity, not the money, that kept them going.

    You have to ask yourself, what do I really want to get out of my art? Is it money? the respect of your peers? fame? self-satisfaction? developing your talent? etc… There is no right or wrong answers here. In the past there have been great and not-so great artists in every field that created their art for each of these reasons. The point is that you have to decide what exactly you are hoping to get out of your art, and then figure out for yourself whether or not it’s worth the cost.

      Thanks for a very quick reply and a different perspective on this issue. I’ve spent about a week now away from the table,and have decided to still paint,but to keep it less of a priority and to stop for the day before I’m sick of looking at it. Small bites at a time might be better for me than to overdo. In the past,I have found that to get emotion out of it and being more business minded can be a solution in pushing through to actually finish a piece.
      Something else to be considered,possibly,is the subject matter I’ve chosen to focus on. I think that more thought,research and care on composition and what I’m painting (instead of forcing ideas down on board) would help.
      In answer to your last thought,I think that my more recent goal was to attend a few art shows next year (haven’t been to one in many years),if only to be amongst other artists and peers. I can’t think of a more lonely and exclusionary job than just you and a paint support for months or years at a clip with no feedback from other people in your field.
      I think that #9 above (surround myself with other artists) relates to me most.
      Again,thanks for your thoughts.

Hey Drew, great article!
I think for me #9 is the hardest to do since I work full time and do my art when I have time but, I do devote all day Saturday to my studio work. But, there isn’t a lot of time to socialize with others in my group. I also think that it does take a good deal of time and persistence to get to feeling like a professional artist. Going back and re-working pieces are often the way to work out some of the issues and learning to overcome some road blocks. I re-work alot of pieces which end up looking better and some do go to the recycle bin. It’s all learning. Thanks

    Thanks Jesse for your kind words and I think it is often hard to find that time to be creative. I know sometimes I’ll have an hour or two to sit down and write, but for whatever reason I can’t come up with anything worthwhile. While other times I’ll be sitting in a parking lot or the dentists office (with no paper of course) and suddenly think of something. That’s just the way it goes, but like you said, you just have to keep at it and create when you can. This process of creative trial-and-error reminds me of that great quote by Goethe that says that it is “by seeking and blundering we learn.” So I blunder on!

Beierl Iris

The arts remain a filter, which allows us mortals to see a piece of eternity. Sometimes we are able to find the missing mosaic pieces for a picture. In the end, only one picture in which every movement is stopped. We tell stories, we come to an end. True artists are not artists, they are magicians. For they allow the viewer to the work of art, a glimpse into a time that was, what is and what may perhaps come.

Nothing has ever made me feel more discouraged, pathetic, and hopeless than this list right here. I’m heavily afflicted with each number except maybe #8, arguably the least negative on here.

I didn’t know that being an artist is governed by a series of laws and here is 9 warning signs of an artist whether amateur or proffessional. Perhaps because I didn’t know …and now I know now, after we stumble on it in the http://www..a sort of “code” as I see it, and how to behave as an aesthethe enthusiast and practitioner of art. But as for me I just do my art, try to make it perfect although there really is no perfect art work. I also work according to mood and of inspiration, for how can a deciplined artist work when he is in a state of bad mood or withouth inspiration now that’s impossible for me.


You aren’t addressing inspiration here. Professional artists take their own road. Amateur artists are usually so until they are paid, period. You practice until your voice doesn’t waver when your art speaks, and that takes discipline. Nothing prepares you to stand to an audience and be judged until you realize that no one wants to see you fail. Art is not a cold choice, it’s was a gift to you to gift to others.

Karolina Jones

Ha. Ironically the “professional” artist reads a lot like a sellout. Like, if you want to work in Hollywood, for a studio, in a system, for someone else, follow these rules.

That’s why I prefer the term Independent Artist.

A professional artist is someone who works for a company they don’t own.


WOW thanks so much for this article, it really hit me! You pretty much listed all of the aspects I need to improve… Now I know I’m an amateur… :-/

I’ve been poking around and not getting serious about my Art

There’s several reasons why this happened:

Lack of financial means to focus my time and energy exclusively on art or to even afford college (I only get online training because it’s cheaper and more convenient);
Lack of support from family and friends, who say I need to get a “real job that pays”, always pointing out that “even though it’s a beautiful thing I do, it doesn’t pay the bills and it’s not steady income (because I do freelance); I think my family will truly appreciate my Art when they see the outcome (paycheck), doing it just for the pleasure of it it’s worthless to them;
No sense of purpose for my art, overwhelming feeling that there is so much to learn still, that I can’t manage my time to study everything I need to, that my career will never take off and I will never make a living off of it;
Seeing all the inspiring artists gets me discouraged sometimes because I want to be as talented as them, I want to have that “go getter” attitude they have, I want my art to be seen and to matter…
I usually post my artwork online and make online connections but in the real world I’m too introverted / depressive to actually get out there, and I’m aware that can be a problem when it comes to promote my work and meet clients, etc.

I think all this isolation from social contact can be a good thing at times because it allows me to focus better without people around me, but at times it really kills my creativity and motivation to pursue my art career, and it makes me feel like I’m missing out so many opportunities in life…

Why I want to tell stories?
Because I have been given this gift from God and He doesn’t want it to go to waste. I felt like giving up many times and just go get a “normal” day job somewhere, but I know if I do that I will not be able to cope or keep up with the demands of it, I will be miserable because I’ll feel guilty on not investing my time and energy towards my craft… I’ve always loved to draw Disney cartoons since I was a kid and I’m sure I want to make Art a career, not just a hobby. And they say when you want something bad enough, it’s yours!

It takes a lot of commitment, but in the end it’s very rewarding to see my drawings come to life! I would not trade that for a clerk job. That’s just not me. :-)


I think only number 5 holds absolutely true… in that professional artists realize that fortune takes virtually forever… yet of course this is intuitive as the professional could only become such through waiting and working.

I would like to suggest the only other absolutely true tenet for the professional artist… that they must be flexible to the point that anything goes and anything could work to become a success… thus a list such as this is interesting but should not be presented as rules per se. perhaps your list provides tendencies or trends but certainly not systems and rules.

there are many professional artists who have not finished many of their works, or shifted amongst mediums, forms and styles. such habits would certainly restrict being a “master”… but this is where you interesting article reaches limits… you must distinguish ‘professional’ from ‘master’.

I am humbled. I got only a little time to myself with two kids keep’n me busy, but still–you are right on each point! I will go pro!

Greg Lim

I actually don’t agree fully with #3. I think that one is very situational where some of us artists actually reshape ourselves to the tasks before us. Again it’s situational, like a soundtrack to a video game that evolves from scene to scene. Sometimes artists should be capable of molding themselves to the task.


Sadly, I can relate to most of these. I write music and I paint. I find it hard to focus on one too long. I’ve had cool opportunities with both painting and music but if I focused on one, I’m sure I could do a lot more. Also, in the past I surrounded myself with non-artistic people and i’m not sure why. I think I didn’t feel good enough to be around them. Now I’m trying to meet new artists. This was a good read. Thanks!!

    Thanks Ashley for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us :)

    Honestly, I think most of us can relate to dealing with these issues at one time or another. Unfortunately, most of these are not something that simply go away with time. I think most of us continue to fight with procrastination, distraction, and insecurity on a regular basis. I can tell you, however, that two things that have helped me deal with these issues the most have been:

    #1 Realizing that I’m not the only one out there dealing with them. Sometimes I felt insecure because I would fool yourself into thinking that I’m the only one who thinks this way so there must be something wrong with me. Just knowing that it’s not just me but that almost everyone has to deal with these issues to some degree has helped a lot.

    #2 Understanding that although these may not be something that really ever goes away, I’ve dealt with these fears and doubts in the past and eventually pushed through them, so chances are I can probably do it again. So I just had to find a way to keep moving forward and ignore all of the naggy negative thoughts in my head.


It seems to me that this is just an inadvertent stab at the ADHD community… behaviours like those stated are mostly all symptoms of ADHD and have little to do with ‘professionalism’

Amateur Artist

And whenever someone tries to tell an artist what they should be doing, here is your first warning sign of someone who doesn’t understand art in the first place. Art is so intrinsically personal, so bound within who you are, that adjusting it according to any number of outside rules defeats its very purpose. If an artist allowed that to happen, allowed themselves to be fooled into thinking art is something to plan, control and coordinate, and muses are something to summon at will, said artist is no artist at all anymore but merely a professional craftsman.


    I totally agree ! I was guilty in the past of making things I thought that would sell but my sole suffered. the money was not enough to change my life .

Wonderful and very encouraging information. It serves as a gauge of the Creative Life Force we all must cal forth in order to develop our skills. A seeking mind is essential but without action it is futile. Thank you.

JazzIs, cool

What a fabulous post this is. Being professional seems to be too much hassle and headache. Honest confession: I will always be an amateur, a mere hobbyist, and guess what? It saddens me tremendously. I’ve done time management and actually gotten quite good at it. I recently quit Facebook and have decluttered most of the things that caused procrastination. I’m ready to answer the call of my creativity but sure enough, can’t seem to act upon it. It’s a wall too high to climb, and a butterfly too fast to catch. Damned those walls and butterflies! I silently pray into the night and wait for nothing. Nobody answers. I’m all alone in a cold hard world, like the rest of us :)



This is the best way to know whether you are a professional or not.

You’ll notice that to be a professional in regards to a career means it is your main source of income. You can do all of the above and never make a penny therefore not a career.

You can behave professionally or create work to a professional standard, you can even be educated in a profession but unless it’s your bread and butter you are not a professional artist in a career sense.

Sorry if this upsets anyone but these are the facts.


Although those rules generally made sensed, There is no way you can lump all artists into all those rules perfectly. After all artists are human beings too, with feelings and stresses just like everyone else. I did lean a lot from the article though.


Amateur artists never finish their work????…that is so not true. Perhaps it is for some but not everyone. This article is really starting to irritate me. I work hard at my art and even I think I am pretty good, in fact I have sold many paintings and received many compliments. All you amateurs out there…don’t pay too much attention to this article…at least don’t let it discourage you! Sometimes the art world can get a little snobby. Just my opinion…


Creativity is such a personal thing. It can be anywhere from a red circle in the middle of a canvas or it can be the Sistine Chapel. So artists, amateurs and professionals alike should just express themselves in anyway they see fit! I believe that most people are inherently good so for those few who would depict something inappropriate, shame on you for making us all look bad. As for the rest of you, keep up the good work and continue to do what you love and what makes you and other people happy. You have a gift from God himself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Not Hardly

Broad, sweeping generalizations, much?
Then again, I’ve never met a “true” artist who wasn’t a judgmental ass.

I was a professional artist (as in, employed in-house at various studios, full time) for 13 years, btw.
I may rarely have been able to finish most of my own personal projects outside of work, but my deadlines were always met where getting my paycheck was concerned.

Creative people work in a variety of ways, and no single way is the only one that’s right.
I realize this is an old post, but I hope you’ve learned to become less haughty and narrow-minded since writing it.


What a load of crap your article is.

I do what I call animal art. I ‘invented’ it in 1997 as a boredom project. I use either plaster of paris or flour and water and I take an animal replica and put it into a scene. Hangers, paperweights, I’ve taught myself how to do 3-D hangers. I can use anything from a hard pack cigarette box to something as small if I can find a small enough animal, into a milk jug cap. Once I found an animal small enough to fit in a beer cap and gave it away and it was a little scene.

When there’s no money I use flour and water. I hoard seeds, rocks, real flowers and dry them, I use pebbles, buttons I use old seed beads. I can even use Styrofoam. I use tin cans, pudding cups, little plates, jar tops,lemon and lime squeezers, sardine cans. I can make a hanger of a sardine can, a hanger of a round can, I can make a sardine can look like shoe box diarama or have it on it’s bottom. Did you know that you can use a sardine can standing it’s side, on it’s bottom, make it into a hanger? I can take a paper punch and paper punch colored paper and then glue them on a can using either Elmers OR simple flour and water and layer them so the paper punches look like scaled. I invented that. I’ve learned that you can half mix acrylic paints of certain colors so they look ‘marbled’. I invented that! None of my animal art is the same. So you could give me 12 polar bear cub replicas and although they’d all be in an Arctic setting, each one would be different.

My point is, I can make anything with an animal replica IF I have inspiration. If you gave me a gorilla replica and said here make me a hanger I’d say I can’t. I’m not inspired by gorillas. I have no real interest. I can’t make one because the replica happens to be there. Tried it. Was a dismal failure. Now if you gave me a macaw, a bell, a couple slivers of wood, a pickle jar top and left me alone with it, I might be able to come up with a nice table ornament. or a hanger. But I’ve done Macaws before. But I’d have to think about it. No inspiration, no Macaw. That’s NOT the sign of an amateur needing to wait for inspiration. Slapping that Macaw together anyone who saw it would know I felt nothing about it and slapped things together and called it ‘art’.

Your ‘advice” no offense is crap. Art is in the heart! It come when it comes if it’s there. It may take weeks or months to show. But artists aren’t one size fits all. We all have our unique gifts. I can’t draw a straight line. But I make pretty darn good endless animal art when the mood strikes. When I try to force it, the piece looks like crud and I just do this for a hobby. No one wants to buy. They just want for free. I don’t do free anymore as the money helps buy art supplies. But I don’t do crap either.

The biggest warning sign of an amateur artist to me at least is having no passion for what you do, and thinking one size all fits how you do your art. If your inspiration only hits once a year, then that once a year hit no doubt is awesome. When the mood hits you do it. When it doesn’t, you’re unconscously chewing on it and it’ll come. Been there, do that.


    Lisa, I’m sorry to say that your ignorance of basic terminology is an embarrassment to us all.

    As Voltaire once said, “If you would argue with me, first define your terms.”


    (Century Encyclopedic Dictionary) DEFINITION OF ‘AMATEUR’:

    1. One who admires; an admirer; a lover.

    2. One who has an especial love for any art, study, or pursuit, but does not practice it.

    3. Most commonly, one who cultivates any study or art from taste or attachment, without pursuing it professionally or with a view to gain: often used of one who pursues a study or an art in a desultory, unskillful, or non-professional way.


    I am married to a truly professional hard-working fine artist who started painting over 60 years ago, and who has probably painted over 10,000 paintings since then. During her long and successful career If she had not paid attention to the 9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist as outlined herein, she certainly wouldn’t have an estimated $5,000,000 worth of her artwork out there in the world today.

    In calling this article a “load of crap”, and then going into detail about how you are setting a strong example as a true amateur and hobbyist, you’ve effectively shot yourself in the foot.

      Sandra Lazy

      Can you post a link to her work?


      Dear Tom,
      did your wife ever do an Art degree? I’m curious as I was always dedicated to my art until I was swept away by my ex. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a culture where i was expected to devote myself 100% to the needs of primarily my husband, then the family business, followed by my children and finally housework. Art became a fantasy, something I knew I could never commit to if I wanted to stay with my husband. Twenty years later I erupted, leaving my married life behind, no longer able to continue to be someone else. That was a year ago. The only way I could get back to the real ‘me’ was through a piece of charcoal and a cheap sketch pad. Now I can’t stop drawing and painting. I have been accepted onto a degree course in Textiles and Surface Design(the only Art course in my area), however I’m not sure if this will enhance my chances of a creative career or hinder my path by taking up valuable time. I have so little money and two dependant children, added to that I shall soon be forty. I don’t want to commit to a full time job either as the stress and long hours will take me away from my easel, hence the allure of a degree course. Any advice would be so very appreciated.


Who cares about professional artists? I’m more interested in true artists, whether they be amateur or professional. This is so full of contradictions that I can’t even count them all, not to mention it’s based on a false dichotomy.

Ian Cohan

I have a work that Bonhams said ‘Thank you for sending this picture in. It is a charming picture however I am afraid I do not recognise the name. It looks to be a by a talented amateur painter rather than a known name so in light of this it would not be worth insuring. It does have age as you mention but beyond that value and the decorative merit it is not something of considerable value. Sorry not to have better news and I hope you continue to enjoy it.’

The age is late 19th to early 20th century.

I guess every era has its share of lazy amateur artists, talented or not:)


I am amateur artist but I have a passion for painting and I would like to meet some wise people and became a member of artists’ society. If you are intetested, please contact me on email.


Pretty much institutionalized views. Prefer Seth Godin’s description of artists as described in his ‘Poke the Box’.

Linéa. Marketos

I’m just beginning to learn to be a professional artist, however your #3 point regarding it taking years, perhaps decades to achieve that point, has me frightened. I’ll be 65 in a few months, and don’t know that I could become a professional before “time’s up”.

Great post Drew! Creation is always a struggle, and there are always countless obstacles along the way; the key is not to waste time trying to avoid them but rather to focus all our energy making our strengths so bright that the holes will become almost invisible.

So I had to print this out and put in my studio, it was a nice smack in the face read. Thanks for putting it all out there, its a good outline for any artist of any medium on what not to do.

[…] Therein, I found: https://skinnyartist.com/ and read his posts on getting the fire back in one’s art. However, I started looking at other posts such as his posts on the differences between an amateur versus a professional artist. […]

Mr. Erm

This is a nice pep talk, no doubt good motivation for some, but it is far from a ubiquitous rule, if indeed there are ANY rules that apply to all art and artists. I am definitely an amateur, but even I can think of examples that contradict this, Picasso for example said no piece of artwork is ever finished, you just stop working on it (or sell it I guess, if your a professional). Anyhow, seems to me organising the background of your life in a particular way to support what you do when you create leads to a particular approach, but different approaches yield different results. Some of my favourite music was written by people (Maynard Keenan) who were just ‘working through some personal stuff through music’ and then it got popular and they got famous, but I doubt they would have considered themselves professionals before this, or in pursuit of professional status. Also some of my favourite musicians (Tool) release albums very infrequently, I can only assume they are avoiding churning out crap, but perhaps they do a lot of work before they find something worth putting out there. Anyway, I would only follow any rules as a means to an end goal, otherwise the rules become goals in themselves and perhaps not so useful, but you sound like you are not someone who would fall into this trap.

very nice article, definitely agree with it and could use work on certain aspects. i dont tell people im professional but i also dont tell people art is my hobby. its my passion and pursuit, however i need to work on discipline and shutting out distractions, as well as connecting with other artists more.

Lizbird §J N

Sorry, i can’t believe this article, and how people agree with it? Don’t think you guys know what art is, Don’t get me wrong, i don’t stare at paintings of horses smoking pipes, but seriously, you need to open your mind, who ever you are, you are in a position where people will listen to you, a lot of these people probably don’t get the respect they deserve, they have sacrificed a lot, and people like you have a major impact on all these artists reading this page, You really don’t know what art is, or what your talking about as a matter of fact?

Cant believe you would say something so stupid as “artists never finish there work” What is wrong with you man? Totally the opposite… A concept it self can be considered somewhat art, it doesn’t even have to be physical? let alone finished? how can you ever finish art when you think about it? Have you overdone it ever on anything creative ever? on the other hand, there is no limit, in other words no end, you NEVER FINISH IT, INFACT IF YOU DO, YOUR HITTING A BOUNDARY… YOUR DOING IT A CERTAIN WAY, ITS NOT FLOWING, KEEEEEEP GOINGGGGG…. sorry, can’t get enough capssss

But yeah, how can one possibly be an amateur artist? There is no set way to do things when creating a masterpiece, its not art because its perfect, or made to a certain standard that is considered professional, there are no rules and boundaries, we all see ideas, and understand concepts in different ways, we all perceive and sense different vibrations such as sound, and light, in different ways, and different brains will react differently and process it in another manor… Hence why some people see pictures, others hear words when thinking…

That is the true beauty of anything artistic and creative, and a true artist, isn’t even necessarily someone who can paint a good picture, its a person who has the ability to see a piece of art or hear a sound or song as somebody else would… But not just one person, from all different angles, to hear music outside of boundaries.


I’m an amateur artist. I really liked this article, really opened my eyes to some things. My biggest problems are #3 and #7. I have a passion for writing and drawing, but I can’t decide which one I should focus on more. Sometimes I find that when I draw or paint, it inspires stories and vice versa. I also have a problem not finishing my work and that’s more on the writers side. It feels like I’m overwhelmed with too many ideas so I often end up having many unfinished stories. Right now, I’m trying to dedicate my self to this one story I have decided to make a goal to actually finish within at least three years. I want to take my time on it because this story seems more special to me than the others I have started. However, I’m still fighting back the many ideas I have swirling around in my head. I’m afraid that if I don’t write them down, I’ll lose them and this causes me to have unfinished works. It’s like an ongoing process that I seem to be trapped in. How do I get out?

Definately getting distracted by the next interesting idea which in turn leads to not finishing projects.
Maybe a little about learning but I do that mostly when I don’t have access to the workshop e.g. whilst travelling to my day job.


Hello I have a question about number 7. I’m still an amateur but I really want to get my work right. I look at an object and try to see what is in front of me and I know that my work is incorrect but can’t fix it, no matter how many tries it takes. My hand and eye can’t really get it the way I want it too and I really don’t want to spend hours and hours working on a single part since I don’t have the skill. Maybe I should try and get it as good as I can then move on to finish the drawing..even though it still is incorrect ?

    There isn’t really such a thing as a perfect outcome, so all we can really do is to create what we have inside of us at that moment. If we spend all of our time revising and trying to get it just right, we’ll never be able to move forward. Perfectionism is one of those things that seems like a good idea, but in the end it only holds us back from discovering what’s next :)


Wow, thanks for the final ruling on the matter, your lordship. The tone of this article reminded me of Greg Kinnear in Little Miss Sunshine – of a half-man nobody playing the part of the motivational speaker, and in your case – of the dilettante playing the part of…….. the professional artist, maybe?
I unfortunately arrived at your page after reading a series of wonderful quotes from artists who actually achieved a great degree of success in their lives, and guess what? – They have nothing but positive things to say. Sure, working as an artist professionally is hard, but that doesn’t mean you have to approach it like a prisoner splitting rocks in the sun. There are a ton of struggling artists out there who have nothing to offer except negative reinforcement, and I really think you guys should just keep it to yourselves. Keep it as your own personal mantra; it will serve you like a curse, and every time you slip it’ll only confirm what you’ve always been afraid of. You even state that you’re subject to the rules that you’ve listed as well, ugggh!

    Very much enjoyed the read tonight and everyone’s comments as well. :)

      Thanks Debra :) I really appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to let us know you enjoyed it!

I agree with all except the last statement.

I DO paint for MONEY!


I know this is pretty old, but thank you so much for writing it. I’m 26 and a computer programmer by trade, but I’ve been drawing and painting since I was 10, but I’ve also been an actor, a voice actor, and a writer and only recently started trying to get more serious about my art. I’ve been scaling back my commitments elsewhere so I can focus on the visual. Unfortunately, I’ve been having a bit of an existential crisis lately because being the person I am seems to be counter to society and wouldn’t allow me to support myself let alone the family I’d like to have with my long-term girlfriend. Reading this helped quiet my heart some and give me a bit of direction, so… thank you.

    You’re right Drew, it’s not always easy getting creativity and reality to play nice with one another. I think part of the problem, however, is that we tend to see this whole thing as an all or nothing proposition where you either have to quit your job and “go for it” or you might as well just give up your dream. Fortunately, there is usually some middle ground where we do what we can with what we currently have to work with. I don’t know anyone’s life that has followed the path they imagined for themselves when they were young. Things happen, plans change, and we adjust. So don’t waste your time worrying about how you are going to manage to do everything, just focus on doing something — whatever you can and things tend to sort themselves out eventually.

It takes a certain profesionalism to be able to make a living off creating art.

I am not that, but I still enjoying drawing stuff.


Interesting article! I am an Amateur Artists and proud of it! I have NEVER had any art classes, or other training. I was blessed by God with a heavenly talent to paint beautiful landscape and ocean scenes in acrylic like a pro. It’s a hobby for me, and a blessing from God that I have this incredible gift! Also, I NEVER charge for my paintings, I give them away for FREE!

I am so blessed for what I do, and I give God all the glory!



I think you are being very judgemental. The difference between a “professional” and an amateur is simply the degree of inner vocational committment. I think you need to familiarise yourself with James Joyce

I find your criteria to be a bit black and white. I am a professional artist, though I haven’t sold anything in six years. I still try to do at least one or two shows a year, plus I have a number of paintings hanging in the offices of three of the sites where I work (I am a mental health community support worker). I paint every day and frequently visit art galleries and shows to see what other artists are doing. I do not network a lot with other artists for the simple reason that I do not have extra time or energy. I also have other interests and activities that I will not give up on out of my continued interest in leading a balanced and healthy life, as well as needing to work full time in order to pay the bills.. For me maintaining that healthy balance means maintaining contact with and visiting friends, maintaining my spiritual health and well being through contact with my faith community and time spent in prayer and meditation, mastering Spanish which I speak as a second language, and also maintaining my other creative discipline, writing. On top of everything else are the mundane needs of buying groceries, cooking, cleaning and getting adequate sleep. I also enjoy reading. All told, I sometimes end up painting for only five minutes in the evening. Other days I can do it for several hours. I still try to network with galleries and potential agents but my prime concern is growing and developing in my discipline and craft as an artist. There are also paintings that I am still reworking, primarily because I no longer have storage space for new canvases and I am also interested in carrying further the themes of several paintings that still don’t seem finished. I also have many other paintings that I consider finished, not necessarily perfect, but let’s say that they can breathe without life support. I also carry with me everywhere a sketch book with coloured pencils and coloured ball point pens to work on new drawings while in the staff room at work or when sitting in a café or park. and which I also carry with me during my annual month or longer vacations in Latin America.
Art, just like my paying career, mental health work, as well as my other creative vocation writing, and the improving of my Spanish, is part of my life, a very important part, as are the others, but it is not at the centre. Still, this does not make me an amateur or a dilettante and anybody doubting the authenticity of my claim is most welcome to look at my website and decide for themselves.

    I forgot to mention that earning a low wage and not having the support of a partner or wealthy parents, friends or patrons, I cannot afford studio space and since the rents are so high in the city where I live I can only afford to live in a tiny government subsidized bachelor apartment. My paintings are up everywhere in my apartment, where I also have an easel set up with the current painting on the go. For me much of painting well is in looking and seeing. I may not be actively putting paint on the canvas all the time but much of the time I spend at home is spent looking at my work and developing ideas and strategies of how to bring a painting to the next level and then I go ahead and do it.


The older I get the more I understand that being a successful artist (be it money, fame, better assignments, whatever) is not about being good at one’s chosen art form but rather being good at making the right friends and, excuse my french, sucking the right holes. Some points in this post seem to support this idea ;)


Articles like this make me want to catch a pen/pencil/guitar/piano (I obviously have a problem with #3) cause lately(8 months) ive been studying around ten hours a day for my final exams at school and i feel like if Im desperately trying to grip every little remaining piece of my now inactive , suppressed fantasy…what i am best at is music composition, so when summer comes i will not spare a moment away from it!
I havent searched your webpage, but i would really want to read an article titled “Art or Science?” , cause every person in my age today (18) is almost binded to following a university, have a big job blah blah….. I would love to hear your analytical opinion on this.

Generalities are phony.

Sandra Lazy

Artists can go through different periods. The work becomes defined by that visual and personal time period for that artist. Hence Picassos blue period.

I painted and made more finished pieces prior to college and focused on a different concentration in college.

Right now I prefer sketchy unfinished work and I never sign, I also make clothes and other things that I rarely label.

They are interesting phases and if you put them all together you could better understand my life and who I am.
Is that amateur, perhaps. But I don’t see art as a tangible thing. It’s different for each artist.

I still like the article because for a commercial artist trying to reach that audience those tips are true and helpful. However, it is more complicated

Again we look at some works and they become superior because of the skill and story, because of the meaning they hold but even scribbles can be interesting if there is meaning. Hence abstract works that are often rough, sketchy, messy.


Great Posting, thanks so much. After a wandering and unfulfilled life only discovered that i was artist by accident, attending a carving course taster course of all things. I had no ‘art school’ training and though have I have since sold work I have also become interested in driftwood/ found object reliefs and so on . So I have struggled with having to learn from scratch while making differing things at the same time.

But have been able to focus my skills by seeing myself as a ‘relief maker’ using wood, stone and found objects to make such reliefs. I have tried to develop the core overlapping skills that whilst coping with the differences.

I can carve outside when it sunny and work with found objects inside when it rains at my kitchen table.

I have printed your list out, thanks.


I really like the point about a pro turning up – always. I have to say though that getting a divorce is a legitimate time to put Art aside and deal with other stuff (!)

I came to realise the other points myelf over a period of immersion in art and creating work so there must be truth in there, particularly about finishing a piece. It meant committing myself to it. I knew I was an artist (rather than a photographer – my previous area of self-development) as I just ‘clicked’ with the people better. Not to say there aren’t some awesome photographers out there, because there are.


Art is most often a reflection of the artist and I for one never enjoyed white collar mentality.

I’ve been battling all them at one time or another and still do. Started this process about 20 years ago when I was 50 and started my musical journey. If you keep looking for ways to improve your music, your performance, your skills – then you start some of the process over again and again. But you don’t turn your back on it or give up. The desire is burning inside you and that’s what makes you a professional. Not fame, not a great voice, or a great stage personality although all of the these do help, lol.
When I first started taking lessons on the mandolin when I was 50, after I performed at open stages people would say so you’re a musician and I would say – not really just taking lessons and hoping to play music. My teacher, Ken Palmer overheard me at one venue saying that and he interrupted and say of course she’s a musician or she wouldn’t be playing so well. Privately he told me always call myself a musician because I am. I’ve never forgotten that and it gives me the confidence to follow the desire deep within me to play…Doesn’t mean the warning signs of amateur musician doesn’t creep in but it’s less and less as years go by.

Jarrod Schrunk

I played music for years and took it seriously. Little by little I got bored with it. For me, it became a waste of time. It wasn’t bringing in extra money, wasn’t helping keep my body in shape and wasn’t expanding my mind. I haven’t performed in over 7 years and can honestly say I don’t miss it one single bit. Guess that makes me an amateur artist because I was never serious about it. It just came easy to me but I can’t say I enjoyed it.


Great article! Probably #1 is my biggest issue. I am a musician, and every once in a while I start recording some sketches of what might or might not become a song. What then usually happens is that I work on it until I hate it, delete everything and don’t touch my guitar for quite some time. I haven’t yet found a way around this. Knowing that I am capable of creating great stuff (the few times I broke this cycle, the songs made it to the album of my band), this is highly frustrating. Do you know a way around this?


Professional artist is an oxymoron. Professionals don’t make art. They make a product. And I mean to infer no negative connotations with that statement. And while this list of traits that attempts to sound so profound and polarizing may be true about the “amateur” artist, (all of which any true artist will actually freely admit to, unashamed and even proudly) the virtues of selflessness, of self-awareness, and of artistic expression being it’s own reward are what truly define an artist, and eclipse these trivial, benign generalizations.

Sounds like B.S. to me

Ich bin auch ein Amatuer Gitarrist und Amatuer Elektroniker was ist den dabei Nicht jeder kann mit der Mukke Kohle verdienen


Hey you forgot!
10.) Amateur artists read articles on “skinnyartist.com”


Guess I am a rank amateur. This was obviously written by someone who sees artist and thinks ………………. not even sure. Professional cares about what they do, whether they do it 24/7 or on a whim. And really warning signs………………….really. I put a lot of me into what I do, I work to get the flow of ideas between myself and the subject, be it human, animal, or still life, and then work on creating art thru those ideas. I feel all parts of the work should be on the same page or nothing works. Getting to that point takes time, talent, experience, patience, guidance, and an open mind to what comes from it. No, I don’t have my camera in hand 24/7 not going to, but I do work on my art at all times. I see a child or a subject and picture what photographs might be created from this moment in time.

Amateur, no way……………………professional, yes……………………….


Interesting topic, I carefully read these 9 “warning signs” and thought about all of them for quite a while.
Here is what I’d like to remark:

1) Blödsinn
2) Blödsinn
3) Blödsinn
4) Blödsinn
5) Blödsinn
6) Blödsinn
7) Blödsinn
8) Blödsinn
9) Blödsinn

I think this comment is just a piece of great amateur art.

Lol. If this 9 rules are true than Leonardo Da Vinci were an amateur artist. :)


You might want to climb down off that high horse before you suffocate from lack of oxygen.

Carla Lux

I don’t let anyone ever tell me what art is; and wether I am a ‘legitimate artist.’ My creative world is a very personal one. I would implore everyone to ignore the wankery and just drive whole hearted into their passion and drive!! <3

    Right on Carla! <3

Dennis Briones

I’m an artist. of music…. .almost all my life…playing professionally, tinkering stuff like an amateur. and enjoying it all the way.. Read this article coz the title is interesting, but sorry to say, the writer does not have a clue on what he is saying or which direction his article is going to,

First of all, in any field…by definition…. an amateur does things as a hobby or part time…a professional does things as a profession where he or she is being paid. ..Being an amateur or a professional has nothing to do with being an artist…. Whatever diverse beliefs or practices individuals may have along with the mood swings and unpredictability or finesse and being organized….. An artist is an artist.

Those who agree with me on this are true artists… You know this true… and those who don’t, well, the stubborn artists… peace

    Yes…art takes many forms and modes of expression. If we are expressing ourselves in any artistic manner, we are artists. Who pays the birds to sing? How much money do you think poets make per year? Van Gogh had to rely on his brother’s financial support…I rest my case.

Melvin D.

All true except #9, case in point emily dickinson

Great article as a luke warm artist I need to always be reminded about taking art serious.

I am sad for you. The way you think is pretty terrible. Rule #1 of being a professional artist: Do what works for you. Everything else is noise.

Sorry, but #8 is ridiculous, quite silly. Specially if you’re a contemporary artist; workshops and conferences are vital for theory and discussion.

It’s almost as this point clash itself against #9. Knowing the discourse framework of others (and discussing your own with them) is as important as knowing their work.

Otherwise is a great list, one that it should be made, that’s why the eight point rubs me the wrong way even more: it’s quite short sighted compared to the honesty and truth found in the rest.

I enjoy this blog from time to time. Great work.

It’s true, i like the first and the eighth


I am an amateur artist.
I started out doing fabic pieces for about 25 years, then painted for about 10 years… now, however, I’ve found a new passion and this passion stems from my getting older and less able to do the close work I’ve done for years.
I collage… and I love it. I collage using the local newspaper and for the first time, my whole heart is in it. I work at it constantly… well, whenever I have any spare time… which I never do but find anyway.
I’ve taken over the diningroom and my collection of cut-outs is massive.
Now I have a problem… how to I get rid of this stuff?
I want to sell it… not looking to earn a million… just a couple of bucks that tell me that someone else likes my stuff too…
I’m reclusive due to the health of my hubby and myself. Not many people have seen my work.
I have sold paintings and fabric pieces in the past but have not ventured out with my collages, other than family.
Some are huge – 3feet by 5feet. Some are smaller – 12X16 and lots of sizes in between on canvas board or on board.
I use the things I learned from my painting days and my fabric work to make the pieces I make now…
So… I’m an amatuer… not sure I want to be a professional… it sounds too much like a cage…
I would, however, love to sell off some of my pieces… don’t care which ones. I’m running out of room… just me and my hubby in a little condo… so you can see the problem… :)

    Believe it or not Tema, dealing with finding a home for your artwork (besides your own) is a very common problem among visual artists. It’s kind of the other side of the equation — creating and then sharing your creative work with others. It doesn’t matter if you are a writer, photographer, or a visual artist — you need to find a way to share (and possibly sell) your work. Not just out of physical space restrictions, but I think it can also eventually restrict your creative flow and output as well. After all, it’s hard to motivate yourself to create more artwork when you are constantly tripping over your past creations in the hallway. My suggestion would be to start moving your work one way or another. Maybe think about starting with community charity art auctions, donate them to local restaurants or businesses (with your name and contact info attached), or perhaps start setting up a booth at local craft fairs. This is a great way to not only get your work out there, but yourself as the artist as well. Now go get out there and meet your future adoring fans :)

Brooke B.

I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I (as many of the artists on here) loved making art when I was younger, and always had an artistic side. I always doodled and spent much time at home drawing something up. As many have said life got in the way a bit, and I had to grow up real fast. Now I am re-discovering that side of me again, mostly in oil and acrylic paintings. I started up again due to anxiety and panic disorders, because it relieves me. This to me is a blessing in disguise. I am now happy in life, and excited to start on another piece. Although I’m not a professional by any means due to a full time job, each piece I do gets better and better. I will stay up all hours of the night finishing something, only to go to work two hours later. I wouldn’t change that for the world. Luckily I had this realization early in life, so I have some time to make mistakes, learn from them, and continue to grow. Then hopefully one day, that one person will make my day, by loving a piece I made, and in turn, me being able to make their day.

My main issue is the networking and getting the work out there. >_<


I just got ticked for everyone of those points of being an amateur artist…Well, this is bad.


Hahah I Loved this post! I hope I don’t fall into the amateur side but your points seem very legit!

So pleased to have found this post and list. It confirms i am on the right track with my approach and commitment, something my family doesn’t really get as they love to tell me it us just a hobby. I am very fortunate to have come to a full time approach after a good career that allowed for a very early retirement so at least the financial side was not an issue. I wonder if this is why being professional us not easily recognized because it is not attached to money?

    Oh Lorraine – your work is phenomenal! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I am adopted and found myself in a very non-artistic family. Love them dearly but art wasn’t an acceptable career option or encouraged as such.

    I’ll be showing my friends your website and incredible work.

I guess it doesn’t matter whether one is an armature or professional I’ve been writing for years and leaving art stored in hibernation since grammar school days always feeling the wrong feelings about whether whatever I did or would be might be worthy. And now I do both free from any feelings connected with worth.

[…] Check out this article profiling the effect habits of “Professional” Artists. Their interpretation of a professional is one with a ambitious creative zeal. One that’s achieved through diligence, organization, and focus. Although I don’t agree with all the points made in this article, it’s an effect path to understanding how to improve your own approach to music or art. Read Article Here […]

[…] File Name : The 9 warning signs of an amateur artist Source : skinnyartist.com Download : The 9 warning signs of an amateur artist […]

I like to writte I have a passion of listenning to the publics problems or needs .wants, dreams ,politics, fantacys or what erver the person I hear talking or comment about . I turned it into a short story. I like to know where do i fit in. I have not publish any, not yet. I am looking for wart to a great story, a novel Any advise ?

Yay! I’m a professional. Now what to do about the occasional crushing insecurity of calling myself an “artist”. Thanks for a great article. I think you’re spot on.

[…] did find this random list of differences between professional and amateur artists. (I’m horrible for getting sucked into the rabbit hole that is the internet). I like the part […]


Being a professional is a waste of time anyways because once you treat it as a business, art isn’t fun anymore. Rather be and= amateur and have fun while working a 9-5 job than treat it like a business and be miserable and worried about money any day.

I’m a professional artist with apparently all the habits of an amateur.

    Welcome to the club ;)


I do not believe in all of this everyone is different and we all do things differently. Rubbish.


I am SO happy that I found this article it truly outs things into a better perspective for me I DO admit to #7 defintly and seeing it like this gives me so much more push to finally finish my music and to set deadlines on it so I can finally release it and move on to other things and the possibilities that having my own music will bring me! more shows,publicity,credibliity as an artist having music of my own that my fans can relate to and love! It’s been TOO long! Thank you very much for this post!

SP Walker

Wow, my initial feeling after reading this article was certainly embarassment – being so clearly guilty of all these acts of amateurism, it is no wonder I have struggled deeply in my creative expression over the years. Shortly after reading a few comments, the embarassment slipped away and I sat in a moment of self-reflection. The reality that sets in for me is how much has changed from my earlier days, when I considered myself an amateur, a student, a learning and growing artist that had a lifetime of lessons to learn. Back then I was guilty of none, the freedom of creation flowed as easily as the blood through my veins. I was connected and inspired, dedicated and able to toss one finished work aside to the next.
Over time, it seems I allowed myself to get ahead of myself, at some point I began to think I was bridging the gap between amateur to professional – and SCREECH – a grinding halt. I placed far too much value on what I learned as an artist, a value in turn that made me think I “should” be worth something, and that’s where this list began to dominate my existence.
I mean to elaborate for two reasons; first, that by doing so will help me reflect on my own struggles and begin to let go, and second, to help anyone else who may relate to my specific disease of artistic back-stepping.
#1 is a killer for sure. I keep telling myself, and others, that I NEED to find inspiration. That I am lost without it and no art will come until it’s found. I twiddle my thumbs, sketch a line or two and say oh the hell with it, I just don’t feel inspired enough to create something specific. What a horrible state of mind to be in, and I believe this leads into many of the others characteristics on this list, as for example…
#2 … which I feel is a clever disguise for procrastination, A way to convince myself that there are other reasons, rather than internal, that I am distracted. Nothing even has to be scheduled, like a TV show. I muster the desire to do something else instead.
#3 is all too apparent as well. I’ve jumped from watercolor to acrylic to pencil and to pastel in less than the last month, only one of which I am actually well-versed in. A change in medium not being the only shift either, but style/subject-matter as well. These root from problem #1, where I hope one or the other will spark more inspiring feelings than the last. And even further beyond the slippery foundation of mediums and styles, I find myself picking up my guitar, until in a fit of self-loathing I smashed it to smithereens (a very clear representation of my internal struggle -and incredibly stupid!)
#4 is a predominant feeling before I start, I easily find myself thinking “this is the one” and from that point forward its doomed.
#5 is tricky. I do not believe that it will come quickly, but what I do believe is that through the time I have already put in, success is nearer. Yet I pay no attention to the fact that I’ve failed to build up a decent portfolio of those years of supposed effort. Simply put, I tricked myself into thinking an acquisition of skill accurately represents dedication, and how wrong that is.
#6 points directly at the fact that I think I can sit down whenever I want, and accomplish as much as I need to. All of a sudden, however, it is 6 months later and I’m sitting on top of…
#7 … A bunch of unfinished work. Crap.
#8 sucks so much time and energy away, it’s a wonder I even typed this without thinking I needed to read a couple books on how to respond on the internet! A lot of what I watch and read, though very healthy and helpful learning tools, lead to me feeling less and less capable. I have a wealth of information already stored and instead of using that, I constantly seek out more. Like I’m on the lookout for some profound answer to a question that shouldn’t even exist, why can’t I inspire myself?
#9 is a painful self-reflection. I have literally no social life whatsoever, with art or otherwise. I’ve beaten my self-confidence to a pulp, the way I did my guitar. When I rarely decide to get out to see other’s art, I do it for one reason, and guess what that is, #1, to find inspiration.
So I’m a damned mess, though in a way I’ve known this, it has been extraordinarily helpful to have Drew hold a mirror up to my face, and for that I thank you. This is a great representation of how a few simple states of mind can have a compounding effect that serves to only destroy the fundamental being as an artist. It’s time to shake free fro the shackles of expectations and continue doing what I love, for the sake that I love doing it.

Danny C.

I just found this article, finding myself lost and confused. I am in design school in Miami, and while I am a Sophomore, I have been creating art long before I decided to get the technical background.

I have found recently that I, no matter what, will love and make art whenever possible, but learning in a taught environment it’s jaded me slightly to where before i would throw/splatter paint on paper and that made my night.

I think for the purpose of the lost artist, this article is a great booster in what you might be doing wrong and what you might have lost along the way. In the end, art is what it is. We as the people that create it, make it because we were inspired at a particular moment or feeling. No one told us TO we just DO.

The best part of art, is NOT the moment you finish a piece but the exact moment you place the pencil or other medium down and it’s becomes a physical sense of feeling (whether good or bad) your mind at that moment brought it to happen. That’s Perfect!


Hunter campbell

My issue is settling on a specific type of work. I’m cursed with a curious mind leaving me interested in almost everything. My main focus in school was painting, watercolors mostly, but it was never enough. I find myself writing music, dipping in and out if photography and digital design. HOW DO YOU FORCE YOURSELF TO PICK. I understand that in order to make it a career you have to create a more narrow focus. And then subject matter is an entirely different obstacle for me.

    Hunter campbell

    I guess what I’m asking is does anyone have advice or tips on honing in on your personal style? Does anyone struggle with staying committed to it once they’ve claimed it as their own?


      I struggle with the personal style thing. I stick to painting (in acrylics) but I always want to explore the various styles and looks (although I do keep coming back to one, line-based style). Today I want to be abstract, tomorrow I’ll feel like being surreal…. I also come back to various themes, so usually it’s the subject matter and ideas that connect all of my paintings.


An interesting read — I’m certainly guilty of a few points (although I’m by no means a pro). Number 3, though, kinda struck a chord, not because I’m always switching between painting and whatever, but because I don’t have one style that I stick with; I have managed to be a bit less all over the place with the isms, and generally stick to a few styles, but every time I think, “ok, this is the look that I will stick with!” I start feel like I’m trapped, or that the look sucks to begin with… In any case, a great and inspiring read. :)


This article helped me out a lot. Thanks!!


The creator of these 9 “signs” presented as a “warning” no less, seems to be channeling Miss Manners with the absolutes, and the this list of Right and Wrong is the very thing Artist and Art are not. There are no mistakes in Art, creatively, Art is individual expression, and each artist finds his or her method, inspiration, medium, and experiment in many forms of style as well. Paintings take on a life of their own and are only valued by those to whom it speaks to. One can paint 10 hours a day seven days a week following some arduous schedule trying to be something they are not, and maybe be good at it. But if the soul isn’t in it, the paintings are meaningless. Creativity cannot be scheduled. Inspiration can not be canned, printed out, and taught as a skill to harness. Rules , and do’s and don’ts are for Corporations, Military, and Banking Institutions.Desire, Methodology’s , experimentation, and the freedom to make your own rules, change them and break them while finding that which sparks inspiration is individual to each Artists. If emotions and passions drive your inspiration, its OK to wait for those feelings to wind their way from your mind, to your heart, to your soul, and eventually into your arm and hand that picks up the brush. Even if it takes some time. Art isn’t about restrictions, its about freedom.
Art is the result of expressed imagination on canvas, regardless if you are an 8 year old painting with your fingers and toes or a savant who knocks out master piece after master piece with no idea why or how he is doing it, or a strict obedient and disciplined Professional. But dismissing any creative being by making the word Amateur into some sort of label to be afraid of seems petty and unwelcoming, two things Art is not. “


I just found this and found it very interesting and I agreed with most comments. I struggle with the social aspect as I’m a introvert of the worst kind which I have resolved by teaching several classes a year primarily in jewelry my major focus. That said I disagree with number three I think a true artist can be successful in many mediums. I’m a visual artist primarily in metal and jewlery and mixed media because it’s easier to sell and I enjoy the freedom of expression and quick progress that can be made. However I also play the guitar including several albums that have done well, I paint in both Oil and Acrylic I do wheel work in clay and produce sculpture and even work in leather , stained glass and even woodworking including building several of my own guitars. I also have won major awards including Kodak Medallions of Excellence in Photography and have written several books. Now this didn’t happen overnight in fact it took four decades to become competent and comfortable but why limit your spirit to one path. I find my different mediums not only recharge my batteries but it makes supporting myself as a artist much easier as I have a much wider range of potential customers

I am a metalsmith and that gives me a lot of latitude and possibilities, but I struggle with #3. Reading the comments —very interesting.

harriet williams

There were many good points made in this essay. I know to survive on the money your art brings in you must treat it as a business. This can be a double edged sword that can cause some anxiety if you are pleasing the public instead of yourself. It’s a delicate balance. I wish we could stay away from the labels amateur and professional.. Whenever I read the word “amateur” I get a negative impression. You may label me an amateur, but I paint for the joy it brings me…

I would agree pretty much all of these signs. But I do not agree that an artist needs to focus on one thing or one medium and therefore they are professional artists.

I am an artist, writer, illustrator, actress and filmmaker and am proud I do all these things 100%.