What does it mean to be an artist – Is there a job description?

This is a post I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I have been a bit distracted though as since I got better I’ve been trying to spend as much time out in the garden to get it ready for summer. There are so many things to plant and I want to get on top of it all before it gets too hot.

Now, for today’s post.

I have been thinking a lot in the last few years about what is expected if I am an artist. I did a Fine Arts Degree and it was all about planning work, making work and then exhibiting that finished work.

Since I finished it I have done a lot of that, but in the last few years I’ve felt the pressure of doing it all, but not really feeling like I want to. Now I have to wonder if there is anything wrong with that? Can I still be an artist and not exhibit my work? I think that is the question I really want to know.

So why don’t I want to exhibit?

It is partly due to laziness along with the thoughts of selling nothing. Plus it is very expensive to have an exhibition. You always have to pay for the gallery, and then you have the added cost of getting your images printed and maybe framed. Some places will let you do them unframed, but most want them with frames.

Galleries always seem to be in places where parking is hard and getting your work to them can be a real pain. It just all seems like so much work, all for nothing really.

You go to the opening and talk to people while always scanning the work to see if there are any red dots, just to realise that no one wants to buy what you have to sell. It is kind of depressing.

Also my husband Dave isn’t too keen on it because of the money involved. I mean how many framed photographs can you really have around the house. I have them stacked against the walls and no idea what to do with them.

So, here I am wondering if I can still call myself an artist without wanting all that other stuff? Can I just make work?

The photos today are all macros and if I was going to have an exhibition of flowers these would be some of the pieces I would have in it. Don’t forget to click on the first image so you can see a bigger image and scroll through them.

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  1. First off, Leanne!

    Your photographs are breathtaking. If you had an online exhibit I’d be one of your red dots. Maybe the venue and current set up you’d building up to doesn’t really support you as a creator.

    What feels most joyful for you around creating and sharing work. Maybe you can create “that” so that you are supported in the way you need to share.

    In fact, you already have this blog. What would be the harm in linking from work you post to a site where visitors might purchase a print or original? 🤓

    And I think fans will always wait on an artist they like, so get to it and when you do.

    Beautiful work….

    1. Thank you, though I have tried galleries here and put up a price list, but nothing ever happened. I have been doing this for quite some time and unfortunately it seems no one really wants to buy my work. I have come to terms with that, and that’s fine really. I love sharing my work here and that will have to be enough.

    2. Really????? I wonder if it’s the platform. I’ve been on here for some time now and finding the way people engage is quite different.

      Well it’s a pleasure to find your own work here!

  2. Amazing blog post Leanne my friend. Well, being an artist that specializes in fine art and crafts can be challenging but if it is what you want and have decided to pursue, well I wish you all the best and go for it. Plus, you already have experience and education in art since you studied and got a Fine Arts Degree so that shows that you have what it takes to be an artist.

    Lastly, the only thing that sometimes stops us from achieving our dreams as people is fiances and money and it is depressing when in this art business and no one buys your paintings and artwork.

    Also, great photographs of the flowers there💯🔥🔥🌸🌼🌼🌷

    1. Thank you so much Mthobisi, I am certainly qualified.
      It is really depressing when it happens. I think people just don’t have the money anymore to spend on art, so that makes it even tougher.
      Thanks again.

  3. Most of the great artists newer seen any recognition during their lifetime. So in that sense we all have a chance. But the issue is how to measure self perceived talent. Golf gives one of the great examples with its handicap system. But realistically how often do you see someone’s photo which is much better than yours? Do you still want to call yourself an artist that day? I am afraid that only others can honour us with such title. Sorry but this is a reality.

    1. I’m not sure I agree with you Drago. I have always felt this complusion to create, and if I”m not creating something I can get really down. Whether I am a good artist or not, that is not up to me, but I believe I can call myself one. The same as other people call themselves whatever it is that they do or feel they are. A golfer is still a golfer, if they choose to play then that is what they are, the handicap determines how good they are or aren’t.
      Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. These images are lovely;-) I too keep much of my art to myself! So I get your thoughts. I had a neighbor over and showed her a print I had made from one of my images. She asked me how much and I through out a number that would pay what it cost me to produce and added $300 to it. She took it home:-) Keep creating your beautiful images. And yes, you are an artist!!! :🎨)

    1. Thank you, I wish I had neighbours like yours, lol. They say your first sales come from your family and friends, but my family and friends all seemed to think they should get it for free, what hope do I have. LOL. Thank you for sharing that.

  5. Maybe it is the difference between being An Artist and an artist. AN Artist being someone who jumps through the hoops and does the things that currently get people that label whereas an artist is someone who creates for sheer pleasure and delight. I consider myself a fibre artist whereas some people only think that artists are people who create pictures and people like myself are mere craftsmen. A rose by any other name and all that. You create beautiful artistic photographs so I would call you an artist.

    1. You could be right RJ, I don’t know. I get what you mean, we often forget that creativity comes in many different ways. My husband is a programmer and he says that it is very creative, but people think it is more mathematical and logical. Interesting points, thank you so much RJ.

  6. Might it be that one can be an artist but not a professional artist? The process you describe, with back inventory, gallery fees, printing and framing costs, seems the province of people who want to make a living from creating art. I realized at some point that the photographers who sell their work successfully have not only professionalized their output (printing, framing, exhibiting, etc.), but treat the act of photographing as a full-time job. They chase the weather, fly to eclipses, micromeasure where the sun is going to set, and so on. Not all of us who may have it within us to look for and capture a beautiful image want to embark on that totalizing work experience. I have a “day job” as a professor, and must content myself with more or less chance excursions to photograph. Anyway, you are an artist, sine dubio.

    1. I tried the whole professional thing for a long time, but in the end I got so depressed by it all. I don’t know why but people aren’t interested in having me teach them, or buying my work so I gave up. Thankfully my husband is happy for me to be a housewife and still do my photography, but it is nice to not have that pressure anymore. Thank you so much, you have made some great points.

  7. I think we get so caught up in the public validation and financials that we forget that being an artist means to create. Personally, I was less motivated to create when money was involved.

    1. I know what you mean Christie, it can become all about the money. I mean I guess there has to be that element if you want to make it how you make a living, but if you don’t need to do that, then it is nice to step back from it. Thank you for your thoughts Christie.

  8. Yes, I think you can be an artist and not exhibit your work. I think you’re a wonderful artist. I believe if doing the work makes you happy and satisfied, then continue it. I ask myself also if “can I just make work?” And my answer is I do the work to someday do the quality of work I see you and many others do and because I enjoy it so much. Loved your images today.

    1. Thank you Mike. That is wonderful that you get some inspiration from my work too, I think that is one of the things I love about blogging. Wonderful Mike.

  9. All that sounds quite similar…………I think laziness and printing framing plus costs and not selling would get me down no end

  10. A lot of great artists got recognition only after their departure to the better world. Only very few of them were able to survive without help of some kind of charity. Does it mean that luck of financial recognition is a definite sign of great artist ? I don’t know. But there is always a hope…

    1. While that is true that many artists did become more famous after they died, it was usually because they had some fame beforehand. Their work becomes more valuable because there won’t be anymore. I hear so many say I will kill you now so your work will be more valuable and they are disappointed when I tell them it doesn’t work like that. I am learning a lot through the comments and maybe you can be an artist and just make work. I like that idea. Thank you for your thoughts on this.

  11. these are lovely and you truly are an artist. in any way you see fit. no need to fill in all the blanks and check things of the list.

  12. It seems to me that asking the question, is the realization that you are on the path of seeking. And your encounters with this grace of truly seeing and recognizing profound beauty in the simple and commonplace, leads to a more fundamental question, “How can I not but follow and give all to this grace?”

    1. I don’t know if it about me seeking, or just finally saying I’m not going to feel guilty for not wanting to do that anymore. Thank you for those words Tom, I really appreciate them.

  13. It is too bad, really. But you have certainly made me feel better. If an artist of your caliber feels this way it legitimizes me feeling the same. The cost for me is a big thing for me, and yes, also, why do I need another framed print lying about? I am also not mechanically inclined or agile enough to hang a show and really that is my main hindrance. I had a group and we were showing once or twice a year until COVID. We had two shows that year, once just as it hit, and the show was only opened for two or three days before the venue (and the rest of the world) were shut down. We had another show that August, which should have been a really big deal but it was too soon. And now, it feels to late.

    1. The cost for me is a big thing too Dawn, my husband hates paying for it, especially when there is no return on it. Oh it is annoying when they want you to pay for the gallery and then hang the show yourself, oh I hate that. Sorry to hear about your group, that is sad. It is kind of nice in that situation. Though I’m not sure I can be bothered with that either. Thank you for sharing that Dawn.

  14. Technically if you’re making art/doing some sort of creative work (that by itself) you’re an artist in my book. Also if you’re posting to a webpage you’re exhibiting it. The whole gallery thing can be a part of it if you want, but to me that seems optional. The business side of things is really it’s own monster doing it’s own thing regardless of whether or not you’re an artist…

    1. Yeah they work Lesley, but I moderate them so you have to wait for me to approve them first, it is always a good way to keep up with them all so I can respond as well.

  15. Interesting thoughts, Leanne. My doctors always seem to have macro flower photos in their offices. I look at them and think of you and a few other bloggers who post macro flowers and think, “Their photos would be so much better than this.” I have to wonder where the doctors’ photos come from. Stock photos, maybe? Shame. Local photographers would be so much better.

    1. that is so nice of you to say Lois, maybe you should him some links, lol. Yeah, apparently people still don’t think locally very much. Thank you so much Lois.

  16. The “What is an Artist” question has become a bit irritating to me in the last few years… The definition can’t be pinned down in any real sense, since it’s so subjective.

    The idea that you have to display and sell stuff to be considered an Artist seems ludicrous. When that’s your focus, are you not a salesman (or “salesperson” for the hypersensitive)? Not that artists (or Artists) shouldn’t sell their work if that’s what they want; but when it’s the FOCUS… ?

    1. You are making a lot of sense Matt. I know that I get a bit of pressure from some people I know that I should be wanting to exhibit, but I just don’t want to do that. Thank you so much Matt.

    2. Anytime.
      It’s a rare occurrence I actually manage to get coherent thoughts to form, much less come out the same way. Happy to help.

      I wouldn’t advice people carte blanch “do what you want” but in something like this… ? If you don’t feel like doing it, don’t. What are they going to do? Force you to exhibit!?

    3. You did very well then Matt.
      Well exactly, I just have some people in my life that kind of make me feel there is something wrong because I don’t want to do that. Maybe not force, but make me feel guilty. I just try to ignore it now.

  17. I love your macro images. It’s a favourite genre of mine as well.
    A few years ago I participated in a group photography exhibit. It was interesting and I met some great people, but I really didn’t enjoy the stress at all. Yes, I am still considering myself an artist, writer and formerly a musician.

    1. Thank you Ceci, macro is so amazing.
      Stress is definitely the right word for the whole experience. Good to hear we feel the same way. Thank you so much for that.

  18. I love your recent work here, Leanne! I hope that you can make a decision on your gallery. =)

  19. Here are my thoughts. I’ve always thought of you as an artist. Your talent says so. Whether you have your photos hanging in a gallery or sell them, it doesn’t change the fact that you are talented.

  20. You can still be an artist without exhibiting. The need to create is within all of us. So go ahead and create. You don’t have to print it or frame it, but that sort of defeats the purpose of creating. To be appreciated. Have you tried themed shows at galleries? Much cheaper than a one person show because you are sharing the spotlight (and costs) with many artists. The odds of selling are still low, but the exposure alone is worth it if you get a future sale from it.

    1. See I have always felt that I got that appreciation here on my blog, I show my work to everyone else. I am not a theme person, so no I haven’t really looked at. I did that when I was younger and did group shows and that sort of thing, but it is all money, so I can’t be bothered with it. I have never got anywhere with group shows, I have never sold anything and it has never led to other things. The exposure was not good. I probably get more exposure on my blog. Thanks for your thoughts Rick.

  21. What does it mean to be an artist, I leave that question to the muses. But, let me ask you a question? What does it mean to exhibit your work? I’m under the impression that you exhibit your work multiple times a week.

    I am an unashamed elitist. As such, I believe that for a culture to be considered a high culture it must have a privileged class of artisans that have both the time and the means to produce thought-provoking ‘art’.

    Art not created to be sold but to be appreciated. Which in my never humble opinion is exactly what you do!

    1. That is true Brian, I have always wondered if exhibiting your work was a way to get validation for what you do and you are right, I do get that here.
      I think there should be artists as well, we need to fund arts and appreciate what they do.
      Thank you so much Brian, they are lovely words.

  22. An artist is someone who creates. It isn’t necessary for an artist to be recognized or for art to be popular. An artist creates because he/she must. This is my opinion and one many others hold to be true.

    1. I like how you describe it Sherry. I have always thought that an artist has to create that it isn’t a choice. Thank you Sherry, great thoughts.

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