What Does It Mean to be an Artist?


~a guest post by Maxxe at Memories on a Page~

I’ve always really enjoyed art, but up until the past couple of years, I’ve never felt entirely comfortable identifying myself as an artist. Other people would tell me that because I enjoyed writing short stories, or ceramics classes, or because I was a theater kid for several years, I was an artist. And I never believed them.

Part of that was because I didn’t honestly think that what I was doing counted as art. To me, it was acting, or making bowls, or writing. And I always thought of myself as an amateur. There was always a feeling of ‘well, when I grow up, I want to be an artist. Maybe.’ Always a qualifier, always something to separate out a potential future as an artist from my life at that time.

That has changed in the past few years. I can’t identify a specific moment when that shift took place, but I know that it did. In those years, I have:

  • Started writing novels seriously, and published one.
  • Been employed as an intern at the largest arts center in the Southeast
  • Gotten involved in the Atlanta artist community
  • Started a blog, and gotten involved in the blogging community
  • Stopped worrying about what people think about what I’m doing, and just started

All of these factors—and probably several others that I’m just not considering— have combined to result in a lot of reflection, and decision-making about how I feel when it comes to the work that I do.

I am an artist. There is no question about this. I am an author, and I qualify that as my art. I have some of my visual arts work on a wall at the High Museum of Art. But success isn’t the reason why I started thinking of myself that way. Honestly, the change in self-perception is almost certainly what led to the small successes that I have had. Because in order to get featured anywhere in the art community, you have to put yourself forward. And in order to do that, you have to be able to stand up there and say, “This is who I am. This is what I do.”

It’s not a matter of being good enough—and that’s the mistake I made when I was younger and less experienced. There is no qualifying bar for what it means to be an artist.

It’s a matter of intellectual freedom and expression. It’s a matter of being able to believe that you belong among the giants… only, also, it isn’t.

Because it also matters to be able to admit that you’re not as good as you could be. Because I know that I’m not. I’m a teenager, who still learns something new every day. But that’s the thing: all of the giants, the insanely famous and the absurdly talented? They were all teenagers, too. They were once where I am.

And that’s what gives me the confidence to identify myself as an artist.

Anyone with the guts to call themselves one, is.

Looking back, it seems I also defined the term ‘artist’ as a career—and I’ve been learning lately that that’s an absolute untruth. Yes, it’s a great and wonderful thing for those people who can support themselves by doing what they love, creating art. But not everyone can—and those people have careers made up of non-art… and they are still artists. It’s not about how you create, or what you do. It’s about how you see the world and translate that to your own life.

I say now, with complete confidence, that I am both aspiring and an artist. And there isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not proud to make that statement.

22 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to be an Artist?

  1. “Anyone with the guts to call themselves one, is.” This quote truly resonated with me! I struggled for a long with time calling myself a writer, even though it’s what I do and what I truly love. We can be anything that we want to be and labeling yourself as such is a powerful statement and form of self-expression.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: What Does It Mean to be an Artist? | memoriesonapage

  3. It can be scary to declare yourself an artist. As someone who writes but never draws or paints or sculpts I am always hesitant to say “I’m an artist” because I am fearful people will scoff at me when I don’t excel at the type of art they imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like this definition! I want to consider myself an artist in essentially everything now! I’m thinking about how my evening run was kind of an exercise in artistic appreciation!


  5. This is such a powerful post! After reading this, I definitely consider myself an artist as well. Art is a beautiful thing in all forms (visual, writing, etc), and I wish there were more artists in the world!

    xo, Alicia | Alicia Tenise


  6. In love with this post because it resonates so much with the daily struggle that teens and twenty-somethings feel, the struggle of identifying oneself in terms of passion and career and hobbies. I’ve always considered myself a “reader and writer”, but have never really fully come out and said, “I’m a writer.” I was waiting for things, as you were. Things like success or the feeling that I had reached some kind of qualifying bar. “You have to be able to stand up there and say, ‘This is who I am. This is what I do.'”

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’ll be following this blog from here on out.

    Melissa | These words are my own.


  7. Someone once told me I was an artist because I am a blogger. I did not believe them until just now reading your post. This was amazing. Thank you for writing this, I am so happy to have found your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I can truly relate! I had the longest time building the confidence to say this is who I am. Once you stop comparing yourself to others, whether a blogger or an artist, you’ll be able to continue to improve who you are!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: 2015 in review! | 100 Ways to Write

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