13. Sep, 2015

Amateur vs Professional

If you create art, when is it time to call yourself a professional?


I was always told that a professional is someone who gets paid for their work.  If we go by that logic, i've been a professional since I was 15.  Can this be right or are there other factors we have to consider?

Having researched this a bit recently, it would seem that 'professional' artists consider a number of things before defining one another as professionals.  

Do you create art when the mood takes you?

According to some, professional artists don't wait for the right mood to overcome them before they sit down and create, they work on something every day.  This doesnt have to be art related, they could be working on their marketing, sourcing new ideas, practising techniques or doing the books.  They consider what they do as a day job and therefore have the same work ethic as though they were off to an office everyday.  I can certainly relate to this one, particularly this past week, where i have been working at least 4 -5 hours everyday on something.  

Do you readily show your work?

If you're a professional, you cant be afraid to show your work to the world, be it in a gallery, shop window, a stall or on social media.  Not only that, but you show your work in what ever form it takes.  

The ultimate professional may even create right in front of people in an open studio (tick!)

Can you take the good with the bad?

As a professional you have to accept that not everyone will like what you create.  Its all a matter of personal taste.  If you've read any of my previous blogs, you will know how I've struggled with this in the past, but two and a bit years in to my full time career as an artist and I'm a lot tougher now than I was. (I dont fall into a deep depression and start rocking if some criticises my work now 😲😉).

Are you constantly refocussing without steering too far away?

It's very easy to get bored with what you're doing and go off in a completely different direction.  However, it seems that honing one particular area of your creativity is what defines you as a professional.  This, I guess, is like a trade mark for an artist.  Household names like Coca Cola haven't messed around too much with their look and that is what makes them easily identifiable.  As an artist you must focus, but also keep up with your competitors.  Its ok to reach out a little, but not stray too far from the path, for example, at the start of the year I decided to step into the world of colour, having been a graphite artist for around 20 years.  BUT, I still do portaits as that is my niche.

Do you have structure?

A professional artist MUST have structure.  I will vouch for this one!   It's all very well just creating pictures from subjects that happen to inspire you, but without structure it's very difficult to control it, to avoid the risk of having unfinished pieces lying around.  stick with one 'til the end.  In my case, that can be hard as I could get a commission in, which has a deadline, when I'm right in the middle of another big piece.  I have to be ruthless and stop the piece I'm working on to give commissions priority, then it's straight back to what I was working on before to get it finished in a timely manner (difficult when you've got a 3 year old throwing a toy monkey up and down right next to you! Yes she is doing that right now! 🤨)

Are you always thinking about how to reach your audience?

This is fundamental to being a professional artist.  You won't sell anything if nobody sees you.  This sounds very like the one above about readily showing your work, but thinking about how to show it is very important too.  In the digital age that we live in, we are very lucky to have a plethera of places to display, social media and websites are a must.

So, if you can tick all these boxes....and earn some money from your art, then you might just have to admit you're a professional!