Writing my Artist Statement: Week 2

Mini Fabric Book

Mini-Fabric mixed-media book: (running stitch) beads, fabric, paper, thread, buttons, elastic, metal eyelet 3 1/4″ x 4″ x 1 1/2″ ©2010 Leah Virsik. For image of inside click here.

I’m on my second week of working through Alyson B. Stanfield’s “The Relatively Pain-Free Artist Statement.”

At age six, I wrote that art was my favorite subject. It’s always been something that I’ve been excited about. At age 26, I gave a speech in a drawing class where I feel I first considered myself an artist, at least in a very public way. I took the class with my boyfriend at the time. He drew really well, better than I and he was much more aware. He didn’t love to draw however and didn’t keep up with it. I had a persistence about it. I’m not sure I loved the drawing but the process was enjoyable and it was great to see what came out of me.

Artist is a loaded word. People have different beliefs about what it means. My biggest stumbling block was the fact that I don’t naturally draw realistically. Now, I realize it’s more of a choice or desire than a lack of ability.

One of my favorite definitions of being an artist is in Cay Lang’s Taking the Leap. Cay Lang recalls artist Terry Allen describing how one knows one is an artist: “An artist can’t stop himself. He really has no choice about it.” I can relate to that obsession. I think one can make art but it doesn’t mean one’s an artist. I believe an artist is obsessed, passionate and focused.

I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out the meaning of “professional artist”. My own initial definition was an artist who sells work, spends a lot of time creating work, marketing it and getting it out into the world. Looking up the phrase brought up other definitions. One from the Canada Council for the Arts gave this definition: professional artist: An artist who: has specialized training in his or her artistic field (not necessarily obtained in an academic institution); is recognized as such by his or her peers (artists working in the same artistic tradition); is committed to devoting more time to the artistic activity if this becomes financially feasible; has a history of public presentation

No language about making money. Very curious how that was my number one requirement. NAVA (Australia) has a definition as well. So, after all that, yes, I consider myself a professional artist. Having a serious commitment to art and it being a major aspect of my life make me a professional artist.

On a bit of a sidenote, I appreciate Seth Godin’s definition of art from Linchpin: “Art is the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person.”

6 Replies to “Writing my Artist Statement: Week 2”

  1. Oh wow, definition or meaning of what makes a person a professional artist…that’s a hard one. I guess it’s different for each person…it’s such a individual thing…I haven’t figured that out yet! Beautiful mixed media book btw…love it!

  2. love, love, love the book, leah. definition of an artist? funny you mention the money aspect as that’s one thing that bugs the heck out of me. love my dad to death, but anytime i come up with a new project or new idea and tell him about it, his response is always “can you make any money off it?” makes me insane. not everything has to have money as its root purpose. sure, i have to keep up my jewelry inventory because that is what sells at my shows, but i honestly have much more fun creating stuff that i’m not the least bit concerned about trying to sell. there seems to be so much more freedom in that.

  3. Absolutely love your book – it is a treasure! Enjoyed your post about the meaning of being an artist… I would add that it is the intention to create art, that inner desire to create, and to create both in spite of and because of any obstacles, that makes you an artist.

    1. Kelly, thank you! Money is pretty interesting. It reflects value. I was in a cute Japanese clothing shop in San Francisco yesterday with really expensive, beautiful things. In the store, in one of the sock brochures, it said, something to the effect of, we make our socks for people that believe artisan, handmade quality is a necessity, not a luxury. I appreciate the sentiment. I go back and forth between figuring out how to price my work in a way that feels good to me and also wanting it to be accessible to many people. It’s tough.

      I encourage you to create more fun stuff that you’re not the least concerned with trying to sell. That work is your passion and will sell and maybe not in monetary ways. But that freedom and joy is what is so important.

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