Are you an artist, or not?


I sort of had a conversation with someone, about what actually IS art, and found it difficult to define…

From then, also thought, how do people classify themselves as artists. Do they have to have qualifications, or be recognized by a professional body as a producer of art. You know, in the eyes of other people, i do not really know.
At the end of the day, I don’t really care, i’ll call myself an artist in a small way. I started painting in acrylics on heavy paper last year ( May 2106). Self taught, progression has been interesting. Now moved into oils, and finding the experience uplifting.I do like mostly landscape/seascapes… a small example


Art is very definitely in the eye of the beholder. A couple of years ago, we attended an Art Expo by a chap we knew vageuly over a number of years through our mutual interest in old cars.

He was absolutely delighted to welcome “my engleesh frens”… and we were pleased to see what he could do…

Turned out to be very much “abstract” stuff which neither of us really like… but…suddenly I spied a dark mask of colours… and I knew exactly what it was. I was transported back to my early childhood. Darkness all around and my Dad lighting a firework at the bottom of the garden…

OH was totally bemused and our friend really chuffed… when I announced that I simply had to buy that painting… He called it The Tree of Life (in French of course), but I explained what I could see… nothing to do with trees at all… and he simply shrugged his shoulders and gave me a big hug.

Said painting hangs in our bedroom where I can see it and smile at it every day…

Having said all that… I do like your painting…the waves… I can almost hear crashing gently and rolling up the shore… well done. :relaxed:

You are an artist. Nothing to do with qualifications and all that rubbish. Took me 40 years to discover the latent talent in my wife, who now produces work far better than I can do and I was a Commercial Artist for much of my professional life.


Sorry… I should have said at the start… you are definitely an artist… I am NOT, but I know what I like and appreciate talent in others. :relaxed:

I’d agree. yes of course you can call yourself an artist, but after nearly forty years of lecturing in art schools at degree and post-grad level, and having answered this question many times before (mainly from people working in the crafts, or applied arts) i’d suggest that describing oneself as an ‘artist’ is nothing to do with the quality of what you produce (again not saying your work is good or bad). Instead, I’d strongly recommend thinking of yourself as a ‘painter’ - because it’s what you do. Whether or not you’re a ‘good’, or as I prefer an ‘accomplished’ painter, is up to yourself, other painters and the market to decide.

Painting is a difficult discipline, I don’t paint, but I seriously care about painting,think about it a lot, have a very experienced eye and have critiqued thousands of paintings in my career. I’m also married to a painter, who’s been painting every day for nearly fifty years, She has a Masters degree in painting and has exhibite internationally, but some of her paintings are very good, whilst inevitably other works are less well resolved. Apropos which, probably the main reason I don’t paint is that a painting, unlike works in other media, is in a way never finished because there’s almost always something one can do to take it further. The American artist Jasper Johns, when asked how he knew when a painting was finished, replied when he had no more questions to ask of it. In other words, a painting is finished when the artist runs out of ideas (and the painting has in a sense ‘died’ as far as its creator is concerned - the relationship is broken or changed).

I’ve tried to make my reply sincere and helpful: basically, your cncern shouldn’t be what one calls oneself -whether it be artist, painter, journeying craftsman, or whatever. Instead, what matters is what you’re trying to do and the quality of what you produce when judged against the criteria you set yourself. My final advice would be to look at lots of painting first hand and to be a ruthless, dispassionate (or as dispassionate as possible) critic of what you produce.

Hope you find this advice useful,

Best wishes for you and your painting

Mark Haywood

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Many thanks All for your thoughts and replies, I found them all very interesting.

Thank you for the kind words; I am a bit like yourself with abstract. I find it very hard to “get it”. Maybe too much thought on that style isn’t what you are supposed to do, but to get a story out of one can’t be bad.

You know, that is pretty much my own idea’ but realize I have quite a way to go.

I think i agree and appreciate, all that you say Mark.
Maybe a painter is the correct word, because that is wholly a more accurate definition. Artists can also make pottery, sculptures, etc…which i do not.
I have to inwardly smile as you describe painting as a difficult discipline. The more techniques I realize, understand then try and master; I then realize there is more and more, I do not know.
There are basic principles, some i know, but then ignore or forget from one painting to the next.
Technically I expect there is not one paint I have that is reasonable :wink: , each will have some things.
Colour, tone, brush stroke, etc
I think i understand what you mean about finished painting. Sometimes i do not either want to add to a painting for the sake of it - and spoil it, the balance, clutter; I don’t know. Often i leave one overnight or as long as it takes to think through it.
There will be progress, and light bulb moments…but i like the journey.



Mark don’t get rapped into thinking you must work in a single medium e.g; Watercolour, and personally I would leve Oil painting seriously alone unless you have a lot of patience - they can take days to dry and if you haven’t got the mix right will betray you at the end by cracking and falling of a canvas (ask Jackson Pollock!). Swap to acrylics as much better option plus you can work on just about any surface - including glass, wood, plastic stone*, you name it. Acrylics can work from anything from watercolour to impasto. *Stones picked up on a beach can give amazing results.
However explore the joys of ‘mixed media’ - inks and wash, poster colours (gouache) and pastel, coloured pencils and inks, etc., etc. Plus also don’t forget to use different surfaces including kraft paper (brown wrapping) cardboard, and although canvasses can be very cheap these days, use Gesso to create interesting bases to work on.
Plus and one thing many people don’t realise is that the vast majority of surfaces - notably papers and cards invariably have a different ‘nott’ on each side i.e. one side smoother than the other. So if you are not happy with something don’t just throw it away, try something else on the reverse side.
Remember there is only one rule in Art - and that is ‘there are no rules’, despite what masses of art books will tell you.
As you might gather not only was I a commercial artist for much of my life, but I also worked with a major art supplier as a client in Australia, finally ending up by buying the whole stock of one of the shops (at a very good price of course!)

Oh dear more typos. Apologies for that but hopefully the screed still makes sense?

Personally typos don’t worry/phase me, nor am I OCD grammar police. As long as there appears to be intent, and not total “txt speak” is good enough for me :grinning:

What hooked me, was a guy I saw on Facebook, spray painting with aerosols - street artist style. He then turned to Acrylics, in Bob Ross style.
This Bob Ross style, was really the impetus for me, though maybe not the most successful. I found Acrylics drying much to quickly for me, especially in the summer. After 10 months i bought some oils, and find them much more manageable, and i can play with something and change it easier.
I am using heavy paper designed for the mediums, not canvases…I would not have the storage room :grinning:
I also use a product called liquin that you can mix with the oils, and allows it to dry overnight - ready the next day, to continue.

Hello Glenn, I would say you can call yourself an artist, I call myself a painter. I like your seascape, however I don’t recommend following Bob Ross, he is considered rather ‘naff’ by most artists. There are lots of excellent painters out there who can inspire you. I also use liquin with my oils. Regarding surfaces, linen is best, if you don’t have space just buy loose canvas and tape it to board. I’ve seen some of the top american artists do this. I just paint on top of paintings I don’t like anymore. You can also go to a workshop, you learn a lot seeing how the artist paints from the start, Marc Dalessio is an excellent landscape painter.

I think there’s something strange about an artist being told to follow the herd and not be influenced by an artists who is not the current fashion. I’d always thought that true artists followed their instincts and did their own thing.

We had a similar discussion in a Photographic Club. Is photography art or a science. The consensus was that art involved “communicating perception”. These two words embrace painting, sculpture, music, writing, acting, in fact, any activity that produces a record. And, of course an individual can have many emotions, on different levels, to a single event, In a simplistic Berne’s “transaction analysis” the emotional responses of an adult, parent, or child. The suggestion is that the more easily the audience/spectator understands the perceptions the better the quality of the artefact. I would be interested to read Norman’s reaction. How much of himself could he put into his commercial art? Is a film score composer any less than a composer of a work performed at the Proms. Where would Bernstein stand. Advertisers rely on creating a response. Is their copy art To borrow a theme from another topic in the summary where is the political correctness between art and entertainment? All I would say is a million dollar price tag in the auction house is a poor arbiter


Hi Suzy, thanks for all the info.
My initial inspiration to start, was the guy who created street spray art, and through that i tried some techniques that Bob’s tutorials ran through.
Probably over a short space of time ( 3 to 4 months), I started to watch a few others; and currently settled on 2 or 3 that i look for techniques and inspiration. A certain Michael James Smith, Kevin Hill and Igor Sakharov.


I’m not sure if people are told to follow the herd or not. Being self taught , and never having been to a class, or course; I do not know if that is the “norm”. The guy who gave me enough interest to start, just gave information, which i could use or not. The 3 i use now, i found from watching what i liked.

Personally i would not be influenced by current vogue/fashionable artists; as they may not be the style I use. Plus just because someone says they may be good…is an opinion ( which is what art is…an opinion).

Being more of a fledgling artist/painter, my style is still developing. I know some things i like to do, and look to artists who paint that style/subject. I have a style that i may develop ( which is not the example i showed above), i’m not sure yet.

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What I was saying Glenn was believe in yourself, go where you want to go and do what you want to do. If you like something don’t let the masses deflect your vision.
I like your seascape but I’m biased, I love paintings and photographs of the sea as much as the sea itself and your painting is the real deal. Good luck in your chosen direction.

Hi David,
Thank you; and I totally agree, to believe in and follow yourself.
What i do; is use these artists, and try and glean information, techniques, to help my own path. Yes, they will have some influence…but as I gain ability, the % of influence will I expect reduce.
Personally I love the sea too. Brought up in an East Devon seaside town, and 20 years in the RN, raced dinghies from the age of 14 to late 20’s when family life took over, I guess the sea is actually “in the blood” so to speak.
I’ll add a couple more examples…

A4 10 April 2017

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Where and what did you race. I sailed mainly Scorpions at Porthpean in Cornwall and we often sailed at Beer.

I raced in my home town Sidmouth. Starting out in 420’s, and about 15/16 graduated to Scorpions. We had reasonable fleets of both in those days. Haha a reasonable fleet was about 10, I guess.
The scorpion fleet grew stronger and quite competitive. We raced at Beer too in the regatta, open meetings etc.After my time, but they did have a Scorpion National champ from Sidmouth, and Nationals there too.

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What is a true artist? Is it someone who takes some paint and ‘expresses himself’ on a surface or is it someone who studies the old masters, learns to see and draw and paint, in his or her style? Artists have always been influenced and inspired by other artists, we don’t slavishly copy someones style but we learn. It has nothing to do with current fashion, there is bad artwork. I think its wonderful that so many talented painters share their knowledge. Don’t quite understand ‘follow the herd’.

‘I don’t recommend following… he’s considered naff…’ That’s what I was replying to. Not a lot of freedom of choice in that opinion.

I looked up Igor Sakharov, its amazing how he paints the sea. His figure work isn’t so strong but its often the way. Your style will always develop as you learn, the only thing to watch for is that technique doesn’t take over from good drawing. I see that a lot. I’ m speaking of realistic painting. I can’t imagine why anyone would follow an artist because they’re fashionable. Keep on painting…thanks for starting some discussion on the arts page.

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