When do you call yourself an artistWhen I was in art school, the instructor told us two things that I devoted to memory: First, the directions to the school cafeteria.  And second, he said that the word “artist” is a gift-word, which  you can’t bestow on yourself. People must refer to you that way before you can rightfully claim that title as your own, he said.

I understood his point, which was that, just because you call yourself an artist, doesn’t mean you are one. After all, most professions have some type of minimum standard or credential.

You can’t go around calling yourself a lawyer and defending people without a JD, unless you’re eager to see what the inside of a jail cell looks like. And you can’t call yourself an economist if your resume includes “change maker” at the annual carnival.

But the creative arts are a different animal. Often – and this was the case in my life – an artist acquires professional credits before he or she ever sets foot in an art school, let alone earns his or her college degree. While I believe it’s fair to say that the majority of artists who have had some training possess more skills than the artists who have been exclusively self-taught, such is not always the case. There are many artists whose only formal training has come from eating a few sliders during recess while stealing some time to practice from how-to-draw books. Charles Schultz of “Peanuts” fame toiled away at a how-to-draw correspondence course. Self-taught artists are not uncommon in the profession.

When I recommend a graphic artist, illustrator, or colorist for a particular freelance job, some formal art education is a plus. However, I have also referred, and hired, artists with zero formal training, and few professional credits. They were generally young and early in their careers. The main thing, aside from the quality of their portfolio, was whether they presented themselves as professional artists. A person, no matter how talented, who is working on an accounting degree, but has an amazing portfolio (oh yes, this stuff happens) would not make an appealing candidate, because their priorities lay elsewhere. Most publishers or clients who are doing the hiring are looking for people who are “all in.” There’s just something dedicated about them. You know that their artwork means everything to them. Why? Because they’re “artists,” even if they don’t have formal training, or the professional credits.

Today’s take away is:

You are what you dream to be.

See You Soon,

Chris Hart
Your Cartooning Sherpa