what is an artist?

who is an artist? that was a question posed yesterday.

here’s my working definition for today:

an artist is someone who repeatedly and over extended periods of time expresses her or his experience, knowledge, talent, skill or other internal processes to design unique objects, processes or points of view. most artists are internally driven to operate in this manner and are uncomfortable in situations that do not allow for self-expression.

what do you think of this definition, gentle reader? what would you add, change, take away, improve?

i think the clincher here are the words “repeatedly and over extended periods of time” in combination with the second sentence. with robert epstein, another researcher on the psychology of creativity, i believe that we are all innately creative. however, there appears to be a difference in the desire, need and interest to express and nurture this creativity.

back in the eighties, i worked as a legal secretary. for a few years, i worked for ray schachter, a great boss, with whom i got along very well. once in a while i would make really, really stupid mistakes. these mistakes often wouldn’t make sense given my skills, so a few times we sat down, wracking our brains where these mistakes came from and, of course, how to avoid them.

it was only years later that i realized what had been going on: there was very little room for creativity in this job – so these mistakes were my way of expressing myself. the artist in me just couldn’t handle the pressure and used these mistakes as an escape valve. i guess i’m lucky – other people self-destruct in more disastrous ways when they don’t have room for self-expression.

i also noticed that my interest and ability to pay attention to details was very inconsistent (a killer in the legal field, as you can imagine!) and am now wondering whether that could also be part of czikszentmihalyi’s list of paradoxes. i find that i zoom in and out of paying attention to details, hopping from tiny particularities to great generalities, at a speed that some find a little fast.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

10 thoughts on “what is an artist?

  1. Sydney

    I’m sorry but I’m still having trouble with this defintion because it continues to sound like everyone I know. Also, most people would agree that there’s “good art” and “bad art” (subjective of course), but does that also mean that a definition of “what is an artist” is just as subjective? If Johnny hates Judy’s art, but Suzi and Jimmy love it, does it have value because “most” love it, or is there some magic number of people who’ve got to like it, or will some day? Also, most people have a creative outlet of some kind. There are part-time artists. Many famous writers pay (or have paid) their bills by doing something else. I’m not all that sure a definition is possible.

  2. Sydney

    here’s what my husband Dee said, (he’s a musician and software developer): “an artist is a person who works all the time and doesn’t make any money.”

  3. isabella mori

    most people would agree that there’s “good art” and “bad art” (subjective of course), but does that also mean that a definition of “what is an artist” is just as subjective? If Johnny hates Judy’s art, but Suzi and Jimmy love it, does it have value because “most” love it, or is there some magic number of people who’ve got to like it, or will some day?

    i think the question here is not about where someone is a “good” artist or a “bad” one but whether one is an artist, period. you wouldn’t say that george bush isn’t a politician just because you don’t like his politics, would you?

    Also, most people have a creative outlet of some kind. There are part-time artists. Many famous writers pay (or have paid) their bills by doing something else.

    in my mind, there’s a difference between having a creative outlet and going bonkers if you can’t be creative on a somewhat regular basis, over an extended period of time.

    how one makes money, i don’t think that has anything to do with whether one is an artist.

    I’m not all that sure a definition is possible.

    oh, i agree. i don’t think there can be “the” definition. that’s why i said mine was a working definition. however, i don’t want to shrink back from attempting to make a definition just because something is difficult to define. and in a way, my definition has already served its purpose: it has created discussion!

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  5. kadie

    Creativity

    To me there is no necessary attachment of creativity and art. Creativity is much more than art, a piece of art is one specific expression of thought. Creativity is the use of thought through infinite possibilities, and creativity never ends, if something doesn’t come out right it’s perfectly fine because as a creator there are infinite possibilities.

    Creative people are not as judgmental, they know how to use their judgment objectively with out excluding possibilities.

    We’ve seen many creators of religion, politics, technology, teaching, art, performance, and at this point in evolution its extremely important to continue creating. for some reason humans feel that once we reach a decision that it’s the be all and end all, and if any one suggest something different (especially in politics and religion) it’s labeled as a conspiracy, and crazy!

    I read somewhere (i don’t know if it was in this blog or not) that US school only focus on memorization and learning facts. Creativity and critical analysis are on the back burner (as we see the creative arts programs cut form curriculum’s first when there is a budget cut).

    Creativity is not valuable to the US government, could there be a reason for this or is it just a DUMB coincidence?

    It’s common knowledge that we are a product of our environment, we are trained by the society that we live in. Creativity allows people to explore infinite possibilities.

    YOU be the creator of your own reality…think about it.

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